McDonald’s 60-Second Breakfast Sandwich and Why I Hate This Idea

Elizabeth has an irritating camp-drop-off thing every day this week. So, to keep morale up, I’ve twice this week gone through the McDonald’s drive-through after dropping her off. This is how I know that they’re doing a new thing, which is that if your breakfast sandwich isn’t ready within 60 seconds after you pay, you get a coupon for a free one next time. They give you a little timer to hold and everything.

There are so many things wrong with this idea.

1. Now, instead of being cheerful and efficient and a joy to deal with, the employees are frazzled and tense.

2. The image of them HURRYING with my Sausage McMuffin is not a positive one. DO NOT UNDERCOOK IT. DO NOT UNDERTOAST IT.

3. And besides, I know perfectly well that they will NOT hurry with it: instead they will be forced to make huge piles of them ahead of time.

4. The first time I went through the drive-through, my timer DID RUN OUT. And the employee at the window took the timer from me without glancing at it and tossed it into a bin and closed the window. No coupon. I didn’t even CARE about the coupon until she didn’t give it to me.

5. I thought maybe she just didn’t notice; also, that she was probably in a huge hurry to get to the next customer in time. But today I went through again, and not only did the timer run out, they had to have me pull over to the side for several minutes. The employee took the timer from me, apologized for the delay; no coupon. Do I have to…TELL THEM about their own promotion? Surely the act of taking the timer back from me is enough cueing.

6. Also, the Sausage McMuffin was tepid. So why was there a delay in the first place? I’d thought at least the delay would mean a nice fresh one. I guess this doesn’t really count as a sixth thing wrong with the idea.

6. Customer expectations are now raised. Before, I don’t know if we minded waiting a minute and a half in a drive-through line. Now, our attention has been drawn to it, and we feel discontented. When the promotion is over, we will still be feeling discontented.


Anyway, I hate the whole thing. I recently read part of an article that said that McDonald’s is in serious financial trouble. I don’t want them to go out of business: I would seriously miss the Sausage McMuffins, and the McNuggets with the hot mustard sauce they discontinued and then brought back. But I can REALLY SEE why they’re in trouble: they keep making really silly decisions.

For example, that hot mustard sauce I just mentioned. Perhaps this was a single customer service rep, but when I emailed them to cast my vote for undoing that decision, and said that without that sauce I would no longer take the kids to McDonald’s (that sauce is the only thing that makes me willing to eat lunch there), she shruggily responded that most of their customers preferred different sauces, and she hoped to serve me again soon. Meanwhile, the internet was filled with laments about the sauce.

Tip for a business that would like to stay in business: if you are not going to listen to customer feedback, you should still PRETEND to. It’s free! Here’s how easy it would be: “Thank you for your letter about the hot mustard sauce. Customer feedback is extremely important to our decisions, and I will forward your letter immediately to the appropriate department for their review. At McDonald’s, we want to make sure we keep current and fresh with new and exciting flavor options, but we also want to make sure we don’t get rid of customer favorites.” There. That took me less than the time I had to wait for a Sausage McMuffin. Use it as a form letter, and then continue to toss customer feedback in the trash: same action, same cost to the company, but different feeling for the customer.

Another decision they made recently was to charge the same amount for water as for soda. I am all for it when a business wants to charge a small fee to cover the cup, the ice, the straw, whatever—like, 10 cents or 25 cents for a cup of ice water would be okay. But THE SAME PRICE AS FOR SODA is wrong.

Another was to take the fries off the value menu. It meant I stopped buying fries.

They’ve taught me not to bother giving them feedback on these things. Instead we mostly go to Wendy’s.

27 thoughts on “McDonald’s 60-Second Breakfast Sandwich and Why I Hate This Idea

  1. Elizabeth

    Charging the same for water as for soda??!!? That would make me see red.

    That is wrong on several levels – one being that with an obesity problem in much of the developed world, you’d think we’d want to be encouraging people to drink water rather than soda.

    I agree with you that charging something for the cup/straw would make sense.


  2. Susan

    A McDonald’s employee at a drive thru recently had trouble figuring out how to give me water instead of soda with the kids meal that I ordered. I didn’t want a bottle. I just wanted water in a cup. The employee was truly puzzled and seemed excited that he figured out some sort of workaround. At first he said, “I don’t think I can do that.” What?!

    1. kaitlyn

      its because there is literally no option in the system to enter it in. you can press the “bottled water” button but you cant put regular water. so what he probably did was charge you for the price of a happy meal which comes with the drink and just gave you water. otherwise he would have to charge you for the items of a happy meal all separately which wouldve been more expensive.. so you pretty much paid for a soda and got water. my mcdonalds gives a small water for free. but not a large or medium

  3. Jess

    OK, so, perhaps if your current job doesn’t work out, you can look for one in the McDonald’s marketing department. Or some kind of voice of the customer program. Because seriously. How are they missing these points?

  4. devan

    SO annoying. When they charged us the same amount for water instead of soda (we don’t like soda) we were super annoyed. SUPER. But, we rarely eat at McD’s so we let it go. The timer thing would irritate me too… don’t force me to remind the employees about their own job too, on top of making me wait. I don’t know if our local McD’s is doing that or not.
    Get it together McDonald’s!!

  5. Alison

    McDonalds drives me up the wall a bit, but the kids discovered the joy of Happy Meals during a grandparent visit a couple years ago, so here we are. I’ve gotten the thing about the kids drink too. I just wanted to skip the drinks altogether (juice/water in flimsy cups with lids that always pop off and drench someone) and they acted like I was asking for some giant thing and then ultimately said they had to give me the drinks. Same with the toy – any attempt to decline the toy will be met with blank stares and insisting on giving me the toy anyway.

  6. Alison

    And the timer thing is bizarre. It makes me sympathetically anxious just thinking about it. I somehow doubt promptness is what’s driving McD’s money problems.

  7. Sarah

    As far as I know, the McDonalds in our area aren’t doing this (breathtakingly stupid) timer promotion because that is just THE WORST. It sets everyone in the scenario up to feel bad and anxious and potentially annoyed at each other. DO you hear me, McDonalds? THE. WORST. And breakfast is the only thing I remotely like at McDonalds, so that would make it just off my list forever, if they ruined that too.

  8. Alexicographer

    Huh. What an odd series of decisions (on the part of McDonalds). I don’t eat there. I briefly went through an interval of being willing to eat there when I had a small child and we were undertaking road trips because: hello, PlayPlace. But now he is past that stage and we are back to Wendy’s.

    I do like McDonalds fries, and their sausage biscuits. But my total annual McDonalds food budget is, like $5 (that’s 3 sausage biscuits + 1 order of fries), so I don’t know that they’ll miss me. I am, however, willing to boycott a place that charges the same for water as for soda (unless the price for both is $0.00), because — what?!?

  9. Emily

    I’m so sorry! I wish I could somehow create a wormhole to transport you to my neighborhood McDonald’s, which has the best staff EVER! They are endlessly friendly and polite, and if they tried that timer-throwing nonsense, all you would have to do is talk to the awesome manager once, and she would Shut That Down. Frustrating!!

  10. Nicole

    I wonder how many of these decisions are McDonald’s and how many are the franchise owner. The water thing really sounds like a ticked off owner rather than corporate policy, for example. It’s always crazy to me how different the food and experience can be between locations, since the whole point is consistency.

  11. Portia

    Huh, interesting. The McDonalds in my area are also doing a “60 seconds through the drive-thru” promotion, except it only applies during certain hours, something like 11 am-3 pm Mon-Fri. So, like, specifically NOT breakfast? Which is weird, because I’d think that would be when people are most in a hurry.
    I don’t know if they’re doing the timers, though, since I’ve never been there during the specified hours. I also don’t know if they’re charging for water, since the main reason I go through the McDonalds drive-thru is for sweet sweet Diet Coke (and fries).
    You’re right, though — every time I see the big signs for it, I get sort of resentful that mine is taking longer than 60 seconds. Even though I normally wouldn’t mind at all! I like hanging out in my car listening to the radio, and lord knows I don’t want some stressed high school kid spilling soda all over themselves (or me) trying to shove it out the window in second 59.

  12. HereWeGoAJen

    They did the same thing with the timer for me. I handed it over the window and they turned it back over and pretended it hadn’t run out.

    But try the chocolate chip cookies. Seriously. It’s worth it. I have eleven of them on my kitchen counter right now.

  13. dayman

    when I worked in foodservice many many moons ago, I was told during my orientation that we were required by law, as a place that serves food, to provide free water. I have absolutely no idea if that is true or if the person training me thought it was true, but I accepted it as gospel and was shocked- SHOCKED, I TELL YOU- to read that this was even an option. I was just at Taco Bell this past week and asked for three water cups for my kids and they handed them over without batting an eyelash. Paying full price for WATER would completely enrage me.

  14. Gigi

    McDonald’s makes me CRAZY! They did the timer thing here for a short period of time, before quickly discontinuing it.

    The MOST annoying thing? This two lane order thing. HOW does that help things? It doesn’t. You’ve got people jumping the line, you’ve got people jumping out of their cars and screaming at other people for “cutting” in line, you’ve got confused workers giving the out the wrong food…and all I wanted was a Diet Coke.

    So yeah, nine times out of ten, I stop at Chick-Fil-A instead.

  15. Kalendi

    Wow, I am so glad our franchised McDonald’s is not the same Franchise as yours. This is terrible. I too like the breakfasts the best and to charge the same for water as soda is crazy. I remember in drought times being charged a little bit (instead of free water) but it was very reasonable; also you had to request it (at a sit down dinner). It makes me laugh that they ignore the whole coupon thing (and to make ask for a bad idea anyway, wow).

  16. Alice

    Ha, I desperately want to post this on my company’s internal site. Our entire business model is based on customer feedback and how important it is for companies to LISTEN and interact to build / maintain customer loyalty :)

  17. Ruby

    I hadn’t heard of the timer thing until I read this post, but ugh ugh ughhhh that sounds annoying. For one thing, service employees are already treated badly enough by the general public. (Not you, of course, but you know how other people can be.) I can only imagine how much worse the already-difficult customers are when they’re basically being encouraged to reprimand the workers for taking too long! Also, McDonald’s is already fast. They’re a FAST FOOD restaurant! They don’t need to speed things up! I doubt that very many people have ever decided against going to McDonald’s purely because the service was too slow.

  18. Lanie

    I haven’t been to McDonald’s in a hundred years. But I can see the appeal every once in a while.

    What stuck out to me was that they gave you a grimy dirty germy timer to hold on to before your meal that other customers who took out heir gum or smoked or whatevered on. So gross. Lol. They should hand out hand sanitizer instead.

  19. Marlene

    This is mind boggling! In NZ all food premises must provide water for free. I always get a cup of water at mc d’s to dilute the kids juice. It’s always free.

  20. Bethany West

    I too, am under the impression that water must be provided free of charge to customers. Perhaps it’s a state law. My home state of Oregon is pretty compassionate, legislatively-speaking.

  21. Shawna

    I know McDonald’s Canada is independent from, and not quite the same as, the US version, so I haven’t seen the timer promotion, nor have I ever been charged for water. I hadn’t heard that McDonald’s was in financial trouble, but I’m hoping that’s only south of the border, not only because I love, and have always loved, McDonald’s (and yes, I’m aware that this is not a common confession from a middle-aged suburban mom that’s supposed to be all organic this and DIY, super-crafty that, etc.), but because it’s one of the few places we can take our 7-year-old egg-allergic son to eat. The chicken breading doesn’t have egg, and they don’t deep-fry things like onion rings (which almost always have egg) that would contaminate the oil, so he can eat McNuggets and fries with impunity. (We even got his pediatric allergist’s okay on eating there – the employees handling his food just need fresh gloves and a warning that his food can’t touch surfaces where mayonnaise has been applied, etc.) This is especially important to us when we’re travelling, because taking him to independent places can be so hit-or-miss, and when he’s hungry it’s just awful to have to go from place to place several times in search of something he can eat. We carry emergency Clif bars, but that’s not really a good meal substitute.

    I have never heard of McD’s charging for water up here. Almost all of them have a serve-yourself soft drink area, so I know a lot of people probably get cups “for water” then fill them with Coke. But even if that happens where you are, I would think going through the drive through would nullify that threat and they shouldn’t charge anything in that case.

  22. shin ae

    1. I’m with Lanie, about the dirtiness of the timer. Also because I don’t like when people thrust things at me, saying, “Hold this,” which is basically what they did to you. It sounds like you had no problem with that aspect of it, but it’d really bug me. It makes me immediately feel very contrary.

    2. Good for you, going to Wendy’s instead. That seems like a fine solution.

    3. I feel like each time I’ve gone to our local McDonald’s, the menu has changed in a way designed to make me spend ever more money. Plus, I can order a particular meal for my son and if I say it one way it costs less (by $0.80), but I have to use the correct words. It is literally the same, exact food and the same name of the meal, but if I preface it with the verbiage on the promotional sign, I get the promotion, and if I don’t, I don’t. I mean, if I’m asking for an item which is advertised as a certain price, it should cost that price. I shouldn’t have to say, “The $4 {item name}, please,” when it is the same item. It’s starting to feel like buying a car. Imagine if that’s what we had to do at the grocery to get the prices on the shelf, and how is this acceptable? We don’t go there anymore, it’s too annoying and I don’t like to spend that much for food that doesn’t nourish anyone (at least not the menu items my family chooses) and whose job is only to taste good and feel filling.

    4. We go to Taco Bell instead because even though their food is equally if not more junky, it costs considerably less (by about $10 for our family of 4). Plus I can get non-meat “food.” Also water is FREE. Yeesh.

    1. dayman

      Taco Bell is prooobably junkier, but not as calorie-laden, for the most part. I mean, you just eat less!

      This is how I justify my addiction. A bean burrito is waaay better than large fries. Even if they are made of reconstituted bean powder.

  23. Heather

    Perhaps if they charged certain items appropriately, they’d have more money. One apple pie in Australia, yeah that’ll set you back a couple of bucks. In USA? 50c!!! You guys can buy four pies for our one (and this was back when our dollars were equal). So why not raise the prices of things that are deep-fried and not wonderful for you (apple pies) and keep the water cheap.

  24. M.Amanda

    I haven’t seen the timer or 60 second thing at any of the McDs I go to. It sounds like it would be a franchise owner thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if McD Corp was pushing. One thing the four stores have in common is that I cannot make it through the drive thru in less than 8 minutes. Once, when I had skipped meals and was desperate for food RIGHT NOW, I waited 23 minutes for a crispy chicken sandwich. If I were a different kind of person, like the guy behind me who screamed at the teen who took his money at the first window, I’d be sending complaints in weekly.

    Also, ten cent or even a quarter for the cup is acceptable. The water should be free. There’s already a 400% (4000%?) Markup on soda. Pretty sure water is cheaper for them.

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