Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Do you want Freaky Fridays with that?

We talked recently about how McDonald’s sells more hamburgers than any other restaurant despite the fact that they come up short when measured on taste. Their key to success, if you’ll remember, is that they strategically erect stores in such a way that no matter where you are at any given time, there is always McDonald’s within a couple of blocks. You may not be able to find a natural source of potable water in the middle of an arid and unforgiving desert, but you can find a Shamrock Shake provided that you plan your excursion for late February/early March.

Another thing that McD’s does extremely well is communicating with their demographic. They were among the first to realize that children hold considerable sway over their parent’s buying decisions. In response, they created Ronald and a cast of freakish characters to deliver subliminal suggestions that have children to this day shrieking with desire at the sight of the golden arches. In the early 70s, McD's spoke to women as they cast aside their aprons and entered the work force with the pandering but effective tag line: "You deserve a break today." And now they are taking aim to capitalize on two of society’s weak spots: the desire to see every bad movie ever made and the inability to manage credit card debt.

An article in the Springfield’s Business News today reported that McD’s will begin putting DVD rental kiosks in their one billion restaurants, furthering a sinister plot hatched by a secret Hollywood cabal wherein soon you will not be able to participate in a retail transaction of any kind in this country without also having the opportunity to impulsively purchase a copy of Coyote Ugly.

That aside, it’s good to see that McD’s has wised up and gotten off their health kick. Pushing salads and giving away pedometers does not befit a company that has grown fat on the poor eating habits of its customers. Now that Adkins has passed on people can stop counting their carbs and their 10,000 steps per day. McD’s has correctly recognized that their average gastronome would rather spend the post-Big Mac digestion process plopped down on the couch watching the scenes not good enough to make the final cut of Death to Smoochy.

The genius in McDonald's entry into the DVD racket is that they aren't selling them - as every grocer, gas station, and convenience store does these days - but renting them, much as a traditional video store. Customers slide their debit or credit card at the kiosk and, for one dollar U.S., they can choose among the hottest titles of the day. The rental is good for one day, and the customer is charged a $1 late fee each day thereafter until day 25, at which point: "Ba da da da dahhh, you’re buying it!"

Experts say that they don't expect McD's to make much money with the $1 rental fees, but that they'll clean-up when customers return and pig out. It isn't uncommon for retailers to offer loss leaders, items sold at or below cost in an attempt to lure customers into their stores. And I'm sure this is McD's strategy as well. But I also think they'll be reaping a lot of $10 rental fees and selling a good deal on top of that.

A lot of people won't give a second thought to tossing a single dollar atop their colossal mound of credit card debt. There it will be forgotten until it grows by 250 percent, not counting compounding interest. But as a consolation, they will become the proud owners of America's Sweethearts, a DVD that was apparently pressed with the assumption that every man, woman, and child would someday want to own a copy.

It's easy to poke fun at the McD's lifestyle, even while indulging in it from time to time, but I don't believe that there is anything immoral or unethical about what they do. I do think that Morgan Spurlock, the half-wit behind Super Size Me, is a huckster of Geraldo-like proportion. It doesn't take a freak show performance from a film school reject for sane people to realize that eating too many lard-soaked French fries will adversely affect one's health. And if he really wanted to suffer for his art, he'd try to watch nothing but Corrina, Corrina for 25 days straight.

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