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.