Wednesday, May 29, 2013

McDonald's Mishagosh

You would think that in today's climate where Social Media abounds company would be more accommodating in handling Customer Service issues. Especially when those issues are a direct result of interactions with the staff at their stores and restaurants. Sadly, this is not the case.

A few weeks ago, on April 27th, I walked into my local McDonald's to grab some lunch in between meeting with clients. I do not usually eat McDonald's because of my dietary restrictions (I live a dairy free lifestyle) but I had not eaten breakfast and was starving. I looked at their Dollar Menu and ordered a McDouble with no cheese and no pickles. I could not order a double hamburger since McDonald's does not offer that menu option.

I received my meal and sat down at a table. I unwrapped my McDouble to find no pickles and a big slice of cheese. I looked at the receipt and on the burger wrapper and both confirmed my order was placed properly by the cashier. I approached the counter and explained the error to one of the workers. She took the burger from me and went to speak to line cook. While I could not hear the conversation I did see the line cook start to laugh and walk to the back with the improperly prepared burger. Several moments later the same worker I handed the burger to handed me a new one. I returned to my seat, checked it and confirmed their were no pickles or cheese. I finished my meal.

After leaving the restaurant and heading towards my next client I became violently ill and had to stop at a store to use the restroom. Afterwards I cancelled my remaining appointments for that day and returned home.

I believe that the line cook did not prepare a brand new sandwich but simply removed the cheese and rewrapped the old sandwich. The next day I went to the McDonald's website ( and wrote a complaint through their automated form.

A few days later, on or about the 30th of April, I received a call from a representative from McDonalds.  I could not understand everything she was saying because her accent was very thick but it was clear she was just reading from a script and going through the motions with no empathy for my situation. 

"We here at McDonald's take customer service very seriously, sir."
"Tell me, do you know why I wrote my complaint," I interrupted. This was followed by moments of "ahhs" and "umms" and I heard paper shuffling in the background.
"You got sick or something, right?" she finally said.

I explained this did not make a good impression on me and politely ended the conversation.

A week later I received a call from Stephanie. Stephanie introduced herself as the manager of the store where I had the issue. She again apologized for the mistake. I explained that because of my dietary restrictions this was not a simple mistake, and I was lucky that I only got sick. Stephanie told me she she had talked with her staff and re-emphasized the importance of getting the order correct the first time. She asked me to please try her restaurant again and offered me a Be Our Guest card.

A few days later I received the Be Our Guest card in the mail. To my surprise the card was not for a free meal but a free breakfast or lunch sandwich. To me this seemed just like a major corporation nickel and diming, and doing the absolute least to retain a customer. In addition when I turned the card over I discovered that it was only valid at specific McDonald's restaurants and my local restaurant, where the issue took place, was not listed among them. To add insult to injury, three of the five restaurants listed were crossed out! I felt asking me to visit a restaurant that was not local to me in order to use the Be Our Guest Card was inconvenient and did not make me feel like I was a valued customer.

I decided to escalate the issue. I returned the Be Our Guest card in a letter I wrote and mailed to McDonald's Corporate offices on May 10th. I expressed my displeasure in the way McDonald's was choosing to handle this issue:

"I am extremely disappointed that McDonald’s has chosen to take this situation so lightly. There are many people who have dietary restrictions that require custom ordering. Enclosed, please find the Be Our Guest card you sent me as I will not be using it. I will not be visiting any McDonald’s restaurant in the future and will also make sure I let all of my friends with dietary restrictions know not to eat at your restaurants."

 Several days later I received another call from the Store Manager Stephanie. She again expressed her sympathy that I was not satisfied. I explained my issue with the Be Our Guest and what if offered. Stephanie told me she had no control over the cards since they were a Corporate  decision and she was only a franchise owner. She advised me that even though the cards say the are only valid a specific location "most" franchise owners are "pretty good" about honoring them. I explained that card did not state that and how was I, or any customer, supposed to know that. Stephanie asked me to please understand that her hands were tied with what she could do by Corporate policy and again assured me she spoke to her staff about getting orders correct. She again asked me to give them another try. I explained it was not worth my health to try again and this whole ordeal did not instill much faith in the McDonald's family. I told her that I appreciated the phone calls and the position she was in but I was not going to be frequenting any McDonald's any longer.

Yesterday, more than a month after the initial situation, I received a form letter from McDonald's Corporate Headquarters, signed by "David", advising me they received my complaint and that satisfaction is very important to them.

Really "David"? So far I count five failed attempts by McDonald's to make me, and others with dietary restrictions, feel like a valued customer. Putting a double hamburger on the menu and guaranteeing that french fries are prepared in their own deep fryer so there is no chance of cross contamination doesn't seem like a difficult thing to do. Giving customers who have had poor experience a less than $10 meal on the house to encourage them to visit again instead of only a $1.49 sandwich seems like a good trade off. Allowing customers to use the Be Our Guest cards at any location they choose instead of limiting their options seems like a no brainer to me.

When I was speaking with Stephanie she asked me to understand. I think you and McDonald's have it backwards, Stephanie. The customer does not have to understand. There are many dining options available who cater to customers with dietary restrictions of all kind. It is McDonald's that needs to understand they are not the only game in town.

I'll take my money to Subway, thank you.

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