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December 10, 2009


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The McDonald's around here charge for extra sauce. I believe they even charge you if you want more ketchup than what they are allowed to give you for your fries. I don't ever get pancakes there but I am pretty sure that they would charge for extra syrup since they charge extra for honey mustard or any sauces for nuggets or selects. It seems ridiculous that they need to charge for these extra condiments. I am sure there have been people who abused it in the past as I do know people who have taken the plastic-ware from Taco Bell to use at home and a lot of extra sauce.

I haven't been to a McDonald's in years, but this doesn't surprise me. I think you have every right to be upset, but I also think after this has passed, that you should get used to the notion of paying for ANYTHING extra going forward. The downturn in the economy has cause some strange things to start happening and the problem with that is that once it starts it won't stop after the economy picks up, meaning that they won't make the extra syrup free again when the economy is good.

It is probably just the managers at some store try to increase revenue a little bit, but I think it hurts business more than it helps because nobody likes to be "nickle and dimed" like that.

You have to pay to use the restrooms in the McDonalds in Europe and pay for ketchup.

It is likely a store by store decision to charge for that. I have never had that happen to me. As jhawsey said, some store manager says "we spent $200 last month on syrup, we need to cut that down, let's start charging for extra syrup." Yet in the process he alienates hundreds of customers and loses much more than $200 in business.

I see this happen all the time with small businesses. They always have signs everywhere that say "No Substitutions", etc. I get very turned off when I walk into a store and see all kinds of "No" signs.

@FMF - you are in marketing, I bet there has to be some data out there that would support the decision to allow free "extras" in exchange for greater customer satisfaction. Look at Southwest Airlines, they have great customer satisfaction numbers in an industry that has very little, and they don't charge for extra bags, etc.

"go somewhere else where the pancakes are just as good (or better) and the syrup isn't rationed."

But they're double the price, and service might take longer than the amount of time you have available. I think that's the point of going to McDonald's for many of us.

What McD's should do is the same thing they did with their sauces for McNuggets. I'm addicted to McD's hot mustard sauce--the perfect condiment (spicy, sweet, salty all at once) and used to request it all the time for my fries. After a while, they started charging for the packet when it was requested for anything other than McNuggets. For the last few years--at least in my area--all the McNugget sauces are available at the self-service condiment pumps. I'm sure that through the pump, the product doesn't cost McD's much, if any, more than the bulk ketchup that's always been available, and there's no issue.

Same would hold with syrup. If they were to have a syrup pump during breakfast hours, their syrup would cost a good deal less than individually-packaged syrups--not to mention more environmentally friendly for customers who are eating in--and everyone would take just the right amount they want and need.

It's ironic that they charge for an extra syrup package when they will give you a fistful of ketchup packets for a to-go order when all you really wanted was one or two.

You're actually paying for it thrice because it's not really maple syrup, it's corn syrup. We pay wads and wads of cash to farmers to grow cheap field corn which can be converted into the yummy treats that contribute to diabetes. So you paid a subsidy to some farmer, you paid for the syrup, and you'll pay again in higher health care costs.

Mark B --

I'm betting you're spot on with your thoughts on how they started charging for syrup.

There's no clear marketing path to anything really (that's the nature of competition -- one company tries something, another tries something else, etc.) and different companies can survive doing things totally differently (SW doesn't charge, but everyone else does. Is that the reason SW is doing better or is it something else? It's hard to tell.)

But like you said, there are some decisions that seem clearly to lose more than they make. In this case, I'll now eat less at McDonald's (all McDonald's, not just this one), I'll tell many people about it and they'll do the same (including thousands on this blog), and those people will tell other people and so on. It's not hard to imagine that 27 cents will cost them far more than that.

Mel --

Point taken on the pancakes. Maybe the decision is that I'm now more likely to get a fast breakfast (non-pancakes) at a McD's competitor because my opinion of them has dropped off.

Todd --

Thanks. That makes me feel even better!!! ;-)

I am not usually the one to do this, but its "good riddance", not "good riddens".

I used to work at a Hardee's, back in high school. We had tons of people who habitually would ask for extra sauces after they paid, or a glass for ice (then fill it with water), or hot water for their own tea bags, etc.

If it was high school kids, we were told to charge them extra because they usually made messes with it.

McD's has every right to nickel and dime you with extra charges, and you have every right to stop going to the golden arches.

I prefer Chick Fil A's breakfasts. Not only is the food better, but the service is MUCH MUCH better. They do a great job of training their staffs.

Go to Europe and try to get a free glass of water..... good luck

...mmmmmmm... Chicken Mini's...

The best thing about Fazoli's was when they would walk around and give you unlimited free breadsticks. At one point they started charging for them. I think a lot of people were disappointed by that. Now they give them for free again, but you have to walk up and get them 2 at a time. I guess that's a fair compromise.

Bob --

It is in the part of Iowa I grew up in. ;-)

I can accept this since their prices are very reasonable. I do think they should offer one packet, give a second one free upon request, and then charge for any after that.

I know that cheapskates out there will take home loads of salt and pepper packets (maybe even take the shakers set out for dining), way too many napkins, and walk in to fill their extra value meal cup for free when nobody is watching. I usually hand back at least half of the condiments and napkins that the cashier offers since one or two packets will suffice.

@Bob: in your post, it should be 'it's', not 'its'. LOL

In Italy McDonald's charges .20 euro cent for each ketchup, mayo, whatever topping after the first.

Yeah, sadly, there's nothing wrong with them charging for something of value. I suppose it's just that we're used to these sort of things being freebies.

Personally, I prefer Hardees or Burger King breakfast sandwiches, but that's just me. If I'm going to get greased up in the morning, might as well go for broke. :D

By default, McDonald's doesn't even give you ketchup for the fries, you have to ask for them...

In many countries other than the USA, you pay for everything. Ketchup, sauce, syrup, etc. The USA is the land of large portions, salads with the meal, "free" extras, etc. Yeah - Supersize me!!!

Making people pay cuts down on waste and prevents people from taking home 20 ketchups for their home meals. In the US, not many people would do that, because food is cheap relative to income, but in some places you would start a riot if you gave away ANY food for free (including ketchup).

They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. Maybe they're trying to cut obesity while cutting costs!!!!

It wouldn't make me happy either, but in the end you would pay alot more for those pancakes some where else. Some charge some don't, it cost them money for the syrup too.
That's life :)

Its not the 27 cents, its the principle. You have every right to be annoyed. I would be.

I dont think its MCD wide.

MCD reported a bad quarter, FMF cuts back on his MCD consumption... Coincidence? I think not.

I don't think it's just one packet of syrup we're talking about here. It's the constant drain in modern day life with regards to forking over cash, etc. throughout any given day, it seems to never end. It's like, it's not enough to pay them for your food, but should you have the need to ask for a little something else, you're going to get stung again.

The days of complimentary accoutrements have gone by the wayside of a small box of popcorn for less than $4 at the movies. So on your next trip, you might want to pack your own little bottle of Vermont syrup and/or whatever other condiments or foods you enjoy.

When I travel on business, I bring my own coffee, coffee filter basket and filters. I make it as strong as I like and enjoy the taste to which I am accustomed. I also have packed other utensils and foods to accompany my hotel stay. I'm sure that on occasion, I have sounded like the village tinker coming down the hallway at the hotel, but it's worth it to me. Personally, I like McD's and their food is cheap and fairly good if you're hungry, but I think they should reconsider that practice of charging for little extras like syrup. What's to keep them from charging you for sitting at the table longer than what they feel is necessary to eat a big Mac?

Stop the greed Corporate America!`!!

We were at a McD's where they charged extra for all the extra condiments and they would not even give us cups of water at all. You had to buy the bottled stuff.

I think this varies by store.

The McDonald's closest to our house is awful about stuff like this. They remodeled and took out the Redbox (which we used to love to be able to walk to get a movie for the night) and started charging for everything "extra." They also screw up orders quite a bit.

So we make a point to use other McDonalds, even if we have to drive out of our way.

Reminds me of my favorite quote: A luxury, once enjoyed, becomes a necessity.

I guess free pancake syrup is your luxury/necessity.

FMF - Maybe you could have fumbled around looking for change and acted like you had none. It has worked many times for me! (Sad, most of the times it wasn't an act ) :^)

I would be annoyed too. I get an extra syrup every far they haven't charged me for it, but I'll keep an eye on it now. :)

Our favorite mom and pop restaurant started charging $0.60 for dipping sauces and $0.50 for the "packaging" (styrofoam containers) for orders to go without telling anybody...we stopped eating there for a year and I wrote them an email to explain why. When we went back a few weeks ago to grab a quick dinner, they had the extra costs posted on their menu and signs next to the cash register. I still won't eat there as often, but I rather them be upfront about the extras than to sneak them onto my bill.

Also, while we lived in Holland, we kept ketchup packets in the car and in my mom's purse since they charged extra for every packet, which was weird since they would put a big glob of mayonaise on fries for free. Sorry in advance to anybody who likes mayo with their fries, but all I could think was YUCK! You had to remember to ask for no mayo all the time or it just got plopped on top.

I haven't eaten at McDonalds in years. When they made the Fish sandwich smaller and charged more for it I quit. And I won't go back. RB

I know Wendy's charges for extra sauces (you get one with each order of nuggets).

Since I don't usually carry any cash, I usually get little fees waived. They ask for less than a dollar, I offer them my credit card, they say nevermind and hand over the dipping sauce. :-)

I'd feel bad if I was tricking them, but I usually only carry credit and debit. If I had the change, I'd hand it over. To be completely honest though, times like those don't inspire me to start carrying cash...

I'd be upset too. Several years ago I was asked to pay for some sort of sauce (BBQ or sweet and sour or something) and I was so shocked I just paid. I go to McD's around 1-2x a week (I really really reallllllly love Big Macs and this is about the only fast food I eat on a regular basis), and sometimes I ask for McChicken sauce to dip my fries in... and they never charge for it. I think it could have just been that particular location. So basically, only once have I ever been charged for an extra sauce in all my years at McD's.

To the 2 posters who are generalising about Europe: it depends on the country. Over here in Belgium, the toilet is free, fr.ex. And i don't remember getting unasked mayo in the Netherlands. (as for the free water: some countries have laws that forbid refusing water to people)

Now, as for the article: There is information missing for me to be able to judge. Isn't McDonalds required to list all prices? Was it on there? Have you checked?

In my area, they don't charge extra for condiments. However it sounds like the McDonald you were at didn't have a lot of competition... So they decided to gouge since probably a lot of their customers were nonrepeating...

I bet if you go to your local McDonalds, they probably don't charge extra for syrup...

Funny, I just returned to the States from living in Germany over the last four years. We went to McDonalds a few times a month for a touch of Americana and because my kids loved it. You have always been charged for ketchup and other condiments in European McDs. It is par for the course there. Wonder if McDs picked this up from their European operations and decided to try it here? I am sure it is a lucrative source of funds in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for McDs. Every four ketchups sold is over a buck to them.

It's not McD's, but I went to Pizza Hut and ordered chicken wings and asked for dipping sauce to go with them and they told me they charged extra for the sauce. The only reason I got my sauce with no charge was because a month before I ordered sauce and didn't get it. I told them that because I'm sure I got charged then as well.

I don't eat at McDonalds...haven't for years. 6 or 7 straight years of stopping there on long bus rides w/my cross country and track teams turned me off of it, since every single time during that stretch I got something that was green that wasn't supposed to be.

I remember earlier this year I was chatting with Andrew Lock and he had mentioned having a similar experience at a McDonalds, he even talked about it on his tv show:

McD has also switched from USDA Beef to cheep stuff from Brazil. My boyfriend has been a loyal McD forever, and he's now stopped going there because of it. USDA beef went up and McD had to make a choice between raising prices, or switching providers. Unfortunately, the right answer should have been neither, in that the gov't standards for beef went up so high, that it effectively drove up prices and caused McD to switch to Brazil. So now Americans still aren't eating healthier, and it's had a negative impact on US jobs.

The best economy is a free one in which you vote with your dollar, and if they charge you for syrup and you don't like it, then you should go somewhere else. And if it's still worth it to you (compared with competitor's price, speed of service, taste, etc) than it's free enterprise for McD.

Where we lose is when we don't get full use of our choice.

I got pancake syrup with my McDonalds breakfast a few weeks ago. And I didn't even order pancakes!

As someone who has worked fast food, and had a lot of friends in fast food, I've heard a lot about this.

1) First off, not all McDonald's charge consistently. The norm is that most DO charge, but often, the employees don't want to be bothered with the hassle of ringing extra sauces up, so sometimes they don't bother and you get the sauce for free.

2) That being said, free sauce is usually a fluke, not the norm. Telling your local McDonald's "BUT I GOT IT FREE LAST TIME" really doesn't help. (something a lot of customers will resort to, not realizing that they were not supposed to get it free the first time)

3) What caused all this? Customers who ruined it for everyone. Too many customers used to take advantage of free sauces and load up. There were "Frugal" people who'd come in and request handfuls of the stuff so they wouldn't have to buy ketchup, syrup, sauce at home. There were teenagers who came in and got handfuls of ketchup for the express purpose of splattering the ketchup packs all over for fun. There were LOTS of customers who would simply over-request because sauce was free, and they'd leave the packs laying around the lobby. Once sauce packs go onto a tray with the customer, a restaurant isn't supposed to be able to take them back. (tampering problems and all). And there were employees who didn't give a damn about their company's resources and would carelessly grab *handfuls* of sauces and throw them into customer's to-go bags.

So you can thank all the people up there who abused the free sauces. Thanks to people being greedy or thoughtless or careless, many restaurants resorted to charging for sauces to avoid the waste.

And, if you can afford to eat out, you can probably afford the measly quarter and some change it takes to get an extra sauce. The company has to make up it's losses. You're either going to get charged extra for the extra sauce, or the price of ALL the food will go up (which is worse).

"What's next in line to be charged for... the right to sit down..?"

They already do FMF. Check your reciept next time you stop in and order your meal for "here". It's called a "Dine in" tax.

As far as the condiments go, i'm pretty sure it goes by a store-to-store basis. I've had some where they wanted to charge me, and some that didn't. I've also had some that usually charge during the day, but the people running it at night don't bother. Good tip above about offering plastic to pay for the extra condiments, since every time a merchant runs a credit/debit card they pay a small fine, not sure how much, but i'd bet to say it make charging the 27 cents a waste of time.

I've gone through the above comments. I have an alternative explanation for what happened, from my job. I'm not talking about McDonald's and syrup specifically, but about companies saving on free cheap bulk stuff.

The company wants more profit. They hire consultants for advice (think McKinsey). The consultants typically suggest some real measures (long-term) and some 'quick wins' -- such as stopping syrup 'freeloading', exactly! Some consultant decides that one package of syrup is reasonable and that the rest is probably only used by freeloaders. Result: harmless, small quick win! However, if FMF is right and one package is not enough, this is not gonna be as 'harmless' as they think.

Yeah I think it depends on the location.

Most don't charge but I've been to some that do.

I agree with whoever above blames stuff like this on the frugalistas and college students who steal the sauce packets from fast food stores to take home because they're cheap and unethical. I've even heard people brag about how they never have to buy ketchup or mustard because they just steal it. Maybe McD's close to college campuses are the ones most likely to charge for extra ketchup/syrup?

On the other hand, I can't figure out why my company cafeteria recently started charging $.35 to add lettuce to a burrito. But if you add cheese, beans, beef, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole you get no extra charge. The burrito is $2.00, so adding lettuce significantly increases the cost. The lettuce is added by the burrito assemblers/line cooks--there's no way people could steal lettuce to take home or eat as a free lunch salad. ?!?

Finally! Someone else that shares my frustration with McDonald's. With me, it's ketchup. I'm a big eater. I order three or four Egg McMuffins for breakfast or three or four hamburgers for lunch. They give me TWO packs of ketchup! For all that food, plus fries if it's lunch? Are they kidding?

Burger King has a pump dispenser for ketchup. I can take all I want. Thank you Burger King!

I recently got charged $.20 + tax for a water cup and McD's! Killin' me over here!

One packet of syrup is too stingy.

For anyone else in this situation, my advice is to pour some of the syrup on your pancakes then go back and tell them the syrup packet is leaking and you need another one.


Problem solved and your are now 27 cents richer.


There's a McD's around here in the cafeteria of a large childrens hospital that charges for extra sauce. I'll say that again for anyone that didn't catch it: they charge terminally ill children and kids with cancer for extra BBQ sauce for their McNuggets.

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