Friday, 28 January 2011
Is it really weird that, as many terrible experiences a I've had with McDonald's, I never seem to muster up the strength to just walk away and cut all ties? It's like I'm on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. McDonald's knows that even if they treat me like shit, I'll be back. Somehow they've got me wrapped around their disgustingly-tasty finger.
OK so let me say this first. I really do eat McDonald's, and fast food in general, quite sparingly. It's just that about half of my experiences are bad. Still, for every long streak that I go without it, I know I'll inevitably come crawling back like a junkie. I relapse rarely, but I always am upset with myself.
This dilemma has been bugging me for a while, and on my last soon-to-be-regretted stop into a Mickey D's, I began to ponder why so many people behave this way. And I think that we've all been conditioned from our childhood to adore trips to any fast food restaurant, but especially McDonald's.
Obviously this isn't true for everyone. Some kids were never allowed to eat it, and I'm sure it sucked at the time. But, frankly, I feel like that has turned into an advantage later on in life.
You see, try to think about McDonald's, especially their aesthetic, from a child's perspective. There's the big "golden arches" that just are so bright, vibrant, and warm looking. There's crazy and happy characters a la Disneyland. There's also almost always some sort of playground/jungle gym area, with a ball pit, slides, things to climb, and secret tunnels in need of exploring. If you're lucky you'll find a swirly slide, or some hallway filled with soft, hanging, punching bag-like things. The colors around the entire restaurant gleam with energy, supplementing the joy that will soon be bestowed upon us when we order a "Happy Meal" and get our gender-specific toy.
That's the deal-closer right there: a meal that's gonna make us freakin' happy! And I think that's a big part of why McDonald's has dominated the industry so convincingly. Yes, they were around first, and are an incredibly recognizable name, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee success forever. I'm pretty sure that Pepsi is roughly on par with Coke as a company, and Starbucks seems to have surpassed Dunkin' Donuts long ago.
One would expect the company that can deliver the best price and product to have an upper hand. In fact, this seems like a pretty damn obvious statement in a free market economy.
But does McDonald's achieve this superiority still today? I'd have to say "no."
Their prices are cheap, no doubt, but pretty much identical to major competitors'. And I've heard plenty of people say that McDonald's is far inferior to Burger King and Wendy's in terms of food and service quality.
Obviously this comes down to opinion, but my personal experience leads me to agree with this line of thinking. When I was a kid, a family friend found a worm in her chicken sandwich. And I can recall numerous instances where I received crappy food from McDonald's.
And now, it looks like McDonald's knows that I'm trying to get away, and they are not giving up on me. According to an article on fastcompany.com, McDonald's is planning "its first total makeover campaign since the Carter administration, allocating $2.4 billion to redo at least 400 domestic outposts, refurbish 1,600 restaurants abroad, and build another 1,000," to begin this year. They're trying to create an environment conducive to a casual, hip "dining experience," trying to convince the young generation to see it as a spot to hang rather than a mere food stand. Check out this quote:
"'As the younger generation starts to see McDonald's as a place you go to eat instead of just picking up food, you could very well change their behavior for years to come,' says Darren Tristano of restaurant consultancy Technomic. 'The next step,' he says, 'is to draw people in for a dining experience.'"
The phrase "change their behavior" rather irritates and worries me. It's like they're directly trying to control the way we think and act. This is, I suppose, the goal of all marketing, to some extent. But think about how big a company McDonald's is, and how they've practiced this behavior on impressionable young children, and children growing up in lower income households, in the past. It makes the company seem evil to me.
And they've reportedly already remodeled some stores in select places across the US, As well as stores in Europe and Asia, all with significant success.
Nowadays, the only times I cave and get McDonald's is when I want to save money and get something really quick. Now they're trying to make me wanna hang out and surf the web with all my dudebrahs, turning or trying to turn McDonald's, once again, into a place that I wanna go to have a good time. Now, I don't think it will work, but seriously, this is a resilient company, with all the advertising power in the world, so who knows?
Why do you think that you are unable to keep away from fast food altogether? Or, why do you think that you can manage to avoid it? Do you agree that the environment and aesthetic has a lot to do with it and that, especially when we are kids, it's actually kind of manipulative and fucked up?