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What is it exactly that McDonalds is selling again?

November 17, 2008

20 years ago I worked in Fast Food. At two nationally known chains I became a manager, in one case supervising 7 stores for a franchise. In both cases, the owners felt they knew better than Corporate choosing to significantly alter some major business practice, usually to the detriment of consumers.

We joked about a training story, and I think of it often today, in which we said that consumers don’t go to McDonalds because of the great taste of the food. Consumers go to McDonalds because no matter where they walk through the Golden Arches they can expect exactly the same product and pretty close to the same price, always with friendly service. (I did NOT work at McDonalds, BTW.) In fact, many McDonalds commercials want you to believe it is a fun place to visit, and their employees are some of the best in the world.

Of course we all know that isn’t the reality! We’ve all had miserable experiences at McDonalds. Since there are so many of them, you may even know that you want to drive past 2 or 3 of them because they really are that bad. Sometimes I forget – there is a franchise owner in Racine, Wisconsin that owns a couple of stores that really top the list for being at the bottom. I hit one of those stores on Lathrop Ave. again today.

Back in the day our cost on a $1 mega-soda was around $.17 by the time you counted syrup, cups, etc. At the other chain, we shot for a FLC (food, labor and coupon) cost around 20-22%. Even after other overhead was covered, the profit margin is pretty high.

Still, most of us can empathize with the owner that says that “bathrooms are for customers only” or any of a number of other less than neighborly advances; because we understand that the store exists to make money. And while I just REALLY needed a cup of water today while being out I decided that since I had skipped lunch I could purchase a couple of burgers at McDonalds to get a glass of water.

“We don’t have cups of water. You have to purchase a bottle.”

Not that I particularly care if my water is in a bottle or a cup when I drink it, but I do care (if I were to extrapolate from this experience) that McDonalds corporate policy was to be as completely irresponsible as possible and put as much plastic into landfills as they can.

I know better – McDonalds corporate policy is to reduce their waste. (Says so on their homepage.) They’ve switched from the Styrofoam and irresponsible packaging of the past to slightly more degradable packaging like paper lightly waxed.

Maybe that it is just the whole idea that what I really needed was a cup of water, and I was being forcefully upsold to a product that itself was not what I go to McDonalds for. I could have ordered a soda I suppose; the cost would have been less than that smaller bottle of water. Generally, I avoid soda for the health risks, although I do occasionally have one. It’s just not my first choice.

OK, so if health was my main concern, I wouldn’t be ordering a burger at McDonalds in the first place, and my job requires me to drive in my car in such a way that I’m not always exactly the most eco-friendly traveler – but it’s the tone of the voice, and the message “we don’t HAVE a glass of water. You have to buy a bottle” that probably bothers me the most.

At this point in my life, I’ve eaten at McDonalds more than once or twice. I even tried to give up McDonalds for Lent once. Man was I glad when Easter passed that year and I was able to get a burger! (You miss it when you can’t have it. I suppose over the years I have HAD to eat at McDonalds so many times, I’ve developed a taste for it.) But at the end of the day, like most of us, regardless of MY corporate loyalty ~ this McDonalds didn’t care about me or any of those basic human needs like thirst.

This restaurant wasn’t in the best neighborhood. It was between a school I serve and the Boy Scout office I was travelling to. My local Fox affiliate just ran a story tonight entitled “Do corner stores really offer the freshest option?” (redirects to At the heart of the story is that many people who live in such neighborhoods often don’t have great choices to feed their families. I’d concur.

I wonder if perhaps the McDonalds in my neighborhood knows that we DO have choices, and they MUST try harder, or I simply will not eat there?

Maybe two years ago I took my case to the manager at another McDonalds nearby this bad one that I believe is owned by the same owner. I was told it was “corporate policy” not to provide “free” drinks, even with a purchase. (Apparently the cost on those paper cups has skyrocketed. Someone better tell Paper Machinery Corporation to stop making those cups out of gold.)

This time I simply left. I chose NOT to buy the bottle of water OR the burgers. Or the line of crap that this franchise was selling.

Last time I checked, the McDonalds in MY neighborhood still gave me a cup of water if I asked, regardless if I purchased food. (Which I usually do.) Moreover, they’re happy to provide complementary Orange Drink for our Scout functions, and provide coupons for free ice cream cones during civic events or to the local police who give them out to kids wearing their bike helmets around town.

Interestingly enough, a few hours later, since I still had not eaten, I stopped at a different McDonalds on Hwy 20, still in the city. I pulled into the drive through, and decided to just get a double cheeseburger off the dollar menu to tide me over until dinner. The person who took my order asked me if I wanted the $1 cheeseburger or the $1.25 cheeseburger. Huh?

The latter has a “second piece of cheese” she explained. (Hmmm… Once again, another franchise owner playing with the product.) One piece of cheese was enough for me anyhow, so I stayed with the “new” $1 version. At least I wasn’t charged for the cup of water that I just HAD to order to prove that indeed McDonalds did still have a “courtesy cup.”

Overall, McDonalds appears to have a pretty big problem. Perhaps they don’t realize how bad it has become. Before I drop $6 – $8 at a McDonalds on a couple of “premium” burgers or designer coffees instead of heading to a place I can enjoy a nice warm plate, a smile, and food that is perhaps just a little better for me I will ask myself exactly WHAT it is that McDonalds thinks they’re selling.

Yeah, I suppose if I’m in such a rush that I have to hit a drive through not knowing if I dare eat in any of the other more colorful local establishments that I can’t seek out an alternative… Because I’m not sure McDonalds understands that the core of their business is consistency. Serving the same meal at the same deal each and every time, no matter where you travel is essential to their product. Having a friendly smile to greet me, and understanding that corporations like theirs exist because of customers like me who return far too often than we should is more powerful than the tens of millions of dollars they must spend on advertisements trying to convince me that somehow this time, my experience will be better, be “different.”

By the way – if you treat a customer well – they might tell a friend. But if you treat them poorly, you can expect that they may very well blog on the experience and send out links to that blog post on Twitter, Plurk, and perhaps dozens of other social networks telling tens of thousands of others around the world just how bad your service is.

The problem is, you ruin it for the good franchises. If McDonalds would let me identify these franchise owners by name on this page I would. (C’mon! Do you REALLY think I need a restaurant locator? They’re on every street corner! What I want to know is how bad a particular restaurant is, and the opportunity to rate it on that page so YOU know what I know.) Without consistency the McDonalds brand is nothing.

I don’t think it will be quite so hard to give up my “little pleasure” for Lent this year. But again, I’m lucky. I have choices.


An early Christmas Present for Educators!

November 6, 2008

Every year, around Christmas, I like to remind the teachers that we work with in Southeastern Wisconsin about the FREE Teachers Pass to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The museum believes that your class will have a better experience if you are able to come down to the museum and get to learn all about all of the great opportunities and resources available for your class. Then, when you visit with your class, you can spend more time doing what you do best ~ teaching!

This year I am going to post this just a little bit early. It’s an exciting time to visit the Milwaukee Public Museum – the Titan Arum is about to bloom in the butterfly garden, and the Titanic exhibition is bringing in visitors from all over the region! (An extra fee is required for admission to the Titanic.)

In addition to free admission for you as an educator, you will receive a significant discount on parking at McArthur Square ($5 instead of $16), a 15% discount on gifts and food while visiting, and notification of special education open houses, behind the scenes tours, and distance learning programs.

Please visit the education resources page at and get your own FREE Educators Pass today!

Indian Summer

November 3, 2008

Sometimes kids just need to be kids!

Today we enjoyed a great Indian Summer, with November temps in the low 70s! Rather than meeting inside at the library where we normally do, we had the boys meet at the former Boy Scout camp KaHaGon, now Racine County Park Wadewitz. This was a great night for boys to be boys!

After some sharing, we played Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard! We opened our meeting with a great lighting of a campfire, that helped keep some of the parents extra toasty after dark. While the campfire burned, the kids played around the building until the coals were “just right.”

We finished up with toasted marshmallows and s’ mores before our denner closed the meeting with an impromptu prayer. Let’s face it – this IS what every kid loves to do in Cub Scouts! And tonight, we got to do it! 6 VERY happy boys, and a couple of VERY happy leaders!

A Stinky Gram…

November 3, 2008

A Titanic Bloom with a Titanic Smell”

Don’t miss out on a Titanic Bloom at the Milwaukee Public Museum…

A rare Titan Arum plant will bloom late November at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  In nature, these plants only occur on the island of Sumatra and are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  A Titan from seed takes seven or more years to flower.   The Titan Arum is the worlds largest flower.  Once it opens, the flower will last 36-48 hours and smells like a pungent rotting corpse.  The strongest order will last about 6 hours during the night.

Join Museum Botanist Neil Luebke November 5th from 9:00 am to 10: 00 am, November 12th from 9:30 to 10:30 am and November 20th from 9:00 am to 10:00 am for an interactive Chat Session with a Museum Expert, Neil, about this  amazing Titanic bloom!  This session is free but space is limited.  Call today for your reservation to join us for one or all of the sessions.  Don’t miss out on this amazing event happening in Milwaukee for the first time.

Call Gaye-Lynn Clyde at 414-278-6146 or send an e-mail to to reserve your space for this Titanic Bloom with a Titanic Smell Chat.


A couple of notes:

A low bandwidth webcam is on the Corpse Flower at:

A 20Mb multicast MPEG2 stream is available on Internet2 via VLC at:

Christmas Tree Ship

October 27, 2008


The Christmas Tree Ship series is right around the corner and already filling fast. Can’t you just hear the jing, jing, jingling? The award winning Christmas Tree Ship series is being offered this November 17th – 21st and December 1st – 19th
for students of all ages. All programs feature the art of storytelling through the context of Great Lakes Maritime history and align with National and State Language Arts standards. Age appropriate sessions are available for students in k-12 grades.


  • Christmas Tree Ship Series: Story Time (K – 3)In this program for little ears, listen to the reading of Jeanette Winter’s book, “The Christmas Tree Ship.” Participants then make a storytelling ornament that helps them share Great Lakes maritime history with friends and family. Ornaments for each participant are included in this program.
  • Christmas Tree Ship Series: The Art of Storytelling (4 – 8)Hear the story of the famous “Christmas Tree Ship” through song in this program by singer, songwriter, and storyteller, Lee Murdock. Participants them become the storyteller through a windowpane storyboard of their own.
  • Christmas Tree Ship Series: Creative Writing With a Historic Perspective (9 – 12)Step back in history to write a story of your won about this historical maritime event, the “Christmas Tree Ship.” Use the resources provided by author Rochelle Pennington who has written two books about the famous Christmas Tree Ship. Creative writing is easy and fun with Rochelle’s tips and guidelines!


Many have booked time and again over the last 5 years and each year the program has booked to capacity. For those of you that haven’t booked a program in the past we invite you to join us at the 2007-08 pricing of only $95.00 per session. Ornament kits for each student are included in the $95.00 pricing and are mailed directly to you. To accommodate the increasingly large numbers of bookings we’ve added additional sessions this year. Programs are filled on a first come, first serve basis, so please book your session today by contacting Gaye-Lynn Clyde by email at, or by calling, 414-278-6146.

Thank you for your continued support of our Passport Distance Learning Series programs!


MPM Distance Learning and Education Department

Jamboree on the Internet

October 19, 2008

On the third weekend of October each year, Scouts from all around the globe get together for the Jamboree on the Air and Jamboree on the Internet. It’s rather “old school.” JOTA connects Scouts via HAM Radio, while JOTI connects Scouts over the Internet. Using the same Internet Relay Chat infrastructure we used 20 years ago (before the “world wide web!”) we connect to a series of private servers called Scoutlink.

I tried JOTI last year – didn’t get too far into it. One of the issues with IRC is that when it is busy, it is REALLY hard to follow a conversation in a busy chat room. But this year I gave it a bit more of a try. It seems like the best things in life always take a couple of tries until you get it right.

One of the cool things JOTI has developed is a system of validation cards. Ham radio operators have used these for years. After you make contact, you fill out a card to say that you made a new friend. Thanks to the Internet, these cards don’t have to be mailed anymore. They can be sent almost instantly as printable postcards.

Using IRC, once you make contact with a new station/Scout group elsewhere in the world, you can then log on to the website and send a validation card. I probably only sent validation cards to about ¼ of the folks that I met this weekend. And I probably sent close to twice as many validation cards as I received. But that still came out to having received contacts from over 40 new Scout groups around the world!

My 8 year old and I met lots of new people. Many were from the UK, quite a few from Australia. All over Europe and Asia, a contact from South America ~ but we never got a validation card from anyone in Africa. Maybe next year?

Our afternoon project tonight was to print out all of our cards, pin them to a board, and tie them to a map. It was fun, and is a really cool way to remember JOTI.

[edit: the following image was added to this post.]

JOTI Contact Board

JOTI Contact Board

Utterz podcast entry from my cell phone

October 10, 2008

Mobile post sent by vdub144 using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3