Recently, I was rushing from one place to another and drove through McDonald's to get a cheeseburger. Not very big, not much in them, and not very expensive (a whopping 99p), McD's cheeseburgers are simple but really yummy. Trouble is, they have only one little pickle slice. And I love pickles.
In Canada, I could always ask for "tons and tons of pickles" and I would get more pickles than meat, which made me really happy. Often, I was given loads in the burger, plus a bunch more in a little cup, whether at McD's, A & W, Five Guys or Burger King.
But in all my years in England, I have struggled to get more than three or four, despite the fact that I've said, "I really mean loads, like a dozen or more please."
For a country that pickles virtually anything, including lemons and walnuts (and a portion of the population pickles itself with that daily after-work stop at the pub!), it astonishes me that most people here seem to detest pickles. This whole Canadian-English pickle conversation has come up many times down the years and more often than not, people in the UK have told me, "Ew, I don't like pickles!"
Apparently, much of the time they're asking for their cheeseburgers or Big Macs etc "without pickles, please." No doubt McDonald's has a mountain of excess pickles stashed somewhere, yet when I beg them to throw a bunch my way, they are loath to part with them.
So here I was, dashing from one place to another, zipping through the drive-through and asking for "tons and tons of pickles please" and hoping to get at least half a dozen although that isn't nearly enough. But experience has shown that's the most I'm likely to get.
It was time to pay my 99p but they wanted £1.39. Had the price suddenly shot up by 40%? That was enormously puzzling. I had to ask why it was an extra 40p.
Turns out I was being charged for the extra pickles.
Stunned, I said, "For 40p I'd better get an awful lot of pickles. How many are in the burger?" I was told there were at least ten. I had no choice but to pay the young girl before going to the collection window, where there was a man who I'm sure was a manager.
I grumbled about being charged 40p for ten little slices of pickle. I told him that it didn't seem right to have to pay extra at all - and certainly not that much - because no doubt there are loads of people who ask not to have any pickles - or lettuce, tomato or condiments - on their various burgers, yet they don't get to pay less because they want anything left out of their burgers. Essentially, McDonald's makes a little extra money every time someone asks them to "hold the mayo."
Rather reluctantly, he gave me back 20p. I told him I still thought it was highway robbery for a measly ten bits of pickle but he didn't look remotely sympathetic. I took my little bag with my little cheeseburger and the big pickle cost, and drove off.
I consoled myself with the fact that I'd have at least ten pickles. Not great, but much better than a few. Ideally, I'd like about twenty or thirty but I knew that although this is easy in Canada, it is impossible in England.
How burned was I when I opened up my burger and found six little slices of pickle?? And a couple of them were very tiny, having come from the little end bits of the cucumber. I could not believe that they called this "at least ten" and more importantly, I was stunned to discover that they thought these pathetic bits of pickle warranted a 40% hike in the cost of the burger.
How I wish I had checked whilst in the presence of that manager. I'd have demanded my 20p back. And while I was at it, I'd have torn him a new one.
Of course this isn't really about 20p or 40p; it's a matter of principle. If they really had to charge something extra, I could have stood 5p or 10p if I'd actually been given ten extra slices of pickle. But I wasn't and the cost was outrageous, even after I'd got back 20p.
It's not like they're hurting for business. And in this country, they're certainly not having most customers order half McDonald's pickle stock on every burger so what's the problem with giving one crazy Canadian woman a whole bunch of pickles now and then because she has a major thing for them (as so many other Canadians do)?
Oh, right. This is England - where sadly, customer dis-service in business is the rule and not the exception.
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