Poor McDonald's! It's been having a really rough year. and it looks to be ending on a very low note. First, the Internet explodes with accusations of the company issuing proportionately lower salaries; an average McDonald's salary falls around $18,000 annually, lower than those of childcare workers and cashiers. Then, back in July, the McDonald's employee resource website produces an incredibly unhelpful budget plan for its employees that acknowledges neither food nor gas and assumes that since its pay is so crappy, an employee will need another source of income.
On December 5, fast-food workers in multiple cities took to the streets to protest against unfair wages. The workers, organized somewhat by the advocacy group Service Employees International Union, were fighting for increased wages to the tune of $15 per hour. This would be a massive increase from the current average of roughly $7.24 per hour.
But if that didn't shake McDonald's genetically modified feathers, then the release last week of a report by CNBC stating yet another badly tasting post on the employee website has made the fast-food giant shut down the site. According to the report, McDonald's employee website, McResource Line, advised workers against eating fast food and opting for healthier options. I guess someone looked at the McDonald's nutrition fact sheet and threw up in his or her own mouth.
This comes after the McResource Line had posted other relevant and helpful advice such as how much to tip your pool boy because obviously all McDonald's employees have both a pool and someone else to clean it for them.
And so as of last week, the site was taken down stating:
"A combination of factors has led us to re-evaluate and we've directed the vendor to take down the website," the company said. "Between links to irrelevant or outdated information, along with outside groups taking elements out of context, this created unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary. None of this helps our McDonald's team members."
Good lord McDonald's public relations team, you're going to blame the media's scrutiny for your obliviousness? No, no, no. That's not OK.
In the age of 24-hour in your face everything, I find it so odd that this multi-national corporation could be that stupid. What is it 1904? Did Ida Tarbell just publish her expose on Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company? What the hell is going on? McDonald's is painting itself into a paneled comic where its CEO is likened to a fat cat licking milk out of a golden arch-shaped dish. Actually, can someone from The New Yorker draw that?
In terms of PR, companies make gaffes all the time, but this is a biggen. As I see it, McDonald's has only a few options to right its wrongs.
Firstly, say sorry. Don't go blaming your website "vendor" for putting up "irrelevant information." You hired them. You have a team of people okaying what goes up there; don't say you are blind to what information it being posted on the site because that's just plain bull. Admit that you've made a horrible mistake and that you will fix the website to make it more useful and applicable to your employees. There is plenty of information that you can post on this website such as company discounts, current openings and transparent company information.
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By the way, if you don't already offer company discounts, get some immediately. Much smaller corporations have deals with restaurants, phone companies, gyms, you name it, and offer their employees deals when they use these brands. It's not an amazing perk, but it's something and looks like you give a crap.
Really analyze that pay raise. I have to agree that $15 an hour is a leap -- more than double the average McDonald's employee currently makes - and I understand the hesitation. The average hourly wage in the United States is roughly $20 and this is for people who have college degrees; I'm all for the raise, but slinging fries and being a trained social worker with a bachelor's holds no comparison. But McDonald's can give its employees a bump. Would it kill it to raise the hourly to $9? Or perhaps an easier way to do this would be to give its employees, regardless of full or part-time status, stock. I know that sounds pretty bourgeois to say, but why not? It has been proven time and time again that when employees feel like they have a stake in the company they work for they will feel more satisfied. And at any point they should be given the opportunity to sell the stock, which as of this post is at $96.91 a share. But of course, then give them the assistance and the means to understand stock and to help them sell with free online and in-person seminars.
Lastly, don't fine print your employees. The benefits section of the McDonald's website mentions "free or discounted meals," "free uniforms," and "insurance" all "subject to availability and certain eligibility requirements." So basically... you don't get those things. I worked at a chain restaurant once that made me pay for my uniform and I'll tell you that that one little inconvenience made me angrier and more of an undisciplined worker than any of the other crap they threw at me. I was happy to clean toilets if they would have just paid for my stupid khakis. Little things like that, and at least one free meal per day and a discount for all family members, will cost McDonald's basically nothing and it could go a long way. And health benefits should be given to every employee. Period.
Here's the real problem, though, McDonald's, despite its foot-in-mouth disease, will see little to no flack for this. People are not going to stop eating fast food because of irate employees and poor public relations, but they should. If the media wants to start a class war with the McDonald's corporation and we the people want to post our disgust all over Twitter and Facebook, it may hurt them temporarily, but the real way to a man's heart is through his stomach. If people decide that they've had enough of the golden arch being made of literal gold, they will stop buying their golden fries and that is the only thing that is going to get McDonald's to make a change.