Are free refills the arch-nemesis of the Golden Arches?

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Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

So, now the fuzzy purple critter isn’t the only “grimace” I’ll associate with the McDonald’s chain.

“I’m lovin’ it” was assuredly not my gut-level reaction when I read of a 10-year corporate plan to phase out self-serving soda machines in all the restaurants and require customers to request (grovel for) refills at the counter.

Consumers should have suspected beverage stations were endangered when one of last year’s Happy Meals contained the proverb “Anything worth doing is worth dragging out for nearly a decade, starting with franchises in Illinois.”

I’m a big Charles Dickens fan, but the whole “Please, sir, I want some more” twist does not meet my Great Expectations. In today’s powder-keg world, it will not end well. (“Who you calling ‘Sir’??? I WOULD rattle off my pronouns, but that would take longer than it takes to get the ice-cream machine to work.”)

A company press release said the change to a “crew pour” system is “intended to create a consistent experience for both customers and crew across all ordering points.” Oh, yeah – everyone raves about the consistency at the DMV.

Besides, where’s the equity for dine-in and drive-thru customers? Must the latter billow out carbon dioxide while circling the drive-thru lane for multiple refills? (“You deserve a checkered flag today!”)

McDonald’s struggles gamely to give this evolution a positive spin, but no matter what their actual words, everyone hears, “Come for the pink slime; stay to take the walk of shame.”

Yes, the walk of shame. (“Say, do you realize how many times I’ve already poured you a refill? It’’s.. Dude! I can’t do the math in my head.”)

Some have claimed that the new system is healthier because there won’t be all those (ugh!) valued customers touching the drink dispenser and lids. (Healthier? Oh, yeah, I forgot all those “Billions and billions cured” billboards.) With my luck, I’ll get the server who is always yelling at his co-workers, “Okay, who’s the wiseguy who substituted his jockstrap for my hairnet?”

Zits the size of Mayor McCheese’s desk are not something I want hovering near my beverage, either.

My interactions with McDonald’s drinks are very personal. Maybe I want to sample a squirt of different flavors. Maybe I want to mix drinks (what we Cub Scouts used to call a “suicide” in less politically correct times). Maybe I’m in the mood for less ice than last Wednesday. And I want to take responsibility for my own life decisions. I don’t want an ambitious staffer writing up a resume that includes “accomplice to diabetes.”

I cherish memories of sipping a self-poured Dr. Pepper while my son frolicked on the McDonald’s playground or (later) watched Fox News with me. Our McDonald’s was a working-class community gathering place. But the pandemic devastated that idyllic world, accelerating the transition to drive-thru purchases, delivery services and digital ordering.

I realize that foot traffic and in-store dining are down, but I don’t understand why management feels compelled to double down on “Food, folks and fuming.”

Okay, I’m not the first person to bewail “progress.” My ancestors fought against the dying of the pot-bellied stove and rustic pickle barrel.

Or they did until it was discovered that the fugitive Hamburglar had asphyxiated amongst the gherkins!

Brrr. It’s enough to drive one to drink – if only Jason and Emma hadn’t left the counter short-staffed.

Copyright 2023 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”