Is It Illegal To Take Photos Of McDonald’s $7 Extra Value Meal?

| February 22, 2012
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$7 Value Meal At McDonald's

A $7.09 Extra Value Meal At McDonald's in Annapolis, MD.

On Monday night, I had a Big Mac attack and headed to my local McDonald’s to get an “Extra Value Meal.” After looking at the menu, I noticed that one of the “Extra Value Meals” was priced over $7.  I was talking with the cashier and discussing how prices had certainly increased across the board for everything and we were commiserating together.

I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of the $7 menu item and then things got strange.  A manager quickly appeared and told me that I needed to delete the photo as it was “illegal” to take photographs in McDonald’s.

I questioned that statement and explained that I was not taking photos of people, the coveted secret sauce, or anything proprietary–just the menu which is posted for the public to see both inside and outside of the restaurant.  I was told that If I did not delete the image, the police would be called. This is the point at which a casual observation turned into a storyline to share here.

I shrugged my shoulders as the original cashier slid my meal across the counter. I took the tray and nodded to the manager that I would be sitting in the dining room enjoying my meal.  The police never came.

I tried to get in touch with the local owner, but it seems the preferred method is to contact the corporate office and they will filter any issues down to the local level if needed. McDonald’s has built their success on controlling their food service process; I guess it filters down to their communications as well.

So I played by their rules and submitted an inquiry via their website:

Last night I went into the store to buy a dinner. I noticed that the price of a value meal was over $7 and took a photo of the menu with my smart phone.

The manager (I assume) approached me and told me I needed to delete the photo and that it was illegal to take pictures in McDonalds. I questioned that and she said that she would call the police. I pretty much ignored the comment, grabbed my meal and sat down and ate.

Is it a policy of McDonald’s to not allow any photography? It is not posted anywhere, and it is a place of public convenience. How do you handle birthday parties in the play zones? Are cameras banned there as well? How is it handled in a drive through?

It just seem odd to me. I was not in an ‘employees only’ location. I was not photographing any secrets. Presumably the prices you put on your menu are for the public to see. So why is it “illegal” to take a photo and why would McDonald’s go out of their way to alienate a customer?

Shyrel, of the McDonald’s Customer Response Center replied to me in less than 24 hours! Impressive. But unfortunately the response did not address the question.

Hello John:

I want to thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience at the McDonald’s in Annapolis, MD with me. Your feedback is very important to us as it allows us to better understand how we can improve our service to you.

I am sorry for the unsatisfactory experience during your recent visit. Please be assured that we want to provide you with an exceptional experience every time you visit us. From your email, it is clear we did not meet your expectations. Again, I am truly sorry we disappointed you.

I want you to know that I have already taken action on your feedback. After reading your email, I immediately shared the information you brought to our attention with the local franchise owner of the restaurant you visited. Additionally, I notified our regional McDonald’s consultant who works with this owner for follow-up in the restaurant and appropriate corrective action.

Again, John, thank you again for taking the time to contact us. With imput [sic] from valuable customers like you we are able to address situations that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Shyrel

McDonald’s Customer Response Center

This still leaves me wondering if it is illegal to take a photograph in McDonald’s. There is no easy way to advance this conversation as the email was terminated with the following:

Please do not “reply” to this email response. No “replies” can be received through this mailbox. If you wish to contact McDonald’s Customer Response Center again, please visit our website at www.mcdonalds.com

So, that puts me back at square one all set to receive yet another standard reply–misspellings and all.  I called the local Wendy’s and Burger King and they said there was no policy about taking pictures. In fact, as I think about it, most restaurants somewhat encourage it based on Yelp reviews, Foursquare check-ins, and Twitter posts.  So why not McDonald’s? Are they storing NSA‘s secret files in the secret sauce?  A very strange mystery indeed.

I understand that it is indeed private property; however, it is open to the public. It is not a private club (ala the Eastport Democratic Club or the Annapolis Yacht Club). But when you operate a business of public convenience, can you realistically ban photographs? Does this policy need to be posted? What about the other 1.4 million photographs of the McDonald’s menu board on Google Images?

Has anyone else been prevented from taking a photo in McDonald’s? What are your thoughts?


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Category: Editorial, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.
  • Erin

    You should’ve deleted the photo, then walked outside and taken a picture of the drive thru sign. Can’t be illegal to take pictures outside.

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net John Frenaye

      Yeah…go figure!

    • http://www.facebook.com/gypsy.pirate13 Serenity Cristina Allinder

      Actually just today a friend of mine reported that her husband got in trouble from McD management for taking a photo of the drive-thru menu. Apparently they have cameras and saw him, then rushed out to yell at him. My dad knew the president of the company (I’m sure he is now retired)…that used to come in handy for me when problems arose…lol

  • Felicia

    Strange. I wonder if each location sets its prices. I don’t think I have ever noticed a meal over $7 at any of the locations near me. Perhaps this location was afraid of getting in “trouble” (if that’s even possible) for setting a price too high? You should go back next week and see if the price is still the same …

    Just a thought. The manager was obviously afraid of something. Who knows!

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net John Frenaye

      I believe they can set their on prices. A friend took a picture of the same meal in Easton and it was $6 something. But the #7 just jarred me. Sort of like the difference between $99.99 and $100.00. I will go back and see…great idea.

      • Felicia

        I completely agree … $7 for a meal at McDonalds? Come on!

  • Andrew

    This is hilarious. Your actions are pretty much a mirror image of what mine would have been in the same situation with the manager- calm indifference. Usually the best course of action.

    Keep us updated on McD-Gate ’12!

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net John Frenaye

      My look to her was sort of (unspoken) well when the swat team gets here, let them know I will be the old guy in the corner eating the Big Mac.

  • Janet

    I received the exact same email message that you did when I complained that I received a burger through the Crofton drive-thru, only to discover it had a bite taken out of it. Later, I received a a coupon for 50 cents off a speciality coffee. Uh, my burger was 4 bucks. McDonalds has the worst customer service, and I know it is not illegal to take a picture in a McDonalds. That owner should be retrained at the very least.

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net John Frenaye

      I could not find a contact for the owner. This was the manager. And coming from the corporate site, there is no method of contacting management of the local store, so I used the contact corporate option.

      On your bitten hamburger…yuck!

  • Katrina

    Check the drive through. There’s usually a number for the store manager or owner on the drive through window.

    • http://www.eyeonannapolis.net John Frenaye

      good idea. thanks

  • Kris_kittleson

    I used to work as a manager for McDonald’s and I know that it stated in one of the training materials not to allow press to film or photograph without coorprate being consulted. I don’t think they wrote this rule with cellphone cameras in mind since they are ever where. I’ve only had someone take photos once and it was of our floor for some reason.

  • Carol V 45

    You’re a job creator.
     
    Started with going to McDonald’s in the first place to satisfy your Mac Attack, and experiencing the encounter with the manager.
     
    Your e-mail caused Shyrel to go into action.  Next the local franchise owner of the restaurant you visited became involved. Then the  regional McDonald’s consultant who works with this owner.
     
    After that your comments were sent to their Office of Satisfying Valuable Customer to analyze your “imput.”
     
    If each of us sent an e-mail a day, imagine all the sustainable jobs that could create.  On the other hand, that could be why a burger at McDonald’s now costs seven bucks.

  • Name withheld

    I complained to the general manager about the flies in the restaurant in the Dover Plains, NY McDonalds as well as cashiers sweeping and mopping the floor then waiting on customers without washing their hands. He assured me the problem had been addressed and remedied. Two days later a store employee was leaving the door in the back wide open while walking around the outside. I took out my phone video camera to film it. Today I saw a cashier sweeping without gloves. I again took a picture. The store manager informed me I couldn’t take photos in the restaurant. Within minutes a customer approached me telling me how nice and clean she felt the restaurant was and I was out of line for complaint after wishing her well, she departed satisfied that she told me off, she went on her merry way. As I was leaving another dedicated customer chanted in with her opinion. I told her she should mind her own business since I was not talking to her. As I was leaving she said ” yeah just get out Nigger. When I turned to ask her what was that she said, her mother hits from from behind saying “don’t hit my daughter!” I said what!! lady I didn’t hit your daughter, she hit me! Then the mother starts calling me a” dirty nigger”. I in turn called her a “dirty Mexican” which I admit was wrong but I felt I was provoked. Next thing I know was all the employees from the manager to the cashiers, which was all of Hispanic descent calling me a Dirty Nigger, go back to Africa”. I Just left out and drove off. As I was driving down the street I saw three NY State Police Cars driving at a fast speed with lights and sirens going to the McDonalds. I returned to the restaurant to give my side of the story. I asked that the daughter and mother be arrested with simple battery and the police refused to arrest them saying ” since I wasn’t bleeding, bruised, or knocked out that they’re offense was not an arresting offense. Go figure………I will report this to I.C.E since one of the former employees stated that she was not in the country legally and that most of the other employees were not documented either.

    • Drew Hill

      Obvious lie.

  • random11

    I had this exact same problem. I didnt even want to take a picture to show people how expencive it was like you. I just wanted the picture for my own reference of how much money I would need for breakfast in the morning depending on what I felt like having that day. I was promplty told I was not allowed to take pictures. I contacted the main office customer service and they gave me the private property BS. (even thought if I wanted to take a picture of my kids playing in the play place im sure they wouldnt mind that would they, maybe they would) I then asked if I was allowed to write down the prices and she told me no. I could only write down one or two prices and that no normal customer writes down all the prices so I wasnt allowed to. I will be doing some more reaserch into this but I may just have to go somewhere else for my food from now on

  • Me

    Something similar happened in the Mcdonalds I work in. Some one took a picture with her tablet and the store manager starting muttering under her breath I asked what was wrong and she replied that the lady was taking pictures. I reminded her that there is no form of warning against it and today I was told by another employee that it is common sense like driving on the right side of the road. You just don’t take pictures in a place of business I’m not entirely sure where they get this theory from but as far as I know there is no written procedure about this any where.

  • Tweck

    It is not illegal for you to take pictures in a restaurant, or any other establishment, whether it’s private property or not, unless there is a very clear violation of a person’s “expectation of privacy,” which they would have to take you to court to prove. People do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a McDonald’s. The only places where it’s technically “illegal” to take a photograph are places that are specifically protected by the government for national security purposes.

    This is a constitutionally protected right.

    They also cannot force you to delete the photo, because it belongs to you. The most they can do is play the “trespassing” card, at which point you have every right to continue to take photographs on your way out.

    Here’s a link to a document called The Photographer’s Right that does a reasonably good job of explaining your rights:

    http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm