The following is my personal opinion.
I was a small child in the 1960s when McDonald’s opened a restaurant in my South Side Chicago neighborhood. As a kid, I was amazed by the concept of fast food. Clean, efficient, and in my child’s mind, delicious!
I was an adult when the River Road McDonald’s opened in my hometown of Naperville. Shining in its 1990s spender, I was once again amazed by the crew’s speed and accuracy. Rumor was that it served as a training site for McDonald’s corporate. By that point in my life, I was less impressed with the food. However, I was still sold on the core concepts of speed, reliability, consistency, and reasonable cost.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I am driving my family from Ohio back to Illinois. The kids are getting hungry, and so I pull off the expressway. A McDonald’s restaurant lies in our path. “How about McDonald’s?” I ask. Moans of displeasure erupt from the kids. They reluctantly agree, and I pull into the drive-thru line, which is moving at a snail’s pace. We reach the speaker, and something atypical happens, the order taker gets our order correct on my first try. This has become so unusual that my wife comments to me about it.
After a very long crawl, we reach the window and get our order. My wife does a visual check, and everything looks in order. We pull away.
Julie bites into her regular cheeseburger and sighs, “They got the order wrong.” Her sandwich is missing most of its condiments. “Do you want me to go back?” I ask. “No, let’s just keep going.” The next moment my son sighs, “This isn’t a double quarter pounder with cheese, it is a single.” The second error signals our return to the restaurant. My wife takes the offending sandwiches and goes into the restaurant. She is gone for a very long time. On her return, she apologizes for her delay by noting that they had to make her sandwich from scratch.
Now on the highway, I hear a sheik and an anxious laugh from her, “Well I guess they got me for complaining!” I look over to find that her cheeseburger has all of the right condiments, but it is missing the burger! What has happened to McDonald’s?
This is not an isolated incident, which brings me to my local McDonald’s on River Road. On Friday mornings I often stop there to purchase a coffee and a breakfast burrito. On Tuesday evenings I used to stop there to buy dinner for myself and two of my kids.
The morning lines can be very long, likely caused by the second window sometimes having to do the double duties of cash collection and food distribution. The morning shift seems to have the typical problems that fast food restaurants have. For instance, not including the salsa packet in my burrito order. I have also had to remind them that my order was incomplete, and on several occasions, I have had to tell them that they hadn’t collected my payment! These kinds of errors speak of poorly trained, underpaid, and overworked employees.
However, my Tuesday evening experiences have been worse. Yes, some of the above happens in the evenings too. I have gotten grossly incorrect orders with missing items, wrong items, and items that should have been tossed because they were too old or incorrectly made (for instance, fries so salty that they were inedible). Worse have been the times that defy any sort of quality control. My son has gotten double quarter pounders made with regular sized hamburger patties. I have had several instances where my Southwestern Salad looked like trash, appearing like a salad that had fallen on the floor and was then picked up and put back into its container. Not only did these salads look like a mess, but they were also missing the chicken. Yes, this has happened on more than one occasion from this location.
I bet you are thinking, “Why are you complaining here, you should be talking to McDonald’s!” It is true that on many occasions I have just eaten what I was given because I was tired or in a rush. However, over the last year, I have talked to staff, a manager, corporate, and I even wrote a personal letter to the CEO. Bottom line, It is my opinion that McDonald’s could care less that their product and their customers.
I go to the River Road McDonald’s because it is close and convenient. I don’t want extra layers of grief (like having to return to the store). When I have returned with a wrong order, I’m given the right food, but the workers seem more bothered than apologetic. With one of the “garbage” salad experiences, I asked to speak directly to the manager. She barely made eye contact with me. When she returned with a new salad, she mumbled a very weak “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
In another instance, I wrote out a complaint on the corporate website. The result? A few weeks later I received a postcard/coupon for a free value meal without any explanation. The postcard peeved me enough to do some research and get the name of the CEO of McDonald’s, who I wrote directly expressing my concerns. In that letter, I clearly stated where the store came up short. I appealed to the CEO, one businessman to another.
I have written the heads of corporations in the past, but this is hardly a regular occurrence. Usually, the results of my efforts have been positive…. Editor’s note: in the spirit of full disclosure I did have one experience that was equally bad, that was when I wrote the CEO of Comcast for a friend. A year later he is still paying for services that he can’t use, as the building where he was renting his office was sold, forcing him to relocate…. I write a good letter that is fair and balanced, and it appears that most CEOs appreciate it when someone takes the time to contact them about a real concern. They seem to understand that customers are what makes a company successful.
My response from the CEO of McDonald’s was the most generic of replies from a customer service representative. The letter wasn’t even signed with a real signature. It stated that McCorp preferred having the store deal with local complaints. That was that.
“Dr. Mike, why not protest with your feet?” Dear reader, McDonald’s are everywhere, and they are very convenient. It is unlikely that I will completely stop going to them because of these factors. However, I am definitely going to them much less than I did before, and I order less when I do go. I find myself driving longer distances to go to other fast food places (Portillo’s anyone?), and I now cook on Tuesday evenings. Think about what I just said, it has become more convenient for me to prepare a meal than to deal with long lines and wrong orders. That does not bode well for McDonald’s whose success was based on fast, reliable service.
I recently watched a video on the most loved and hated fast food restaurants. The most hated fast food restaurant is now McDonald’s. Advertising and a clown can’t make up for horrible service.
Are all McDonald’s as bad as these two? I would say, no. I have gone to other McDonald’s where the lines have moved, and my order was correct. I have gone to still other McDonald’s and received terrible service and bad food. When I look at both the good and the bad, it is my opinion is that McDonald’s is definitely declining. No one in my family looks forward to going to McDonald’s or eating their food.
McDonald’s defined the concept of fast food. They did this not only with their speed of delivery but also with their consistency and reliability. The McDonald’s of the past was able to convince us that they were our local McDonald’s, rather than a sterile extension of a corporate behemoth. Our kids wanted their Happy Meals, we wanted to feed our families easily. Such a simple concept, once achieved, now lost.
An American icon, gone wrong. Shame on you McDonald’s and shame on your CEO. The reply that I received from the letter that I sent him suggests a significant lack of interest on his part. The food and service that I receive from his restaurants seem to confirm that suggestion.
I always try to find the good in bad. The good here is that I’m cooking more at home, and choosing restaurants that appear to have better and somewhat healthier offerings. I guess that is something to be grateful for.
Dear readers, what has your experience been with the Golden Arches?
My local McDonald’s