I love discovering new interoperative cultural memes, and I happened upon one over the weekend at the local McDonald’s.  I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s, but they do try to offer some healthy food, and I appreciate they set a major agenda when it comes to creating an entire landscape of community dietary choices.  There is grand power in creating caloric counts.  Oftentimes, the only affordable meal in an urban neighborhood is found under the Golden Arches — and that creates a static economy and a trapped customer base. We’ll discuss more about that dangerous, if unassailable, economic power tomorrow.

I visit our local McDonald’s almost daily because of their amazing, and unforgiving, dollar coffee special:  They keep pulling me back in!  Any size coffee is only a dollar!  Yes, I’ll take a large, please, and make it two!

I have ritualized my order so much that I often don’t have to even say anything when I step up to the counter.  If the cashier knows me, and my morning routine, I get a “look” and I “nod” and the two coffee order is put into the computer and I slide-to-pay and then shift to my right and pick up my order.  Not a word is spoken.  Only looks are exchanged.  Its all a perfectly sync’d material meme.

The other day, a McDonald’s manager was working the cashier terminal.  I’ve seen her working there many times, but she’s usually busy in the back.  She prefers to speak Spanish.

When it was my turn to order, I was ready to speak when the manager held up her hand and spoke to me in English, “You’re part of the house.”

I stopped a moment, not quite understanding her in context, but before I could ask her what she meant, I looked down and saw she was already punching in my two coffee order into the terminal even though she’d never waited on me before.

“Part of the house,” she repeated, and smiled back.  She arced her arm to move me along the line after I slid my credit card to pay.

“Thank you,” I said as I obliged right.  I picked up my hot coffee order — sealed with the satisfaction that I fit in my neighborhood and that I finally found belonging as part of the house.

Posted by David Boles

David Boles was born in Nebraska and his MFA is from Columbia University in the City of New York. He is an Author, Lyricist, Playwright, Publisher, Editor, Actor, Designer, Director, Poet, Producer, and Boodle Boy for print, radio, television, film, the web and the live stage. With more than 50 books in print, David continues to write 2MM words a year. He has authored over 25K articles and published more. Read the Prairie Voice Archive at Boles.com | Buy his books at David Boles Books Writing & Publishing | Earn the world with David Boles University | Get a script doctored at Script Professor | Touch American Sign Language mastery at Hardcore ASL.

18 Comments

  1. This is a great post on so many levels. One, I greatly appreciate McDonald’s $1.00 coffee as well. I mean – that has to be the best deal ever. I can relate.
    Two, Your description of the coffee ordering choreography made me think of a great tattoo I saw this weekend. A guy had the Starbucks order slip with his coffee order tattooed on his inner forearm. I thought that was brilliant.
    Three, it gives me hope for mankind that you have been acknowledged and accepted in such a way. Tells me even a huge corporation like McDonalds is capable of creating a neighborhood culture. There are a few small shops around my neighborhood I have been going in at least two -three times a week for the past year and never even get so much as a grunt when I step up to the counter.

    And finally – beautiful photo, Barcelona is one of my favorite cities, Gaudi was a real genius.

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    1. Thanks for the rich comment!

      Yes, the dollar coffee is genius. The only thing that rivals it for me is the 99 cent Dunkin Donuts Iced Tea special. Our local DD used to run the 99 cent tea for six months out of the year, but now they run it for only a few weeks like all the other stores. I guess I drank them into the red! SMILE!

      The dollar coffee was supposed to be a limited time special, too, but it was so popular, McDonald’s just made it the everyday price. Smart company! What I find odd is that the price is one dollar for any size — yet people still order a small and medium. Why? If you’re only going to drink half a large and that makes you think you want a small, order a large and save the rest to make iced coffee later. Or something!

      I love the Starbucks tattoo! That’s excellent!

      I probably tend to “over go” to some of our local shops much too often during the day during my walk routine, and I tend to try to get names so I can get personalize the interaction a little bit. That all makes it easier to fit into the mortar, I think. But, you’re right, it’s a grand deal to be considered “part of the house,” especially when our building Super tells us we “don’t fit.” More on THAT episode later!

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  2. It is nice to belong isn’t it. I am constantly dragged in for that $1 coffee special too. It was easier, many years ago when Coffee at my local “Golden Arches” was laughably bad, but now it is almost too good.

    I can’t help but feel a little envious of you though. In all the time I’ve been getting my morning coffee fix at the McDonald’s at the end of the street, I have yet to hear those blessed words, “You’re part of the house” I guess its a limited membership.😉

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    1. Hello my new friend, and thanks for the first comment!

      Yes, it’s nice to belong — especially since my wife and I tend to stand out in many ways. We’re the White minority in our neighborhood, and she’s Deaf, and so we sign… and so we tend to stick out and get noticed to matter what we do and that can be a blessing and a problem at times… we don’t blend…

      You’re right that the McDonald’s coffee is much better now. They were getting threatened by Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts for the breakfast market and so they made a huge effort to be competitive in coffee — and they’re now winning that niche just as they’ve won everything else they’ve ever wanted. SMILE!

      It took me some time to figure out she was saying “part of the house” because it isn’t a phrase I’ve ever heard before, and my ear is not tuned to her accent. I tried to look up a Spanish equivalent on the internet, but couldn’t find one. I’m sure I’m missing something.

      When I told my wife about now being “part of the house” — she asked me, “Am I part of the house, too?” I said, “probably not” — and she looked a little heartbroken, so I quickly added, “But I’m sure you’re at least the foundation for the garage.” I was lucky she laughed!

      Now, whenever we go out and I get any sort of special attention, she’ll mutter, in Sign Language to me… “Part of the house…” and I’ll knowingly smile…

      I do think getting known as a regular is important in a neighborhood. We tend to go into McDonald’s right when they unlock the doors, so we pretty much have the place all to ourselves for 20 minutes. I try to notice, and compliment promotions, too. At the McDonald’s in our area, the regular staff wear knit polo shirts while managers wear tailored collar tops. When I see a longtime staffer in a new manager shirt, I always congratulate them on the promotion and they always seem to appreciate the support.

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  3. Hello New friend! Thanks for that btw.:)
    It can certainly be tough fitting in, but it sounds like you are both giving it your all.

    I liked:
    Foundation of the garage! Lol!

    I also liked that you’ve made “part of the house” into a catch phrase.😉

    I used to work in the retail world for many years, it was always nice to serve customers like yourself who care and take notice of such things.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! It’s always good to try to fit in — even if you don’t. SMILE!

      How did you handle difficult customers in retail? Did you kill them with kindness or did you just try to not engage?

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      1. You are very welcome!

        I tried to be polite, professional and to hide my true feelings. Some customers would just be cranky or having a bad day,

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        1. Smart plan! I love your style! There’s no need to bring more negativity to current negativity? SMILE!

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          1. Thanks!:) That’s so true, the least negativity the better. Somedays I’d even get them to smile if luck was with me. I find on a good day a friendly smile goes a long way!😉

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          2. I like your style! You can change the world with everyday goodness — and you’re proof of it in the examples you share!

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  4. I like, that this to me, humanizes McDonald’s. This shows that they are more than underpaid drones they are so often portrayed as . it is a great deal on coffee too.

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    1. Hiya Nicola! Great to see you back! I hope you had a grand trip.

      When I was growing up in the Midwest, McDonald’s was the go-to place for teenagers to earn some spending money.

      Today, McDonald’s appears to be more refuge for immigrant, low-wage, earning head of households. The people who work at the McD’s near us are incredibly hard workers. Everyone — cooks, cashiers, managers — work all day and I know a few of them work seven days a week.

      If I were ever in a position to hire a tough and dedicated worker for something, my first place for picking would be at that McDonald’s. They know how to get the job done, deal with a wide variety of people, and they do it kindly and with great efficiency.

      McDonalds’s, as a mega corporation, are still trying to live down this website:

      http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/mcdonalds/budgetJournal/budgetJournal.php

      You have to work at McDonald’s 40 hours a week AND get a 30-hour second job if you want to make basic ends meet…

      http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17686-mcdonalds-accidentally-served-up-a-minimum-wage-mcmanifesto

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2013/07/22/i-have-to-choose-between-food-and-rent-meet-the-mcdonalds-workers-fighting-for-fair-wages/

      http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/07/mcdonalds-cant-figure-out-how-its-workers-survive-on-minimum-wage/277845/

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  5. We got home today – will mail you later tonight or tomorrow morning and we can plan out how you want the gory details. SMILE !

    McDonald’s workers in the UK tend to be of a similar socioeconomic group with the addition of 16/18 year olds who are unable to get jobs elsewhere or who have no training – sadly a lot of them do not work nearly as hard as I know the ones in the USA do – having seen both of them working the USA would beat the UK hands down.

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    1. Oh, I’m glad you made it home today! Did you miss your pool? Or did you find a replacement? SMILE!

      I’m delighted to get gory and plan! Heh!

      Yes, McDonald’s are a fascination. They make so much money and yet they really do not care much for their workforce. I guess they think there will be an endless supply of fodder.

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  6. I missed my pool like crazy – we did have access to one in Vienna , but when you can smell the chlorine five floors away it tends to keep me away too. Taking a dip was one of the first things we did when we got home.

    As for McDonald’s DO they make so much money because they do not care for their workforce – or is that just one of the factors involved ?

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    1. I can imagine you thinking of the comfort of your pool! Will you be able to use it year-round with a heater?

      I think McD’s blatantly underpay their workers to feed their bottom line — and they keep the rest of us quiet about it by offering us below cost “meals” on their dollar menu:

      http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/meal_bundles/dollar_menu.html

      http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/promotions/value.html

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324783204578621532643360430.html

      http://www.brandeating.com/2013/06/news-mcdonalds-dollar-menu-expansion.html

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  7. […] If you ever want to know the impending weather, or the political forecast, or how a community is feeling at a precise instant in time — spend a few minutes in your local McDonald’s, and you’ll instantly know if it’s going to rain that day, or if there’s rage on the street, and you’ll learn how neighbors feel about each other. […]

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  8. […] all like to belong — and when we are told we are no longer part of the core, there is concern that something […]

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