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By Gregory Iwan

Physicists and mechanical engineers speak of the tendency of the universe to migrate toward increasing entropy — a property or a state of disorganization. During the last two years we have all been able to observe this glaring descent and its growing presence.

Now it manifests on one hand as an unwillingness to work. On the other hand there is a pervasive and variable condition of lacking. The only thing of which there is no shortage appears to be shortages.

I very recently took a trip that can only be described as inconvenient, traumatic, frustrating and generally exhibiting appallingly poor quality nearly from top to bottom. The paucity of service minds or even qualified labor is sharply evidenced in many but, thankfully, not all businesses.

One hotel in a medium-sized city I visited for more than one day joins the modern custom by offering a slender (not in caloric terms) buffet-style breakfast. During my visit, no butter was available there. Other lodgers complained most pointedly; after all, this void rendered nearly all breakfast breads worthless. A pity that a trip to the 7-Eleven store a half- mile to the east could probably have filled this void, at a cost lower than the loss of the muffins and bagels.

Sorely evident in this hotel and elsewhere was a lack of upkeep; hence, the cleanliness of establishments relying on that quality likely falls short. Signs are not replaced or cleaned, door hinges are not lubricated, and so on.

People do notice. I did, and I was essentially a tourist. If maintenance and stocking of certain foodstuffs were not enough, the obvious incapacity of certain employees far exceeded what patrons might expect and upon which many service businesses rely.

It is not enough to nod, press the computer buttons and say “thank you”; at today’s prices a little extra stretch is more than justified.

Pandemic or no, the government is just about finished paying businesses’ way directly. Now the freight arrives through the door. Or not. It is incumbent — even more so now than usual — upon especially service-sector business owners, managers and employees to see risks ahead and to act.

Those entrepreneurs hoping to file active, going-concern 2022 tax returns will preemptively revamp supply chains and endeavor to become more nimble, more resilient. Successful, surviving businesses will work around hurdles.

No one running a business in these times can sit around and do nothing. Crossing one’s fingers and hoping for things to “settle down” is a fool’s game. Strategic inertia will absolutely leave even chain businesses highly vulnerable to future shocks.

As consumer spending swings toward more services and relatively fewer goods, and recognizing that few services can be delivered by Amazon or anyone else to the door of a residence, the wise will swing increasingly toward local sourcing and hold more buffer stock — even of butter.

Those practices cannot, however, in and of themselves assure flawless execution, as I discovered at my favorite pizza outlet recently. This spot was void at lunchtime in my favorite brew, one produced less than 2 miles from this establishment’s door. If either end of that chain is rusted, the last vendor in line must roll up his or her sleeves and perform. There is no other choice.

It is simply invalid to allow even the impression that a business enterprise “can’t or “didn’t.” The customer, who still is always right (for more than one reason), will justifiably say “won’t.”

Gregory Iwan is a Longmont resident.