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.

During one recent stint in the McDonald’s coffee queue, I witnessed a Jersey City municipal worker, a restaurant regular, who walked in and pointed to the current special on the menu board — two Sausage Biscuit with Egg sandwiches for $3.00 USD — and he said he wanted four of them, but only the sausage and the egg part, for a grand total of $6.00 USD out the door.

Not so fast!

The McDonald’s manager told him the price would be $15.00 USD for four sausage patties and four folded eggs.  The municipal worker looked at the manager, dumbfounded, and managed to say, “Why not $6.00 like the sign?!”

The manager answered as I had heard him answer many times before with these sorts of “special orders” — “separate sandwiches, pay higher price.”

The municipal worker rightly said, “But I’m saving you the biscuits!  Just give me the egg and the sausage and keep the biscuit part for profit!”

“$15” was the emotionless reply from the manager.

I felt for the municipal worker because I had witnessed the week before someone else wanting to add cheese to the same Sausage Biscuit with Egg special, and the same manager charged the customer 90 cents extra for each slice of cheese!  So the  $3 special price was suddenly: $5.00 USD!

The municipal worker, louder and angrier, and wanting to make a scene, shouted, “Well you might as well give me two specials and I’ll throw away the biscuits myself…!”

The manager rang up his $6 order and the worker added, “…I’ll throw them at you!”

As the worker waited for his order, he ranted about “being charged a thousand dollars for sausage and egg” and how unfair it was that this isolated McDonald’s in Jersey City was ripping off the neighborhood with outrageous prices, “Go to Hoboken or Bayonne or Montclair and any McDonald’s there will bend over backward to give you what you want at a good price because they have competition!  They serve people with money.  People who have choices!  They won’t charge you a thousand dollars for a three dollar special!”

The manager was unfazed, and handed the worker the completed order.  As the worker left in a huff, I knew he was right.  People who frequent this McDonald’s are beholden to the whimsy of an indefensible “extras” policy that appears to be made up by a manager based on no verifiable sourcing.  Inconvenience him, go off the menu board, and you will pay a hardy price for the privilege of being served.

I also agree with the worker that more affluent neighborhoods get more choices and more opportunities to bend a menu to their will without the fear of economic retribution behind the cashier’s stand. Voting with your wallet works in neighborhoods with competition, but fails miserably when McDonald’s is the only “affordable” urban warfare choice in town.

13 Comments

  1. It’s a conspiracy. Anyone attempting to challenge standard operating procedures or daring to be different will be punished or harshly fined. We wouldn’t want to empower people by leading them to believe they have choices.
    Perhaps the gentleman should have gone to Burger King where “you can have it your way”.
    SMILE

  2. Is this the same branch as yesterdays ? maybe it is because the gentleman in question was not part of the house – he was a drive by and there was no future goodwill in interrupting their slick delivery system.

    Addressing the problem of McDonald’s being the only affordable place to eat is of course a whole different matter. Poverty greatly reduces your choices right across the board not only in healthcare and education but in nutrition as well.

    1. Yes! Same branch as yesterday. Different manager, though. I’ve seen the municipal worker there before — maybe not part of the house, but at least a semi-regular! SMILE! That particular manager is unmovable. His English isn’t so great, so I think he likes to stick to “order by the number” only to keep things simple and understood:

      http://bolesblogs.com/2011/09/30/ordering-fast-food-by-the-number/

      I also wonder if there’s some sort of corporate punishment for going “off menu.” Say, it messes up your supply reorder if your ratio to biscuits and sausage and folded egg don’t match your sales receipts or something. It’s easier for them to sell you what they prepackage and let you throw away what you don’t want and if you want something added, they make it so expensive you’ll never do it again…

      McDonald’s is cheap and they do offer a variety of foods. Their french fries are ubiquitous in a particularly horrible and unhealthy way and profits are down:

      “This pressure on McDonald’s could last over the third quarter as a whole, and perhaps beyond, if Wendy’s adds its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger as a permanent menu item – which looks increasingly likely,” Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski said.

      McDonald’s, which still dominates the fast-food industry, has been offering late-night breakfasts, tweaking other menus and advertising value-priced meals to bring in more traffic.

      The chain said its indulgent new line of Quarter Pounder hamburgers – including a bacon habanero ranch version – have performed well. It recently axed lackluster sellers like premium Angus burgers and its Fruit & Walnut Salad while also catching up with rivals by introducing an egg white version of its popular McMuffin breakfast sandwich.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/22/mcdonalds-results-idUSL4N0FS2UN20130722

      1. It is down to the people …….. can make all the difference. Language could be a factor , but I think the numbers game is probably the “big” issue here – everything will have to tally – such a shame that it results in bad tempers and wasted food.

        I have never really been a customer – my kids badgered me for years to take them and one holiday I gave in and took them as a treat – they ate the chips and drank the milkshakes – one bite of the rest and it was ewwwwwwww. This was years ago, but I know none of them eat there now either !

        1. Right! Good point about food unnecessarily being wasted. The bottom line is more important than doing the right thing…

          As I understand it, outside the USA, McDonald’s food can be pretty good because there is a higher expectation from consumers that the food actually taste good. I have been told the McDonald’s in Germany have excellent beef that is much better than what is served here.

          I wonder how their seaweed experiment turned out?

          http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/15/business/company-news-mcdonald-s-tries-seaweed.html?pagewanted=all

          1. I love the idea of seaweed in McDonald’s hamburgers! SMILE!

            I also loved when Taco Bell got “caught” adding TVP — “textured vegetable protein” — to their burrito “meat.” Ha!

            Healthy ingredients can be an money saver!

  3. Only in McWorld do you have to pay more to get less. That’s crazy and rather unfortunate that it’s the only affordable game in town. Makes me think it’s no wonder so much of urban America is overweight, sometimes morbidly so.

    1. The McWrap is a big gamble to get adults back on the menu:

      In late March, just days before the introduction of the McWrap, Advertising Age obtained an internal McDonald’s memo discussing the chain’s struggle to attract customers between the ages of 18 and 32. Noting that McDonald’s didn’t even rank in the millennial generation’s top 10 favorite restaurant chains, the memo went on to say, “McWrap offers us the perfect food offering to address the needs of this very important customer to McDonald’s.” The memo called the McWrap a “Subway buster.” When asked to elaborate, Elizabeth Campbell, senior director of marketing in the U.S., will only say, “We don’t think we have a problem with millennials, but we want to remain relevant to all of our customers.”

      http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-07-03/why-the-mcwrap-is-so-important-to-mcdonalds