Journalists Say the Darndest Things!

Today’s Washington Post has an article about a new study confirming that the lifetime earning power of a college degree in science or engineering far outweighs that of a humanities or liberal arts degree.  The article begins with an old joke:

The scientist asks, “Why does it work?”

The engineer asks, “How does it work?”

The English major asks, “Would you like fries with that?”

The observation may seem a bit cheeky, coming from me, a guy who double-majored in history and political science — not a REAL science, as my sister the geo-chemist likes to remind me. But I’ve always questioned the reasoning skills of humanities majors, particularly a certain type of humanities major:  those who wind up in journalism. Now, even the Washington Post backs me up on this:

[S]ome defenders of the humanities have said that their students are endowed with “critical thinking” and other skills that could enable them to catch up to other students in earnings.

Turns out, on average, they were wrong.

I was thinking exactly that last night — vis-a-vis the lack of critical thinking skills — as I read this article (“10 Things Fast-Food Companies Won’t Say“) on by Jilian Mincer and Catie Hill.

What’s the number 1 thing that fast food companies won’t tell you?

“[I]f you reach for the lower-cal options, be prepared for some sticker shock. On average, the salad with chicken at a fast-food restaurant tends to be the most expensive option on the menu.”

Umm … I don’t know how to tell you this, ladies.  But you know that menu, on which low-cal options tend to be the most expensive items? Well … the price is listed right there for you to see.  So, as the number 1 item on a list of things you won’t be told … let’s just say that you could have started off on a stronger note.

Or how about this one — item number 3 on the list:

“[T]he combo meal, a delicious combination of food and soda at a discount. Call it genius, call it lunch, but don’t call it cheap: That bundled meal option may encourage customers to spend more than they would otherwise. It’s true that the value meal is typically cheaper than the sum of its parts, but research suggests some people don’t actually want all the parts, or not in such large sizes. Some 15% of customers who wouldn’t have bought fries in an a la carte-only offering do purchase them when there’s a value-or-combo meal option.”

So, it’s true that the price of the value meal is cheaper than the sum of its parts, you say? And customers are buying more food than they otherwise would if they had to pay more for it? I seem to remember something about supply and demand — demand curves sloping downward even. But I suppose someone who majored in the humanities probably wouldn’t understand.

But number 4 on the list is just priceless:

While good customer service is a goal across the restaurant industry, the fast-food chains seem to have it down to a science. McDonald’s, for example, trains employees on how to greet customers — one suggested greeting: “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?”

No!  You mean, if the folks working in a business treat me in a kind and respectful manner, and actually ask if they could assist me, I may be more willing to patronize that business and purchase its wares? What will those dastardly fast food restaurants try next?

Of course, I will admit that I don’t have evidence — other than their career choices — that the authors were humanities majors.  But I’d be willing to bet an extra value meal that they were.

For a good laugh, I’d recommend reading the whole thing.