Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is a chain of coffee shops founded by and named after a hockey player. It has been around as long as I can remember. I used to love the plain cruellers (and occasionally the walnut crullers) which were huge chunks of deep-fried dough.

The cruellers are gone now, disappearing in the general down-sizing of Tim’s donought selection years ago. Today I make do with their perennial favourites, apple fritters and Boston cremes. And a coffee. But I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep going to Tim’s.

It used to be a great company, a Canadian institution. But then it was sold to an American chain and then to another US-Brazilian chain that owns several other second rate crap food brands. And now “In the last decade, Tim Hortons has become synonymous with its toxic brew of low-wage, no-benefit, union-busting, precarious, part-time employment.”

Before the pandemic Tim’s made the news in the worst possible ways. When the minimum wage was (finally) raised, franchisees responded by cutting paid breaks and other worker benefits. As one commenter said, “Their attack on their own workers is uncanadian, and if they want to behave like the worst stereotype of a malevolent American megacorp they’d better raise the quality of their coffee so that they can compete with McDonald’s.”

Tim’s used to have a popular contest called “Roll Up the Rim” where (as the name suggests) people would find prizes or (usually) not hidden in their paper coffee cups. In a push to collect customer data, the contest was replaced with an app a couple of years ago. I never got the app, having long since learned not to trust the company. But many did.

And so it’s utterly no surprise to learn that the company has been illegally collecting data from the apps, even while it is turned off. “The app also used location data to infer where users lived, where they worked, and whether they were traveling,” the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said. “It generated an ‘event’ every time users entered or left a Tim Hortons competitor, a major sports venue, or their home or workplace.”

Now you might think that my response would be to declare that I will never enter a Tim Hortons again, boycotting for all time such a terrible corporate entity.

But here’s the thing. What are the alternatives? McDonalds? Hardly – it’s another anti-worker exploiter of children and employees. Bridghead? A much better corporate entity, and I go there when I can, but the nearest one is a good half hour drive from here.

And that’s the problem – not just regarding coffee shops, and not just regarding things like fair wages and privacy protection but also the environment (another thing Tim’s is ruining) and so much else. It doesn’t matter what choices we make. Pretty much the entire corporate infrastructure is like this.

We used to love Timmies because it was the exception to all this, the Canadian response to what is ultimately an empty and morally impoverished corporate culture. But like all else, it seems, Tim’s has simply been swallowed up by it.

We have no choice. It we want to live, eat, drink coffee, whatever, we pretty much have to do business with anti-worker anti-environment anti-privacy institutions. That’s why our individual actions do almost nothing to solve these problems. We need collective social action.

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