Happy Meal Coupon Reveals Lack of Thinking at McDonald's

It was Monday. My “day off” from my diet. So Daughter and I decided to use the McDonald’s coupon we got in the mail yesterday.

$1.99 for a Happy Meal for her if I buy a grownup value meal.

Easy enough, right?

I informed the speaker: “I have a coupon for a $1.99 Happy Meal with value meal. I’d like a #2 and a Cheeseburger Happy Meal.”

The voice said great and gave me my total: $9.97.

Something didn’t add up.

As I drove around, I couldn’t help thinking my $5.50 value meal, plus her $2 happy meal, plus tax shouldn’t get me all the way to $10.

So I asked about it when I got to the first window.

“Well,” she started, “We don’t have a button for that.”

“I’m sorry…?”

“Those coupons got sent out and they never put a button on our register for it. So I can’t give you the $1.99 Happy Meal. Sorry.”

I was stunned.

“So you’re telling me you sent me this coupon and I can’t use it because there’s no button for it?”

She smiled and shrugged cheerily, “Right. When they sent out the coupons, they didn’t put a button on here for it. If you want to use the coupon later, they might give us a button for it in the next couple of days.”

“Can I talk to a manager?”

The manager was equally unhelpful.

The conversation was similar. With a lot of “there’s no button for it.”

She told me they would be happy to take down my name. Later I could come back for “a small fry or something.” And she tried to keep my coupon.

I was totally confused.

The obvious solution was, well… not obvious.

“There’s no button for it.”

But they have a $.99 menu. And two $.99 menu items is pretty close to $1.99. So why didn’t they merely charge me for two of those?

I have been frustrated many times at the inability of clerks to do simple arithmetic (and to be fair, I’ve also been pleased).

But this was more than arithmetic.

This was thinking.

They were both paralyzed by the fact that there was no button for it. They couldn’t see past that.

Their lack of thinking created a terrible lack of customer service.

I took my coupon back and said that I would be happy to patronize the McDonald’s down the road from now on.

“Oh,” she said, “So you don’t want anything?”

Really, lady?

Can anything be done?

Can we fix the lack of thinking ability in normal people?

I don’t know the answer to that. And I don’t know the cause.

Sometimes I think that early calculator use caused this. But there are lots of parents who allow calculator use early on and raise brilliant, thinking kids.

Sometimes I think it’s the education system.

And sometimes I think it’s society.

What I do know is that my Grams had a 6th grade education and more thinking power than many high school graduates.

Don’t raise blind button pushers.

However you can. Whatever method you find.

We need our kids to learn: If there’s no button for it, you can make it work another way.

Raise them to be thinkers.


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12 Responses to Happy Meal Coupon Reveals Lack of Thinking at McDonald's

  1. And the crowd goes wild!
    Yes, critical thinking is fantastic and is very much needed to be cognitively and mentally resilient.
    I can’t help but wonder if this is a bit of the system’s doing. To use some critical thinking of my own, perhaps McDs trained folks NOT to improvise, and to only use buttons for their specific intended purpose.
    Why? So they can track exactly what they sold, how many, and the coupons/discounts that were used/given.
    So, perhaps we should berate the idea of top/down control and mass production.
    I’m just saying… well, thinking.
    Thanks for post, B!

    • Then you would have to wonder if they have done a cost/benefit analysis of “button only” vs. “good customer service.”

      Sounds plausible. But unless McD’s is run by complete morons, I doubt it. (And a company that big can’t be run by COMPLETE morons.)

  2. Bon, you crack me up. I’m pleased to see that this McD’s (Maccas in Australian slang) didn’t get your trade. Really!

    This sort of story is so frustrating, because the solution is so simple. And you would think that a corporation like McD’s that prides itself on customer service can’t get this right.

    But you are right – the ability to think seems to have been somehow drummed out of the clerk AND the manager – now that’s scary. How does modern schooling and life not produce people better able to think? I guess they need better teachers – at school and at home.

    Keep posting!

    • Always glad to add some comic relief to the revolution, Peter!

      It IS scary – and one of the reasons I’m excited about the growth of homeschooling families. Perhaps the homeschoolers (even though they might not see it) will affect some change in the classroom schools.

      And those who afterschool are helping too!

  3. I thought my favorite “I don’t feel like thinking about it” phrase was “I have no idea”. But this “Sorry, we don’t have a button for it yet” beats it hands down!

    • That’s a great one – I never thought about it.

      Husband: “Are you washing clothes tonight because I’m out of socks?”

      Me: “I’m sorry. We don’t have a clean socks button yet.”


      Thanks for stopping by, Yelena!

  4. I am not surprised by your story. I had a similar experience at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Maybe a question should be added on job applications – Do you know how to think? Anyone who asks what the question means should be disqualified. My most surprising lack of thinking experience was when a waitress took us to a very wet table and started setting down the silverware wrapped in napkins. I asked if she had something to dry the table with and she replied, “No.” I unwrapped the silverware, dried the table with the napkin, and asked if I could have a new napkin. I left her a written tip suggesting that she learn to use her brain to solve problems not covered in her training.

    • I’m stunned and scared by the way the brains aren’t being developed (or used? trained? taught?) these days.

      And it’s not even a matter of them STOPPING to really think. It’s something that should be 2nd nature.

      They say computers will eventually be smart enough to outthink humans – and I’m starting to believe them. Not because computers are getting more powerful, but because we’re becoming idiot algorithm followers.

      Thanks for stopping by Sue!

  5. A guy went to a McD’s and ordered something totalling under $2. He attempted to pay for it with a $2 bill. The cashier had never seen one, or even heard of one and assumed it was bogus. The customer asked to see the manager. The manager thought it was bogus too.

    Now imagine you’re trying to buy a computer and want to know if they’ve got a better video card. Hint, more expensive doesn’t mean better.

    • Wow, Stephen! It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t have seen a $2 bill. Clearly some non-Americans might not, but you would assume that there was at least one American working at a McDonalds, right?

      Thanks for stopping by!

      (And did you get your video card?)

  6. Well, the desire to help children develop critical thinking skills is one of the primary reasons I became a teacher—so don’t count out the education system just yet. Believe me, I’m just as surprised by some of the lack of thinking as everyone else is. Many teachers are out there right now, trying to fix it. We don’t want our children growing up in a world of “buttons”, nor do we want to be 90 years old and in a nursing home, being cared for by “button pushers”!

    • Thank you, Mrs. T, for your comments, as well as your continued dedication to teaching our young people.

      I am much saddened by the requirements of teachers to conform to wishes and policies of administrators and congressmen. Most of the teachers I have met want to be in service of the students, and yet they are prohibited.

      Keep plugging at it, and I will keep cheering for you on my end!

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