This past Saturday, October 7th, saw one of the most notable failures of pop culture meets promotional campaign. McDonald’s tried to capitalize on their mention in the popular Adult Swim series, Rick and Morty.
The results were…less than acceptable.
Those who tried to participate in the promotion often went home empty-handed and upset. Videos and articles exist, regaling stories of angry customers berating employees, breaking out into fights, and bringing police out to keep the peace.
At the same time, people are berating Rick and Morty fans and the customers for their behavior. “It’s just sauce” and “stop acting like petulant man-children” are among some of the retorts.
What these tales and critiques seem to ignore is McDonald’s complacency in everything that went down. People want to blame Rick and Morty fans, or anyone who showed (regardless if they’d seen the show), for what went down.
While I don’t condone violence, targeting the customers is victim-blaming. People were informed (however poorly) that a promotion was happening. They showed up in droves believing the event was as stated.
- There was no reason for McDonald’s to provide minimal supplies – they could’ve easily sent a case or two to each store.
- There was no reason for locations listed to only have posters and no sauce – they could’ve easily made sure all participating restaurants had both.
- There was no reason for the sauce to not arrive at locations – the pre-printed and laminated signs suggested they knew this was going to happen.
- There was no reason for locations to hand out materials before the advertised 2 p.m. time – or for sauces to appear on eBay at that time, suggesting there was internal theft.
All they had to do was provide what was advertised, and the majority of customers would’ve gone home happy. Sure, there might have still been incidents or complaints, but the promotion would’ve been a success.
They didn’t. And now people want to blame the “nerds” who waited in line.
You’re No Better
Many of those mocking the people who drove hours and stood in lines for sauce and posters are guilty of the same behavior. They’ll stand in line (and even longer) for free comics or RPG supplements. They’ll camp out overnight for movie tickets (to movies that don’t come out for months) or video games (that’ll be on shelves the next day).
We all have our geekdoms, those things that we love to obsess about and will go out of our way to do. Maybe it’s standing next to our favorite celebrity for three seconds. Perhaps it’s getting the next-gen tech, even when our current is almost identical in options and efficiency.
You do not need to crap on other people’s geekery, especially when you’re no better with your own.
Imagine if it was free comic book day, you’ve been waiting in line since before dawn behind a couple of tents who camped overnight. Everything seems fine, the line has now swelled to a hundred, and people are excited.
The door opens… and they say, “Sorry, we’ve got no free comics today. You’re more than welcome to purchase our regular stock!”
What if you’re waiting in line for tickets to a favorite science-fiction movie’s latest installment? Advertisements said they’d go on sale at midnight and people have been camped out since the early morning.
Employees come out of the theater and say, “Sorry, we don’t actually have the tickets. The website wasn’t clear, but you had to get them at select locations. We do have posters for you! Although, only a couple dozen.”
I’m pretty sure in those cases people would throw down and there’d be incidents. Especially since they could have told those standing in line at any point.
Bad Customers Suck – Bad Corporations Suck More
We see poor behavior from patrons all the time, on a far worse level than this. Sneakerheads, Black Friday, new tech releases, etc. There is no defense for violence and criminal acts, even if the frustration is understandable.
While we can certainly focus on how ridiculous the customers are, we rarely talk about the corporations who set these scenarios up in the first place. We’re quick to blame the addicts while never focusing on the pushers.
Here we are, though, telling people “it’s just sauce” and labeling entire fandoms and customer bases awful because McDonald’s failed promotion led to angry, violent reactions.
I didn’t even watch Rick and Morty. I didn’t show up at McDonald’s for the sauce. Yet, I stand with the thousands of people who are mad. Let the customers have their valid complaints and work toward holding corporations accountable.