Fat Food Nation: McDonald’s Pricing Encourages Poor Nutritional Choice

Fat Food Nation: McDonald's Pricing Encourages Poor Nutritional Choice


At first it seemed a small thing, only a $0.19 difference, but then I realized how it had affected my thinking and had almost affected my choice.  $0.19 was the price difference between a McDouble and a hamburger at McDonalds.  The hamburger was the more expensive choice.  And, if only the drive thru attendant had answered my call to switch to a McDouble, I would have saved $0.19 but made a poor nutritional choice.

So, I wrote an email to McDonalds and received both a phone call and an email back.

Here’s my email, sent on 3/6/2013 to McDonald’s (through the contact form at the McDonald’s website):

McDonald’s appears to be promoting unhealthy food choices at some of it’s restaurants, enticing people to chose a nutritionally worse option by having artificially lower prices.

Yesterday, when I went through the drive through at the Rogers, MN restaurant, I ordered a hamburger and then I saw the total pop up. I was shocked that a hamburger is more expensive than a McDouble. Why is a regular hamburger $1.19 and a McDouble only $1?   

I attempted to get the drive thru attendant again on the intercom, so that I could ask if I could have a McDouble, because it was less expensive.  Later, as I was eating my hamburger, I realized it was fortunate she did not answer.

I know that the McDouble is on the dollar menu, but it seems wrong for at least a couple of reasons that it is less expensive than a hamburger:  1.  You get so much less with a hamburger–one less beef patty and no cheese.  2. hamburgers are also healthier.  A hamburger is only 250 calories with 32% of calories from fat.  A McDouble  is 390 calories with 44% of calories coming from fat.

McDonald’s is contributing to the obesity epidemic by encouraging people to make poor food choices.  I have been to other McDonald’s restaurants where a hamburger is $.89, which seems more logical (and sends the right message).

A few hour later, I received a call from the store manager. She agreed with me, but really couldn’t do anything about it, other than pass the info on to the store owner. Oh, yeah, and send me a coupon for a free meal . . .

Then, the next day (3/8/2013) I received an email response from a McDonald’s customer service rep:

Hello Diane:

I want to thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience at the McDonald’s in Rogers, MN with me. Your feedback is very important to us as it allows us to better understand how we can improve our service to you.

I am sorry for your dissatisfaction with the prices charged by the franchisee of the restaurant you visited. Please be assured that we want to provide you with an exceptional experience every time you visit us. From your email, it is clear we did not meet your expectations. Again, I am truly sorry we disappointed you.

I want you to know that I have already taken action on your feedback. After reading your email, I immediately shared the information you brought to our attention with the local franchise owner of the restaurant you visited. Additionally, customer feedback is reviewed with our regional McDonald’s consultants as part of our ongoing commitment to improving our restaurants’ operations.

 McDonald’s cares about the health and well being of its customers. We’re working to help people understand how to achieve a balance between food eaten and physical activity. It is not simply a result of consuming too many calories — it is equally the result of burning too few. McDonald’s offers a variety of great tasting, quality food choices in a number of serving sizes to fit many nutrition needs. McDonald’s strives to help its customers make informed food choices, by offering nutrition information in a variety of different ways: nutritional facts brochures in the restaurant, www.mcdonalds.com website, on the reverse side of trayliners, on select packaging, our toll-free number, 800-244-6227, our mobile application and our menu boards. Many nutrition professionals agree that McDonald’s food can be part of a healthy diet based on the sound nutrition principles of balance, variety and moderation.

Health and nutrition experts from the World Health Organization, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics agree that many factors contribute to over weight and obesity. The causes are complex and may include excess food consumption, lack of physical activity and today’s increasingly sedentary lifestyle, just to name a few.

As mentioned, McDonald’s offers nutrition information for its standard menu items. For questions about the nutrition value of standard menu items, please visit the website at www.mcdonalds.com or call the toll-free number at 800-244-6227.

Again, Diane, thank you for sharing your feedback. We appreciate your business and we hope to have the pleasure of serving you soon.


McDonald’s Customer Response Center

Kudos to McDonald’s for quick customer response, but does anyone else see a problem with pricing a hamburger higher than a McDouble?


Why Can’t They Just Pick Up the Phone?


“Why they can’t just pick up the phone and call?” asked the man, a local business owner attending a Saint Paul Chamber meeting. The furrow between his eyebrows deepened.

Earlier, I had asked him, “What communication challenges have you seen in your business?”

He told me that the greatest challenge for his business was employees relying almost exclusively on email to communicate with clients. The problem, as he saw it, was that it seemed like his employees would rather spend days going back and forth dealing with an issue via email than pick up the phone and have a real-time conversation that would resolve an issue more quickly and with less confusion.

Email has several advantages, including convenience, traceability, elimination of phone-tag, the ability to carefully think out your communication, etc., but when is it time to step away from the keyboard and pick up the phone?

Consider using the phone when you need to:

-Get or give an immediate response
-Resolve a simple situation quickly
-Cut through confusion
-Discuss something confidential
-Understand shades of meaning conveyed by tone of voice and immediate responses
-Apologize for something “big.”
-Deliver really bad news

Your thoughts?

What Ever Happened to Face-to-Face Conversation?


Has this ever happened to you?  Have you gone through the grocery store checkout and felt, well, invisible, like the two men in the above Doonesbury comic strip?  Have you noticed a decline in interpersonal communication skills in recent years?


Are we too busy texting, tweeting, updating Facebook, listening to our iPods or just turning in to ourselves and tuning out others that we don’t really see or interact with the people right in front of us?

Can we blame technology-enabled communication?

Don’t get me wrong!  I wouldn’t want to go back to pre-email, pre-texting, pre-social media days.  I love my iPhone and am rarely more than a room away from it (although I don’t use it that much for actually making phone calls).  When I can get Skype to work well, it’s a wondrous thing.  I met my son-in-law via Skype before I met him in person. Being able to converse back and forth, in real time, seeing his facial expressions and body language and hearing his tone of voice greatly enhanced my feeling that I got to know him before we met in person.  Through Facebook, I keep in touch with far-flung friends and relatives, people I wouldn’t connect with much otherwise.

But are we losing the subtle nuances of face-to-face, real-time back-and-forth interpersonal skills?

More than one business owner has told me recently that their employees, especially the younger ones don’t want to pick up the phone and talk to a client–even if a direct conversation would be less complicated and much quicker.

Why is that?  Why do so many people shun face-to-face (or phone) conversations?

I’ll be exploring that question, and possible solutions in upcoming posts, but I’d love to hear what you think!



A Grown Up Lesson from the Gingerbread Man


As I pulled out the Christmas decorations from storage last night, preparing to send a few ornaments to my newlywed daughter for her first Christmas without me, I waxed nostalgic about the fun holiday times when my children were younger.  One of my favorite memories was making cookies with my daughter.  Well, actually it was more about eating the cookies than making them.  I especially loved eating the gingerbread man cookies, probably not so much for their taste as for the recollection of the children’s story, The Gingerbread Man.

Remember the story?  An old woman is baking the Gingerbread Man when he hops out of the oven, saying “Run, run as fast as you can.  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  The old woman, her husband and a multitude of other creatures chase after the Gingerbread man until a sly fox finally tricks him and gobbles him up.

As a child, the lessons I learned were 1. Don’t brag because it eventually will result in your demise and, 2. Someone who offers to help you might be a liar and actually want to hurt you instead.

But, looking at the tale with fresh adult eyes, and seeking  positive lessons, I see  a couple that stand out:

1. The Bandwagon Effect (or social proof):  If other people want something, it must be good.

2. The Chase Effect: Creating fear of loss through forward momentum produces a desire to posses.

At first only one person wanted to eat the Gingerbread man; no one else knew he existed, so they had no desire to eat him.  It was only when he started running away, with someone chasing him, that others noticed him, and noticed that he must be desirable because others wanted him.

The lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect have applications both in personal life (dating, for example) and in business.

In business, testimonials, ratings and reviews are a few ways to create your own Bandwagon Effect.  If you are approaching a client, consider providing testimonials from other, similar clients.  Of course, you have to get those testimonials first!  The best time to get a testimonial is when you have delivered a product or service with excellence.  If you are a  solopreneur or employee, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation–that way you have it on your LinkedIn profile and you can use it elsewhere (website, marketing materials, etc.).

You can also create a Chase Effect.  People naturally want what they can’t have, especially if they feel they deserve it or already have a sense of ownership.  Now this does not mean making it difficult for people to buy from you, but it does mean creating a sense of impending loss if they don’t take action quickly.   So, you have limited time or quantity offers.  If you are an employee, your skills and time are the limited resources that you offer.

But the Chase Effect isn’t just about fear of loss, it is also about time moving on, about needing to take action now.  Think about how you feel when you see something advertised with “only 95 left.”  Isn’t there a part of you that feels a sense of urgency to act before you lose out?  Or, if you have ever sat through a time-share presentation, you know the feeling of being shown how wonderful your vacations could be, the vacations you deserve, and at a great discount, “today only.”

Take the grown up lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect and be your own Gingerbread Man–just don’t brag too much and watch out for those foxes!  Run, run as fast as you can . . . to the bank!


School Lunches: My 15 Minutes of Field Research

I decided to eat lunch at my son’s high school today as “research” for an upcoming presentation at the Minnesota School Nutrition Association Annual Conference, but also because I recently read Free For All:  Fixing School Food in America (an engaging analysis of the complexities of school meals).  I wondered how much the school lunch experience had changed since I last had lunch in a high school cafeteria 32 years ago!  Yep, I graduated in 1980.

Now as then, I don’t think parents eat in the school cafeteria very often.  When I called the school to see if I just needed to check in at the office, the secretary had to call me back because she “didn’t know the protocol.”  And then, when I got to the cafeteria, and went through the salad line, when it was my turn to “pay,” (all the students were using PINs) the woman at the “register” said she couldn’t take my money.  She told me to leave my food and go pay at the cashier in the middle of the cafeteria and then come back and get my food.  When I got to the cashier, he told me to tell  the salad lady that “Mike said it was OK to take my money.”  I traipsed back to the salad area and cut in line to pay—it was $3.60 and she didn’t have change for $4, so I told her to keep the change and I’d take a milk (maybe that came with lunch . . . I don’t know.  I would have much preferred water, but oddly, I didn’t see any water).  This process took about 4 minutes.

When I brought my food to sit down across from my son, I noticed he didn’t have any food!  “What?” I said, “I come to eat lunch with you and you don’t eat?”

“I already ate,” he said.  “You took too long.”

Four minutes was too long?

I’ll have to have a conversation with him about it being considerate to pace yourself to your dinner companions.  I felt incredibly rushed to finish my food and ate so fast that I started coughing!  I really could have used some water.

Not much has changed in 32 years when it comes to cafeteria “atmosphere.”  Crowded lunch room. Long cafeteria tables. Noisy. Rushed.

What has changed tremendously was the food! There was better food and more variety.  When I was in high school, we had 2 choices—regular hot lunch or the “new” McDonald’s-style lunch of a hamburger, fries and a chocolate shake.   I was pleased to see offerings of a hot lunch with pasta, a few sandwiches and the salads.

Although I thought that the school lunches looked pretty good, the four students I spoke with at lunch were less than impressed.  They all wished there was more variety (“When we have pasta, it’s for the whole week.  When we have the taco bar, it’s for the whole week, too.”) and “better food.”  I asked them what they meant by “ better.”

“Better tasting and better for you—healthier” was basically what they said (actually the 2 guys didn’t say anything about health; just the 2 girls did).

Interestingly, they all also said that schools in the suburbs get better lunches than schools in the city (two students, one being my son, had direct experience with this—Rogers, MN and Wayzata, MN).  One student even said, “the rich, snobby kids get the good food.” The other two students formed their opinions from talking with friends at suburban schools.   Why would lunches be better at suburban schools?  Is it because there is more property tax money?

Getting my food, eating and talking with the students took all of 15 minutes.  Even though there were 10 minutes left of the lunch period, almost all the students had left to go outside by the time I finished.  I don’t blame them for wanting to hurry through lunch to be outside with their friends on a beautiful spring day.  I couldn’t wait to leave myself!

What do you think about school lunches?

Or, what kind of interesting “field research” have you done in the interest of understanding your client or customer better?