Charging For Extra Condiments At McSkinflint’s

Today, when Kish and I drove to Pittsburgh to drop off Richard’s stuff, we stopped at a McDonald’s for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. As we rolled up to the drive-thru window, I was amazed to see this sigh: “There will be an additional charge for extra condiments.”

IMG_1706Seriously? If some poor schmo wants to get an extra packet of runny catsup or crummy mustard, hoping to bring a little extra dose of flavor to their otherwise unbearably salty McDonald’s fare, McD’s is going to charge them an additional amount? How much do they charge for those little packets, do you suppose? It’s hard to imagine it would be more than a penny or two. Is McDonald’s really so desperate for a little extra pocket change?

And what sort of problem is being addressed by this new policy? Does McDonald’s think people are taking unfair advantage of one of America’s most ubiquitous companies by asking for extra condiments? McDonald’s makes a big show out of being a good corporate citizen. If struggling families are loading up on the extra condiments and taking them home to try to make their food budgets stretch a little bit farther, can’t McDonald’s just accept that?

As our readers know, I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s, but this sign left more of a bad taste in my mouth than the last crappy McDonald’s cheeseburger I bought. What a bunch of tightwads! Maybe they should rename that annoying clown Ronald McCheapskate.

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Avoiding Egypt

Going to Egypt to see the sights in the Valley of the Kings has always been a “bucket list” item for me. The beauty and awesome antiquity of the remnants of the Egypt of the Pharaohs exerts an irresistible attraction.

Sadly, I now question whether I’ll ever scratch off that bucket list item — and apparently I’m not alone. Since Egypt has fallen into a crisis involving the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, with leaders being deposed and jailed and street clashes and deaths at demonstrations often in the news, governments have warned about travel to Egypt and tourists have avoided it. In September, tourism was down almost 70% from 2012, and in October — the most recent month for which statistics seem to be available — tourism was down 52% over the prior year.

Tourism is one of the largest segments of the Egyptian economy and one of the largest producers of foreign currency. I am sure that there are many people in Egypt — cab drivers, tour guides, street peddlers, and others — who are suffering due to the sharp drop in tourism. So why would prominent Egyptians be making public statements that simply exacerbate tourist concerns about safety and security? Recently, for example, an Egyptian editor speculated that the United States government might try to assassinate General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the general who ousted the Mohamed Morsi government last summer, and helpfully added that if such an attempt were made, Egyptians would rise up in a “revolution to kill the Americans in the streets.” Not surprisingly, the editor later tried to backtrack from his inflammatory statements and said that his remarks were about terrorism and that he bears no hostility to Americans.

American tourists aren’t idiots, and a half-hearted explanation isn’t going to cure the fact that such bloody rhetoric was used in the first place. If you like to travel, your bucket list of destinations probably is a long one. There are plenty of interesting faraway places to visit where you don’t need to worry that your visit might put your life in danger. Right now, the prevailing sense is that Egypt isn’t one of them.