Mind the Gap

Why fast food is the solution for Hong Kong’s spoilt rich kids

My teenage career as a McDonald’s employee established important basic skills

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 2:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 10:26am

Sarcasm when drenched in poison reveals a deep, inner frustration. But, I promise that I am slinging neither sarcasm nor frustration.

Whatever the culture, the inherent risks of raising indolent, spoiled, unintelligent and disinterested young adults is an occupational hazard of being in the top 1 per cent. No wonder this group marries among each other. Rich kids who don’t have or want to work can only be with others of the same ilk. Society is worse off as they procreate.

Private banks offer extensive programmes teaching rich kids how to manage their family’s money, businesses and lifestyles. Asian wealth is outstripping its owners’ ability to comprehend its meaning and manage its preservation and growth.

Answering the question: “What does money mean to you?” is especially difficult for a young person who has never had to earn it or suffer without it. All the college degrees and MBAs can’t prepare your character and beliefs.

Almost all of the middle and upper class Hong Kong and Asian kids I encounter have never held down a proper job as teenagers

Once you inherit too much money for your own good you become an abstract existing only in your own desires. And those desires are extremely contradictory and very powerful. They inevitably lead to loneliness and self-loathing.

Rich people often ask me how to reverse this mental affliction that causes their freshly graduated kids to spend all day piloting their supercars around the streets of Beijing/Hong Kong/Vancouver/London/New York. Unfortunately, the condition is irreversible. But chances of stopping its early development are possible if radical treatment is done at an early age.

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Fast food is the solution. No, not eating hamburgers. Parents should force their kids between the ages of 14 and 18 to start work at a fast food restaurant. My teenage career as a McDonald’s employee established important basic skills. No, it’s not a boot camp of humiliation, but a seminal life-skill-building opportunity.

Almost all of the middle and upper class Hong Kong and Asian kids I encounter have never held down a proper job as teenagers. Most would rather donate their kidneys to a Shenzhen organ broker than be caught dead working in a local McDonald’s.

However, the fast food business provides the first jobs for many of the world’s future managers. Where else does a young person begin to learn the discipline and vicissitudes of gainful employment? If you’re going to inherit a business you have to understand that managing people is more than moving columns in a spreadsheet.

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It’s not totally hopeless. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is respected for raising intelligent and productive children by exposing them to genuine work at construction sites. Recent national television interviews show how articulate they are. I doubt if any of our property tycoon’s kids could speak at length on controversial topics on a live talk show.

In the US and Europe, working at a shopping mall’s fast food court is a cultural rite of passage. You learn to take menial orders, sweep floors and value a minimum wage. Maybe you’ll be promoted to “manager- deep fryer section”. What an ideal stepping stone and learning experience.

So before your precious child aims for that coveted internship at Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan, he or she should be practising this line: “Sir, would you like fries with that meal?”

Peter Guy is a financial writer and former international banker