I frequent McDonald’s more than I should. It’s not the burgers that draw me in–it’s that I can get a pretty tasty (but questionably healthy) fruit and yogurt parfait at lunch. It’s a nice break in the work day.
The last time I was there, the young couple in front of me was not pleased. Apparently, they thought the food was very overpriced and they didn’t know why it had to be that way. They were a young couple–probably in their mid-20s–and, at least from the business attire they were donning, seemed to be reasonably well-off.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard strangers, family, or friends complain about the prices of fast food. “What happened to the dollar menu?!?” “Where are my $.69 tacos!?” “How can they get away for charging that much for a burrito?” “What’s a gordita?!” Actually, that’s another issue altogether…
Operating on Slim Margins
The interesting thing about fast food, in particular, is that most of these companies operate on pretty slim margins. Don’t get me wrong: they have room to spare. It may just not be as much as you think.
So yes, they could cut food costs…but then these same complaints are usually followed up with this insightful line: “How can they get away with charging so much?! They barely pay their workers!”
See, the minimum wage is one of those issues that people freely attach themselves to, but don’t realize the hypocrisy. “Raise their wages, but keep my prices down!” That hardly seems fair, does it?
No Pink Slime for Me!
To make matters worse, a lot of these same complaints end with this gem: “And use some real food–none of this pink slime or Grade D meat!”
I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s latest advertising campaign to counteract this complaint, but I do think it’s worth taking a look at the bigger picture.
Don’t push for living wages if you’re not willing to accept a hit to your wallet as well: if you want people to earn more and you want better quality, you’re going to have to pay for it.
Unfortunately for McDonald’s, if they add hiqh quality products to their menu, no one buys them because they’re too expensive. Raising wages across the board will eat away those slim margins to nothing–and why should that company be alone in the responsibility to improve society?
Here’s the Real Issue
The biggest mistake any of us make when we advocate for a particular issue is that we are blinded to the other issues and side effects. We adopt a singular focus on the issue at hand and drop any sense of logic. And worse, we usually expect someone else to make the change for us.
The fast food wage issue is like any other: should changes be made? Yes, wages need to go up. Should McDonald’s increase wages? Yes, they should, along with many, many other companies. Do the rest of us have a role to play? Yes.
So we all need to put up and shut up. If we really want positive change to help other people, we have to be willing to accept some potentially negative change in our lives.