#32 – The tarnishing of the golden arches.

It was a couple decades back when our local city councillor came to a ratepayers meeting and told us smugly that he had voted against having a McDonald’s at our small local plaza. Why did you do that, he was asked. The questioner went on to tell him that we needed a franchise such as McDonald’s at the plaza to raise the standards in cleanliness and to set a good example for other retailers. We were thinking of this the other day realizing how times can change.

McDonald’s has gone down the slippery slope of the no longer caring. What used to be high standards of cleanliness and conscientiousness has been replaced by carelessness by the incompetent and the lazy. Where at one time you could expect the same high standards throughout the world-wide chain, today it is hit or miss if anyone at that location cares.

McDonald’s, once a bastion, a caring franchise, set standards that you could count on. Whether in the streets of Tokyo’s Ginza district or off the canals of Amsterdam, you knew the taste and delight of a Big Mac with fries. Sure, you knew the calories could do you in but you deserved a treat that day and you could fast for the next week to make up for the excess.

What is changed is not so much the flavour of the Big Mac but the surroundings and the attitude of the staff. And it is the attitude of the staff that affects the surroundings. It is the attitude that says whatever is wrong is somebody else’s problem.

We went into a McDonald’s the other day because it seemed to be the only place to get something to eat on that stretch of our trip. We regretted the choice. The franchise was on a stretch of road that links two major highways and must be a prime and profitable location. We expected better than we got.

When going up to the counter to place our order, we found the manager had one massive hip resting on the counter as she kibitzed with her staff who seemed to be lackadaisically looking after drivers at the service window. It took a few polite “excuse me’s” and one of her staff pointing behind her for the manager to finally turn around and acknowledge that she had customers to serve. We soon wished she had left us to her staff.

My wife is a coupon saver. No matter where we shop, if it is a place that provides coupons, my wife probably has some. We have to check for expiry dates when using them but she saves us quite a bit of money. She always has McDonald’s coupons because she knows I like the grilled chicken and she likes wraps. (She talks me into Wendy’s occasionally because she says they have the best salads.) I did not read the details on it but this time she produced a coupon that gave us the second sandwich free. I gave it to the manager and placed our order.

When the manager asked for $14 and change, it seemed excessive. “Did you take off the coupon,” I asked.

“Oh,” she answered and picked up the coupon from where she had left it on the counter. Without apology, she found the real price was just over $9. I realized that this was the second time recently that a person at McDonald’s had ignored the coupon I was using. Was the cost of the coupon coming out of their pocket?

My wife had gone to the restroom while I waited for the food and she did not give a good report on that experience. I can only add that the bloom was off the McDonald’s sandwich, the fries like salted cardboard and the drinks must have been 90 per cent ice, soon just watery.

Maybe it’s age. The length of time between visits to the golden arches seems to be getting much longer.


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