The Golden Arches: A Golden Opportunity?

BBC journalist John Hand has written one of those rare first-person pieces in which a meaningful idea is actually communicated through a series of biographical anecdotes. Hand’s point is a simple one: Working at a fast-food place like McDonald’s can have many positive effects on one’s attitude and CV.

It sounds corny, and it most assuredly is, to some extent. But it also makes an interesting point for those of us inhabiting an era wherein service work is automatically associated with laziness or some kind of personal shortcoming.

About his time at McDonald’s, Hand writes:

It is notable that those who have positive things to say about the McDonald’s working experience are those who threw themselves into it, without any cynicism. That means caring deeply about the company’s four central tenets — quality, service, cleanliness and value.

I understood the sound business principles behind asking ‘Is that a large?’ or ‘Do you want fries with that?’, so didn’t feel at all self-conscious about chanting the then-obligatory mantras at every customer.

I’ve since learned I was in good company. Andrew H Card, otherwise known as President Bush’s chief of staff between 2001 and 2006, has spoken glowingly of his time at the Golden Arches.

The piece is a little sappy, incredibly square, and a throwback to the pre–Information Age era when people actually, you know, did stuff. As a result, it’s a charming read. The piece also struck a chord with readers, generating a slew of comments.

Most, like this one, trended positive:

When I worked in recruitment, I hired a lot of 18-22 year olds. The difference in the ones who’d worked in McDonald’s was striking. They were keen, polite, enthusiastic, customer-focussed and wanted to learn. I wouldn’t fancy it myself — or any kitchen job, to be honest — but it clearly gives a good grounding.

But it wouldn’t be the Internet without a little bit of this, too:

None of the above ‘lessons’ make McDonalds special. You can get all of that from any honest work. Often without having to peddle greasy rubbish. Personally, I only enter their premesis [sic] to use the loo.

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