Good Food Store promotes McDonalds

Our local, values-based natural food store is putting on a McDonalds Holiday Benefit. I knew times were tough for multinational corporations, what with the ever-escalating fight for who can pay the highest salary, but this seems a bit much.

Well, OK, that’s a bit deceptive. But, then so is the Ronald McDonald House that is the beneficiary of this event. Yes, it is a charity. And, yes, providing a hotel for families to stay in while other members of the family are undergoing medical treatment is noble, indeed. But, another big winner is McDonalds.

There is simply no way to separate the Ronald McDonald House Charity (RMHC) from the fast food chain. The trademarked symbol of every house features Ronald McDonald, a cartoon character invented to sell hamburgers. Every family that comes through the door is subjected to constant reminders of the connection to McDonalds, Ronald McDonald, and the Golden Arches. McDonalds is the single largest donor, and every house is funded and promoted by the local McDonalds. The sales of USA Today inside the store are all donated to RMHC. There is even a RMHC-themed McDonalds restaurant. And the website for the local RMHC is © 2005 – 2009 McDonald’s Corporation.

Don’t get me wrong. RMHC is a good charity, doing good service in many communities around the world. But, if McDonalds felt this was so important that it didn’t need to use it as a marketing tool, then they could have called them Missoula Hospital Family Stay. Oh, but wait, there is one: St. Patrick House, right near St. Patrick Hospital. (The Ronald McDonald House is on the campus of the Community Medical Center, and charges the same per night as the St. Patrick House.)

So, my question is why the Good Food Store wants to promote the charity arm of McDonalds? The Good Food Store is a “non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting a healthy community“. I’m not sure I understand how promoting McDonalds is supporting a healthy community. With a bit more forethought, they could have been doing a St. Patrick House Benefit or one for the St. Pat’s Women’s Care Center or the Rehabilitation Institute of Montana at Community Medical Center or the Watson Children’s Shelter.

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Are you being served?

Tipping waiters and waitresses is supposed to be about rewarding good service. Unfortunately, in these tough economic times they also illustrate the injustice of piece work. Through no fault of their own, servers are today taking home fewer dollars for the same work.

You’ve probably been there. Sitting in your favorite restaurant, that is. Wondering what you’ll have for lunch or for dinner. Prices have gone up and you’re a little bit worried about whether you can afford that nice glass of beer. Instead you decide to not order the fabulous soup and you know that desert is probably out of the question.

But, when the check comes you are still a bit shocked by the total. It might be more than you were budgeting for. So, you don’t leave as generous a tip. Tonight it might just be 15%, less than you know the server earned. They were patient, courteous, and diligent in their service. But, through no fault of theirs, you can’t leave your normal, generous tip. At the end of the night, sadly, you know that they will be taking home less. No matter how hard they worked.

It gets worse. According to the Wall Street Journal, the minimum wage for servers in many states “has been stagnant at $2.13 an hour going as far back as 1991“. That doesn’t go very far these days. And, some chain restaurants are now requiring servers to share their tips with the folks who seat you, bus your table, and wash your dishes. This minimizes the labor costs for the restaurant with little perceptible difference to the customer.

It’s just like folks who are paid by the number of pieces they produce. As a result of factors outside their control, a worker can see their take home pay decline. Maybe the financial wizards didn’t put the company on solid-enough footing and so must now lower the company’s cost to service the debt. That might mean cutting the piece rate, or worse cutting the number of employees and insisting those who stay to work harder or put in longer hours. Or perhaps the marketing geniuses didn’t have a good year and demand for the product is drying up. Maybe the wrong product was being made or planted. Maybe the delivery contract was poorly negotiated and the product isn’t getting to market in a timely and consistent manner. The list goes on. But, in each case the factor leading to the decline is outside the control of the worker. And you can bet labor costs will be the first and easiest place that managers look to cut costs.

So, if you’re eating out tonight or enjoying a cool beverage at your favorite establishment, give a thought to your waiter or waitress. If the service is up to the usual standard, then tip a little more than you usually do. They’ll appreciate it and with any luck they will be able to stick-it-out through these tough times to serve you again some other time.