Jeff Pearlman

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McBullshit

So today I allowed the daughter to skip school for our annual December Daddy-Casey NYC Bonanza.

As always, it was fantastic. We had lunch at a quaint tea shop (she loved the banana-and-Nutela crepe), hit up Dylan’s Candy Bar, saw the tree at Radio City, visited Macy’s for the world’s most underrated holiday puppet show, roamed FAO, hit up the M&M and Hershey stores, rode the Times Square Toys ‘r’ Us Ferris Wheel. Before catching the train for home, I allowed Casey one final indulgence—McDonald’s.

I know … I know—gross. Unhealthy. Nasty. Today, however, was a special one, so I allowed it. Which leads me to the point of this post.

Casey ordered the four-piece McNugget Happy Meal, which costs about $4.50. The price includes the chicken, a small fries, a milk and a little toy. On the back of the box, in LARGE letters, it says, “Happy Meal Helps Kids.” Then, in slightly smaller type: “Now with every Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal purchase, a donation is made to Ronald McDonald House Charities.”

Great, you think. Wonderful. McDonald’s giving back.

Here’s the small print, which is truly tiny, tiny, tiny and on the bottom of the page, in orange lettering against a red backdrop: “McDonald’s donates a penny per Happy Meal or Mighty Kids Meal sold. Participation may vary.”

A penny?

A penny?

According to a coupe of sources, McDonald’s sells approximately 2.5 million Happy Meals per year. If, on average, they cost, oh, $5, that’s $12,500,000. Of those earnings, McDonald’s donates a whopping $25,000 to charity. Which, as anyone who works in massive-scale fundraising will tell you, is pretty much jack shit.

In other words, McDonald’s is using the idea of charity to have you buy more Happy Meals, in the hope that doing so makes you feel like you’re doing good in the world.

A penny?

A friggin’ penny?

  • Mark

    McDonalds spokesperson Danya Proud states this program raises millions of dollars every year for RMDH.

    • Danya Proud is a flak. They give, literally, one penny from every happy meal to charity. one penny. and it’s in teeny tiny print. a joke. a total joke.

  • Jen

    Don’t forget the critical “participation may vary” disclaimer. As in, not every McDonalds is generous enough to donate that penny. Didn’t realize happy meals could cost that much – I think we’re a couple bucks in South Jersey?? I could be wrong. We don’t frequent. My kids call it “Home of the Green Poop.” Enough said.

  • steve702

    Isn’t bashing McDonald’s a bit cliched at this point?

  • Arnold

    Not that I want support McD’s, but the 2.5 million yearly estimate seems extremely low. According to this ABC News story…

    http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=8103247&tqkw=&tqshow=GMA&page=1

    …Billions of Happy Meals have been sold since they were first introduced 30 years ago. If the yearly estimate you posted was correct, less than 100 million would have been sold in those 30 years. That is a huge difference than Billions (plural).

    Looking at it from a different angle, there are over 13,000 McDonalds in the US. If each of them sold just one Happy Meal per day, that would result in over 4.7 million Happy Meals sold every year. And if I had to guess, each one is probably selling over 100 Happy Meals per day. And that doesn’t take into account their operations around the world (over 31,000 locations). So you can see how it can add up quickly. I’d be extremely surprised if this program was not raising millions of dollars per year for their charity.

    The food is still terrible though.

  • g-man

    From what I can gather, the message on the meal is accurate. Are you mad that you’re being coaxed to read fine print? Or, are you upset because most people don’t read fine print?

    Also, from what I heard a penny could feed a poor kid for 2 months. That’s some coin! 😀

  • patp

    Not to add fuel to the fire, but at least they are doing something. Are Burger King, Harvey’s or other fast-food locations doing as much?

  • Alvin

    Lat time I looked, it was 10 cents a meal in Canada.

  • steve

    The Ronald McDonald House is a blessing for many many people. If the calcs you did are incorrect and Arnold’s are more in line I’d say it’s a darn nice piece of coin that is being contributed.

    While we’re on it, why not have a penny out of every $1,000 every athlete, actor, musician make flow to charities of their organizations choice (MLB, NFL, etc.) It would add up damn fast and never be missed. The average MLB (I said average) salary is $3m , x 912 players in MLB would have generated $2.7m just from MLB alone… I don’t at all begrudge the McDonalds owners and operators for their lousy penny per happy meal out of their pocket. Of course them connecting it to sales of something seems to be your beef. Without knowing if they all individually also contribute to that great cause it is hard to criticize.

    • I’m sorry, but it’s ludicrous. You’re advertising on the box that, by purchasing a happy meal, the patron is making a charitable donation. then, in teeny tiny, itty bitty print, you learn the donation is a penny. that is, at absolute best, misleading.

  • Brian McDowell

    Am I being naive if I think that most of the money to run the very worthy Ronald McDonald House charity does, in fact, actually come from the McDonald’s corporation?

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