Take Two #88: McDonald's promotes Minimum Wage Budget – PR Failure

By Kyra-lin Hom

First there was McDonald's. Then there was the McNugget. Now there is the McBudget.

Have you heard of it yet? In response to the fast food workers' strike (“D15”) – protesting the unlivable minimum wage and asking for $15/hr pay – McDonald's published a budget guide. That's right. Instead of negotiating with their workers on a platform of mutual adulthood, McDonald's created a pamphlet. They didn't even print it out! It's available for download from their website http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com free just to show how much they care.

But a big company not really caring about the little people who, you know, just so happen to be the building blocks of its labor force isn't headline news. So what's the hubbub? The actual proposed budget itself. In an effort to prove that the minimum wage McDonald's pays its workers is livable, practicalmoneyskills provides a recommended budget breakdown full of helpful advice such as, “[F]igure out your Daily Spending Money Goal by dividing your Monthly Spending Money by 30

(the average days in a month);” and the priceless piece of wisdom, “Expenses are what you spend.” Thanks Ronald McDonald! I couldn't have done it without you!

Along with a handy dandy spending journal, the budget proposes that if you work at McDonald's... and have a second job for a total of 75 hours/week... you can afford to spend a whole whopping $20 on healthcare, $600 on housing, $250 on your car and car insurance combined, and $0 on heat per month. Yay! We're rich! We can afford any-- wait, um... what?

Is any one of these a real world estimate? Keep in mind that this is supposedly a nationally applicable budget plan. Sure, you can find a friend and rent a two bedroom apartment for $600 a piece in Montana, but what about New York? I know you can't in any decent Chicago neighborhood. The studio my boyfriend and I will be leasing is more than that.

The budget is ludicrous! After all of the rent, phone and electric bills have been paid – but not heat because apparently that's not necessary, McDonald's leaves you with $800/month of spending money. That's $26 a day for the frivolous luxuries in life such as food, clothing, gas, children and the universal must haves commonly known as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. But wait! McDonald's really does hear us. We complained about no heat and it listened. So now we only have $750/month for spending money. But that's okay because now we have $50/month for heat!

This whole PR stunt is just plain laughable. Don't take my word for it. Check out the website. Watch the grindingly patronizing budget video. Encounter for yourself the wonderful contradictions such as how the “Buying a Car” guide starts citing car payments at $200 to $300/month, while the McBudget allows just $150/month for the same thing.

In fact, it's so bad I'm curious to know how this happened. How did no one in the long chain of PR command realize this condescending approach might backfire? Then again, the corporate attitude of the haves is such that I wonder if anyone even realized it was condescending? Or maybe the CEO suggested it and everyone just nodded along in a classic example of group think.

McDonald's should have increased wages, increased its menu prices by a couple cents to cover the difference (math checks out), and then emblazoned this change across the entire nation. We consumers aren't going to change our spending habits over a couple cents, especially not when we know that money goes directly to the workers. More than that, people would actively choose McDonald's for that very reason. Wouldn't you if you knew your money was directly contributing to the quality of life of other working Americans? No fast food restaurant does this.

Apparently whoever was in charge of PR during the hot coffee lawsuit is so no longer. They managed to turn a grievously crippled woman into a malicious, money grubber. Too bad for McDonald's things didn't work out as well for them this time. No, this time the company higher ups were revealed for the deplorably disconnected suits that they are. Good job McDonald's. Two very sarcastic thumbs up.

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