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Time for a McFight
By Trevor Bothwell
Dear Mr. Mike Roberts:
As President and Chief Operating Officer of McDonald's Corporation, I figured you best qualified to address a very important concern of mine.
First, allow me to congratulate you on your recent election to this most prominent position. And second, please forgive me for potentially breaking a rule so clearly noted on your company website, which states, "it is McDonald's company's policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from anyone other than our corporate employees, franchise owners and dedicated suppliers."
I'm sure this little directive was enacted long ago in order to limit further outbreaks of bright ideas like the McRib sandwich, but while I'm no longer an employee and certainly not a franchise owner, I do consider myself a "dedicated supplier" of extremely happy taste buds.
But I digress. Specifically, I've been disturbed for years that McDonald's has found itself in the crosshairs of radical liberal activist groups and tort lawyers, or anyone else looking to make a quick buck in this era of corporate shakedowns and professional victimology.
As I'm sure you'll acknowledge, one of the biggest costs associated with realizing successful business practices is having to deal with the complaints of pitiful human beings looking for a scapegoat for their own shortcomings, or those who insist on exploiting others for their own self-righteous causes.
You are undoubtedly aware of the wide-ranging harassment McDonald's has faced in years past, from environmentalists complaining about deforestation or those sinister Styrofoam containers, to anti-globalization belligerents hysterically accusing the franchise of taking over the planet.
Throughout it all, however, McDonald's historically has stood proudly behind its business practices and products, and for good reason. As a high school Mickey D's employee, I learned that like many corporations McDonald's strives to instill productive values in its workforce and reinforce personal responsibility ("You got time to lean, you got time to clean!").
And unlike many corporations, McDonald's has made it a priority to actually listen to its critics. Over the years, it has swapped Styrofoam boxes for paper wrappers, substituted beef fat with vegetable oil, traded the fried apple and cherry pies (the most delicious little treats ever) for baked versions (not so delicious), introduced low-fat desserts and offered salads and pita bread wraps, all in the name of attempting to provide utmost customer service.
Which is why I was so disappointed last weekend to learn during a rather routine visit to the Solomons, Maryland, McDonald's that your Super Size menu has gone the way of the Dodo.
I would imagine McDonald's Corporation made the decision to eliminate its Super Size option in the attempt to preempt further lawsuits like the one filed two years ago by Samuel Hirsch on behalf of chubby children in New York City who claimed, in part, that McDonald's didn't adequately inform them that fast food could lead to obesity.
As you know, this particular suit was tossed out like a 20-minute-old Big Mac, probably due to the fact that McDonald's has published in plain view of customers the nutritional information of its products for well over a dozen years now. In short, if these kids didn't read the information on the chart, they likely were either educated in public schools, or simply chose not to read it.
Alas, although you overcame this potential setback, it nevertheless appears that you have chosen to surrender to the tenacious nutrition Nazis in our midst and their apparent "War on Obesity" (and frankly, on everyone else who prefers their fast food doesn't increasingly taste like Tofu).
Mr. Roberts, you hardly need me to tell you that adjusting a product line to meet the demands of the marketplace makes good business sense. However, capitulating to the frivolous demands of a relative handful of fast food abolitionists for fear of facing especially frivolous lawsuits is nearly as shameful as the verdicts you fear (see Big Tobacco).
Moreover, on the matter of whether or not Super Size fries and soft drinks should be considered part of a healthy diet I am not an authority. What is clear, however, is that usurping private property rights, whether through judicial fiat or government diktat -- or mere threat alone -- is fatally unhealthy in a free society. This may be business as usual in Canada, France or Germany, but in the United States it is reprehensible.
Whether we like it or not, promoting the transfer of human responsibility from the individual to the nanny state is a two-way street. While such efforts are obviously commenced by those who unilaterally seek to place limitless regulations on private enterprise under the guise of "compassion" or the "common good," it is no less encouraged indirectly by private entities that allow themselves to be bullied into submission.
It is with these sentiments in mind that I implore you forthwith to reconsider returning the Super Size option to your menus. Now that I think about it, how about reverting to the original model Mr. Kroc championed upon founding McDonald's decades ago, namely providing affordable fast food -- not "health food" -- deliciously fried in beef fat, served in an unusually clean environment by abnormally happy teenagers?
If nothing else, such moves would finally serve to give the proverbial bird to the culinary curmudgeons who have no business determining what you sell or what I eat. Think about it, we might even be able to pioneer new vernacular for the English language: every time someone sticks his nose where it doesn't belong, we could henceforth "give him the Ronald!" Or maybe not.
In truth, diet despots like Dr. Ann Zerr, who "[has] a big problem with non-nutritive beverages," according to Gannett News Service, don't really care if millions of other Americans don't share their views. Likewise, Jessica Cylkowski, a media rep for an Indiana dietitians' association, admits that ridding the country of sordid Super Sizes is merely a "step in the right direction."
Thus the entire point. Like the environmentalists who are now unhappy with paper wrappers, the "obesity lobby" will not rest at the removal of Super Size menu items. The only goal of these fanatical factions is continual pestering and litigation until they have forced companies like McDonald's down the slippery slope of slow, deliberate persecution to ultimate corporate extinction.
Oh, there's one thing I forgot. I neglected to mention that the girl (to remain nameless for now) who informed me her McDonald's is now Super Size-free was a fourth grade student of mine about six years ago. And when I asked how she's been all these years since, she proceeded to inform me she's been diagnosed with a brain tumor (talk about a day filled with bad news).
Coping with the fact that some children have to endure life-threatening afflictions is never easy. That this young lady is one of the most polite and respectful youngsters I've ever met simply makes the news harder to bear.
So I have an idea. Bring back your Super Size menu (for starters). Knowing how much McDonald's prides itself in doing charity work, I propose your outstanding company adopt a local program donating all proceeds from small fry sales -- for a limited time only, of course -- to a medical fund in the name of my friend. And just to see how much the obesity czars and our friends in the nutrition industry really care about everyone's health, we can challenge them to meet your donation dollar-for-dollar.
How about it? McDonald's can encourage its customers to eat smaller portions, and those who accuse you of pushing unhealthy food at innocent bystanders can really put their money where their mouth is. I'm sure with your advertising prowess we could get this ball rolling rather quickly. I can be contacted anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much for your time. And by the way, I'll buy the first 100 bags of fries.
Trevor Bothwell is editor of The Right Report.com and is a Townhall.com book reviewer. If you would like to encourage McDonald's to take a stand against the "obesity lobby" and simultaneously help out a great kid, please write: McDonald's Corporation, c/o Mike Roberts, McDonald's Plaza, Oak Brook, IL 60523. ©2004 Trevor Bothwell
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