The #seriouslymcdonalds incident: a lesson about racism and hoaxes

It is rare I read a story and find it’s so engrossing, so demanding of my attention, that I feel I need to drop everything and blog about it now. This is one of those stories.

A recent Mashable article highlights the latest hoax making the rounds on Twitter (and probably other social media as well) under the hastag #seriouslymcdonalds. It’s a sign posted with official-looking McDonald’s branding (NOTE: Please DO NOT call the number, it DOES NOT belong to McDonald’s):


As an insurance measure due in part to a recent string of robberies, African-American customers are now required to pay an additional fee of $1.50 per transaction.

Thank you for your cooperation,
McDonald’s Corporation
(800) 225-5532

Now, this is an obvious hoax, and it’s obvious because that toll-free number rings a KFC guest relations line. That, and as the reporter for Mashable noted, “[i]t would be career suicide” for a real McDonald’s franchisee or employee to tape this on the door.

Whoever posted this fake sign will undoubedly incur the fully justified wrath of not just one, but two large fast food companies: McDonald’s, and Yum! Brands (which owns KFC), in the form of swift and decisive legal action. If nothing else, this is fraud and trademark infringement. This is a huge PR mess for McDonald’s, which will probably cost them well into five figures (US$10,000+) to clean up. Add to this the time KFC’s call center people will have to waste answering calls from angry customers, and it’s easy to see how the guilty party deserves to get sued.

So, not only is this a tort involving two large fast-food corporations, this was in such poor taste it doesn’t even qualify as a good prank. I, for one, am not laughing. Racism, particularly reinforcing stereotypes that African-Americans are more likely to commit crimes, is not funny. Whoever you are that posted this sign: Shame on you. You deserve to be sued into bankruptcy, and I hope it happens.

According to the story on Mashable, an official reply from the corporate offices is pending. I will follow up on this as I learn more.