There is a clear reason why the insanely unhealthy--and inhumane--food of McDonald's continues to draw long lines at the drive-thru and entire sports teams on the bus ride home from a game: MARKETING.
The McDonald's brand is synonymous with comfort, consistency, and even family.
Nowhere is that core essence reflected better than in the "Happy Meal."
Introduced in the mid-70s, the "Happy Meal" was conceived as a way to drive business in one of the most effective ways imaginable, by making kids love McDonald's so much that they scream at their parents about it from the back seat of a car.
A complete fast food meal with a little toy thrown in, all served in a fun cardboard box that looks like a little smiling face, the "Happy Meal" has stood the test of time, albeit with some healthier changes in the recent years.
But a recent Reddit thread ran a thought experiment. They imagined a 180: a "Sad Meal." People from far and wide offered interpretations of the very opposite of fun, family, and delicious.
lukeamotion asked, "If McDonald's sold a 'Sad Meal,' what would be in it?"
Some people offered up ideas that still had a foot in the McDonald's universe.
They imagined what shocking preparation faux pas might be at hand, or they modified existing meal choices to be only composed of their very worst elements.
Bad Toys and Worse Food
"Cold fries, an apple pie that's been under the heat lamp so long the filling has dried out, and a warm flat coke. The toy is a used game pass code." -- score_
"Same stuff just the stuff that's been sitting a couple hours under a hot lamp, with a broken Jar Jar Binks toy." -- adanipse
"Nuggets are burnt, fries are cold, unsalted, and the bag is only half-filled. Soda has too much ice and the toy is just a note that says :(" -- Avicii_DrWho
All About the Buns
"Two buns that hold nothing but a fat slop of mayo" -- turquoisepurplepink
"Just the weird middle bun from a Big Mac" -- octupleunderscore
"and the juice from a mc rib lol"
"I'll take one to go. But idk if I want it stale or still frozen, or maybe just untoasted. and a moldy frape for the drink" -- Idabro
"A large container crammed with french fries and chicken nuggets that are lathered in ketchup."
"It doesn't come with any utensils - you'll have to place the container on the floor, get on your knees and eat it like a dog."
Other entries left the boundaries of the McDonald's food world. They imagined other foods that kids--and even plenty of adults--would hate to receive at a fast food joint.
Brace yourself for healthy boredom and truck stop favorites.
"A container of plain quinoa, and a cup of heavily chlorinated, room temperature water" -- D3vilUkn0w
"'Ever snorted up a big loogie that had some weird hard bits in it? Quinoa is pretty close' -original quinoa marketing campaign" -- loptopandbingo
The Anti-Health Movement
"That's just called salad" -- I_N_C_O_M_I_N_G
"Healthy food. Makes me gag just thinking about it" -- JeffCalledMeSushi
"Liver and onions with prunes for the fruit option." -- greg_reddit
All Enjoyed While Cruising Down the Highway
"A cup of water served at room temperature, fruit slices, onion nuggets, and a mislabeled sauce packet." -- ReadingReddit66
"Natty Ice and a slim jim" -- tmcg6
And then there were the entries that took a broader approach.
These Redditors put the "Sad" in "Sad Meal." But for them, sadness relied on an extensive context surrounding the meal. They developed character sketches and relied on tropes of middle age apathy.
The Decisions That Led There
"Exactly what's in a Happy Meal but you're 36, divorced, and ordered it by accident when you forgot that you don't have the kids this weekend." -- wanderweather
"Hey, what's wrong with someone in their 30s wanting a collectible kid's toy? ;)" -- Some_Random_Android
"I was gunna comment something but yours blows mine out of the water" -- I_Nocebo
Bombshell To Go
"A 23andMe report showing your real dad never loved you." -- wheniwascake
"How does McDonald's know this?" -- strangehitman22
"The fact you're in McDonalds is proof enough." -- wheniwascake
A Litany of Options: It's a Cruel World
"Crippling anxiety accompanied with back pain, with a side of hamburger flavour vodka" -- Screwloose1985
"Mirror" -- PMForDickGraysonPics
"Student Debt" -- jbro145
Earning Your Meal
"The cashier would ask you what happened and caused you to buy it."
"And then gives you a note inside the sad meal box that roasts you about the problem that you told the cashier that caused you to buy it."
We're happy to report that you don't have to worry about receiving anything quite like this the next time you swing by the McDonald's drive-thru.
Perhaps it might make you feel a touch more grateful to have that 1000 calorie beast in a bag.
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PSA: the drive-thru microphone hears EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME.
The drive-thru at a fast food restaurant is a one-of-a-kind social experience. Just about every step is a weird form of human interaction that occurs literally nowhere else.
And, oh yes, there are robot speakers that look alarmingly like sci fi trash cans.
Those microphone/speaker machines mark the first step in the drive-thru experience. All is garbled on both ends, so the employee and the customer routinely yell at one another--sometimes out of anger, but often purely out of necessity.
But when that insane interaction is finished, there comes a sense of relief for customers. They feel as if they can withdraw back into their private zone in the car. Sure, the window is open, but at least there's only a quick food handoff left.
WRONG. That microphone is still on, my friend. Consider yourself warned.
Drive Thru 101
"I don't think most people realize that if your car is pulled up on the sensor that triggers the microphone, we can hear what you're saying the entire time.
"I have heard conversations about people complaining about a long line, straight up badmouthing my coworkers, etc."
"I advise you to put your window back up after you order lol"
"Once heard someone saying 'stay buckled baby! you'll get a treat treat if you're good okay?' and i thought they were talking to a child."
"They pulled up to the first window and there was a kitten in the front passenger seat trying to climb up the back :)"
A Good Boss
"People might not realize that everyone im the fast food place hears you, not just the person youre talking to. At least at my Wendys we all wore headsets."
"This is kind of related to the question, but while i worked there it was pretty common for a customer at the drive through to get impatient and disrespectful with the person taking their order, which was almost always a woman at that position."
"To their surprise though, whenever this would happen, my manager, who was a very large man, would turn on his mic and start laying into the guy about how he cant treat his employees like that."
"The shock you could hear in their voices when they suddenly had to confront a man about the behavior they didnt think anyone else could hear was always rly funny"
Where Everybody Knows Your Name--And Voice
"As long as your car is over the sensor the person can hear you, just a warning for anyone who wants to chat about any sensitive topics."
"Commonly heard about STDs, secret pregnancy and embarrassing medical issues which was all the worse given I worked in a small town and I often knew these people."
Zero Support for the Lizzards
"Worked at Brown's Chicken, had a lady pull up and ask for 'half pound chicken lizzards'."
"'liver? Or gizzards?' I asked."
"'half pound chicken lizzards!'."
"Then I hear a guy next to her say, 'woman, you know it's a damn reptile.' cracked me up."
"I am in a college town so I've heard it all. Lots of conversations about sex and drugs. Sometimes I will leave them waiting so I can listen to the rest of the conversation." -- sarahboo0321
"So that's why I'm always in line so long, you are listening to my interesting life. LOL." -- cuoyi77372222
High Standards for Nuggets
"Not a fast food worker, but I used to do support for cell phones and occasionally had idiots call me from their cars before going through drive thrus."
"I had one lady who went to McDonald's, ordered a 6 piece McNuggets and an extra large coffee with 12 cream, 6 sugars, and 6 sweeteners (health conscious, obviously)..."
"...and after she was asked to drive around she either muttered or said to someone else in the car (she'd left the phone on the dashboard or something after asking me to 'hold') 'I swear to God if they're out of Sweet & Sour sauce again I'm gonna shove those Mcnuggets so far up the manager's a** he's gonna need a colonoscopy to find them all.'"
"All I could think is maybe she should have ordered that coffee as a decaf."
Good, But Not That Good
"My friend and I were both working one day. A guy pulls up and she asks if we can take his order, he says give me just a sec.. so we wait."
"And this guy is telling his passenger this long story. No one was behind him in line so we let him go on and on and there are 3 of us just listening to this story being told at the ordering mic."
"Finally my friend speaks up and says 'guys, this is a great story but are you ever going to let us know what we can get for you?' And both guys in the car start laughing and finally say what they want."
"When they came up to the window the guy was still laughing and asked for a picture of us because it was the best comeback he's ever heard. He was a restaurant owner in a nearby valley where the best wines in the world are made."
"He also left a great review about us on Yelp. Nice guy too."
Hit and Run-Thru
"One time, the guy started ordering, then some other bloke walked up to his open window for almost running him over."
"Why was he walking in the drive thru in the first place? Idk it was kinda weird and this dude was ranting at the driver for a while."
"Most of the time I can barely hear the order though"
Bullied At the Window
"So kind of the opposite thing, one time I ordered and I was in a really good mood and I kind of sang/talked 'thank you~ ~' to the drive thru person..."
"...and as I was driving away I could hear them mock me 'ThAnK yOu~ ~' it immediately ruined my day."
Bro, fast food storytime. I was in line a fast food burger place that's popular in Texas. I was stuck behind some b!tch taking forever to order (windows down, could hear her the whole time) DID NOT know what she wanted. When she was finally done I zipped up to that speaker, and waited.
When they asked for my order I spit that like I had rehearsed it for hours. When I got up to pick my order up, the guy leaned out and said "there's an apple pie and some extra fries. Thanks for knowing what you wanted." Made my day and apparently his.
Reminds me of when I worked my first fast food job. One point I started working overnights and one dude pulled up at like 2AM and took 32 minutes to place an order consisting of a single combo meal.
Best part is because he took 32 minutes to place his order, our SOS for the night was ~30 minutes so I got the pleasure of being chewed out by my boss the next day for us being so slow despite the fact we literally did nothing wrong.
Sometimes I wish that other industries could do what I do when faced with someone who can't figure out what they want/need to say.
"Timmy? Did you forget what you were thinking about? It's ok....im going to ask Sally what her idea is, and you can keep thinking. If you remember, raise your hand and I'll call on you, ok?" (Said multiple times throughout the week to the preschoolers I teach).
Can you imagin if you could skip to the next customer in line!?! I think job satisfaction would improve immensely lol.
My friend and I were both working one day. A guy pulls up and she asks if we can take his order, he says give me just a sec.. so we wait. And this guy is telling his passenger this long story. No one was behind him in line so we let him go on and on and there are 3 of us just listening to this story being told at the ordering mic.
Finally my friend speaks up and says "guys, this is a great story but are you ever going to let us know what we can get for you? And both guys in the car start laughing and finally say what they want.
When they came up to the window the guy was still laughing and asked for a picture of us because it was the best comeback he's ever heard. He was a restaurant owner in a nearby valley where the best wines in the world are made. He also left a great review about us on Yelp. Nice guy too.
People might not realize that everyone in the fast food place hears you, not just the person you're talking to. At least at my Wendys, we all wore headsets. This is kind of related to the question, but while i worked there it was pretty common for a customer at the drive-through to get impatient and disrespectful with the person taking their order, which was almost always a woman at that position. To their surprise though, whenever this would happen, my manager, who was a very large man, would turn on his mic and start laying into the guy about how he cant treat his employees like that. The shock you could hear in their voices when they suddenly had to confront a man about the behavior they didn't think anyone else could hear was always really funny
One time, the guy started ordering, then some other bloke walked up to his open window for almost running him over. Why was he walking in the drive thru in the first place? Idk it was kinda weird and this dude was ranting at the driver for a while.
Most of the time I can barely hear the order though
Just a heads up...most new Starbucks drive thrus (2017 and newer) also have a camera on them. We can see you picking your nose....
Also, if a siren is going by, please just wait. I can't hear a damn thing.
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It can be lots of fun to speculate about what the future could hold, and Reddit users had a blast trying to decide what would be in an "Angry Meal" from McDonalds.
Would it just be super spicy food, toys designed to infuriate their user (or their parents), or something else entirely?
Reddit user u/noodle nugget asked:
Coupons for the ice cream machine that never works.
And when it does, it only serves our new flavor... BLACK LIQUORICE!!!
A McDonalds job application
Salad (just lettuce)
And it's that nasty, limp, brown lettuce they try to sneak into the center of your McChicken that you check for every time but will always be there the moment you neglect to check the next time.
They're exactly the same. It's just the toys now all make noise and can't be turned off.
Just little real life characters
"Crazy road rage commuters"
"Angry ex wife"
"Overbearing mother in law"
The cashier just leans out the drive through window and punches your toddler in the face. Then says "enjoy your knuckle sandwich".
The "toy" is just one of those amusement park photos of your kid getting smoked
Hospital bills, parking tickets, -10 french fries, dial-up internet.
Nothing, just absolutely nothing. That's why you're angry. That's why your dad's angry. That's why Karen is angry. You were given a meal box and there was one oil-drenched fry inside. Have fun, angry child.
Ketchup packets that don't open without scissors
The same toys, just with angry eyebrows put on them with a black marker. Then some of the kids (or parents) will get mad because they're that cheap.
A packet of legos designed so that when you open it they sort of explode everywhere and fall all over the floor. Also the legos are an assortment of colors designed to blend in with most common types of floor and carpet, making them hard to spot once dropped.
Community Rallies Around Homeless Dad After He's Shamed Online By A Stranger For Sleeping At McDonald's
A woman posted a picture of a homeless man sleeping inside a McDonald's and posted it on Facebook as a shaming attempt.
Little did she know her scheme would backfire.
The young man in the photo taking a nap on a bench in the dining area of the restaurant was 21-year-old Simon Childs.
Childs is an employee at the fast-food chain and was working a shift at the Fayette County location.
The female customer snapped the photo while he was sleeping on his break and posted it to a group page on Facebook.
According to WSB-TV, she wrote:
"Just another reason for me to leave Fayetteville. I was in the McDonald's in the middle of town and I saw this guy sleeping in the booth."
"I go and tell an employee that someone is asleep in their booth and her response was 'oh yeah, we know hee hee, it's ok' and I said 'not really but whatever'."
The unnamed woman had no idea that Childs had his fair share of hardships. He had been grieving over the loss of his mother and was working overnight shifts in order to help raise his baby son.
He told WSB's Matt Johnson:
"I've been going through a hard time with my mom passing. Everything I do, I want to work for it."
You can watch the full report on Childs' story here.
Woman taunts McDonald's employee for sleeping at work; turns out there's more to story www.youtube.com
After the interview, Johnson took to social media and updated WSB viewers.
A woman took a picture of a man asleep at a McDonalds and complained on Facebook, and how the community responded c… https://t.co/wsapQAPSOA— Matt Johnson (@Matt Johnson)1561420550.0
Childs was hurt upon discovering that his photo was circulating around the internet.
"It kind of hurt to see my picture up there, you know? I thought it was something negative and nobody would care about it."
But then, the unexpected happened. Instead of facing perpetual embarrassment for the photo, it elicited empathy from WSB viewers who reached out to the news station and offered support.
Childs returned to work and was pleased to find that a community in Georgia left boxes of clean clothes and fresh diapers for the young father.
"They changed my life in a couple of days."
Since his story aired on the news, things began looking up. Childs updated Johnson, telling him that he got a free haircut and acquired another job opportunity.
He also shared news that he secured a permanent place for him and his son to live.
Since our story aired last night, Simon received a free haircut from a local barber. He has a new job opportunity t… https://t.co/nj5IeWwVCX— Matt Johnson (@Matt Johnson)1561505040.0
Childs wasn't the only one moved by the kind gesture.
Chefs Xavier and Theo Thomas who own and operate Fusion Chefs Eatery down the street on Glynn Street South were also touched by Childs' story. They offered to lend him a car for job interviews.
Also...he has a car! The owners of The Fusion Chefs Eatery in Fayetteville have let Simon borrow a car as he works… https://t.co/FWEHPvlbeC— Matt Johnson (@Matt Johnson)1561505051.0
Xavier Thomas told the news station:
"It just touched our heart."
Theo Thomas also weighed, saying:
"It definitely will help him get around and give him a better opportunity."
Twitter shared their thoughts on his story.
@MattWSB Such an awesome positive turn to this story. Humanity isn't as doomed as we sometimes think lately,— lebeau32 (@lebeau32)1561513286.0
@MattWSB Love seeing such good people coming together to help out this young man and his baby. Maybe the woman who… https://t.co/QIuYSSFPPJ— JenGirl (@JenGirl)1561518246.0
@MattWSB @rolandsmartin What the enemy meant for his bad, God had it for his good...#GodIsGreat— Allie the Great (@Allie the Great)1561497153.0
@MattWSB I was JUST at that McDonalds last night. Had I known, I would have dropped off a donation. I have lived in… https://t.co/PtfXcDf29F— S. Marlene Wimberly (@S. Marlene Wimberly)1561467019.0
@MattWSB There are no chance encounters when blessings & mercy flow! She is the reason he is being elevated! We can… https://t.co/OKtjT03vmb— Burton55r@yahoo.com (@Burton55r@yahoo.com)1561514530.0
People asked how to contact Childs to offer additional assistance.
@2BGMEDIA @MattWSB Do you think I can call that McDonalds and make a donation over the phone? If so, could you plea… https://t.co/JCT2E8lJCb— Patriots #1 Fan (@Patriots #1 Fan)1561510237.0
@2Squirly @MattWSB Sure. The young man’s name is Simon Childs and he works the overnight shift. This will be his la… https://t.co/vZGZFPa5JM— S. Marlene Wimberly (@S. Marlene Wimberly)1561510694.0
As for the woman who tried to embarrass him on social media, Childs holds no ill will.
In fact, he is choosing to stay positive.
"I'm not homeless, not now, thanks to her."
According to the woman, she told WSB off-camera that she meant no harm by targeting Childs specifically in her Facebook post.
@MattWSB I have a good feeling that she learned a valuable lesson and is a better person for making a mistake. But,… https://t.co/rwKUjs1TdB— Laura B Touchstone (@Laura B Touchstone)1561436290.0
@MattWSB She’s going to regret this. It’s not cool to shame someone who has been through so much in life. She want… https://t.co/7p1Y4Cs83w— Susan W. Graham 🌊 (@Susan W. Graham 🌊)1561504091.0
Childs remains grateful for his recent change in fortune.
"I didn't think the community would even care enough to do that, but they care."
Everyone goes through a rough period in life, and Childs' story is a good reminder that we should show more compassion towards those who are down on their luck.
Besides, Facebook stories should focus on our own experiences, not that of strangers.
If you are interested in helping Simon Childs, you can make a donation on his GoFundMe page, HERE.
We all know fast food isn't really good food. It's more like fried something on top of fried something else with a touch of oil, butter, and salt for taste.
But what we don't see is the behind the scenes stuff. We don't see where those patties come from, or how those chicken nuggets are cooked. We don't get to see what the employees see. But they are trying to warn us about the perils of eating their products. We best listen.
Here were some of those cautionary answers.