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.
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.
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?
- People Don’t Think McDonald’s Has Good Food [Weird] (gawker.com)
- McDonalds Rolls Out New Happy Meals (q104.radio.com)
- McDonald’s Minor Misstep (theprbuzz.wordpress.com)