That Time When the McDonald’s Happy Meal Didn’t Make My Daughter Happy


Me and Lauren when she was 6 years old

When my daughter was 4 years old McDonald’s was her favorite place to eat out. We always got her the Happy Meal with chicken McNuggets. To this day she’s still not a “burger” person.

One afternoon we stopped at McDonald’s on the way home from pre-school. I placed Lauren’s usual Happy Meal order through the drive-thru speaker.

I drove up to the first window, and the employee opened the window and waited for me to hand him my money. He took my $20 bill, gave me change and the window closed.

I drove up to the second window, it opened, and an employee handed me a small Sprite and a Happy Meal in a bag. I handed the bag and drink to my daughter in the back seat.

As we drove off, my daughter said,

“Mommy, do they talk at this McDonald’s?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The people. They didn’t talk when they took your money, and they didn’t say anything when you got the food.”


Wow. I actually hadn’t even noticed the lack of verbal communication. Me, the Customer Service Queen didn’t even notice. You know why I didn’t notice? Because rote interactions like this are so common that this felt like the norm. 

But she was right. Other than the voice coming through the drive-thru speaker, there was no verbal communication.


It just so happened that 5 weeks to the day from this muted drive-thru experience, I was scheduled to deliver a keynote at Hamburger University, on the campus of the McDonald’s worldwide headquarters outside of Chicago.

I’m a storyteller. I had to tell this story to my audience of McDonald’s managers and executives. So I did. I opened my keynote with the story of “Mommy, do they talk at this McDonald’s?”

The audience was stunned. Frozen. Speechless. They may hate me for this, but they needed to hear it. I knew I’d done the right thing. Regardless of how awkward I felt on the big stage at that moment, they needed to hear this.

I then said to the audience, “Let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about the fact that no matter how amazing your French fries are, people remember most their interaction with your people.”

We had productive and actionable dialogue right there in the auditorium, and I got a standing ovation when I wrapped up. Just as I was exiting stage left, one of the executives from Customer Satisfaction asked me for my business card, and she told me to write my home address on the back of my business card. I did as I was told.

It turns out they didn’t hate me for telling my story. Whew! I stayed for lunch with the wonderful people at McDonald’s and then headed to Chicago O’Hare.

The next morning my doorbell rang, and it was FedEx with a huge box from McDonald’s…addressed to my daughter, Lauren!

My husband and I helped Lauren open up the massive box. The first thing she pulled out was an apology letter from McDonald’s. They apologized for her experience in the drive-thru in Tulsa! Ahhhh…

The second thing Lauren pulled out was an autographed photo of Ronald McDonald! Now, Lauren was born in 2000. She truly had no idea who Ronald McDonald was. So she tossed the picture aside. (I grabbed it and I still have it to this day. I remember going to McDonald’s as a kid when Ronald was there for public appearances!)

The box was filled with toys! Lots and lots and lots of Happy Meal toys of all kinds, themes, shapes, and colors. Lauren was over-the-moon excited. I was too.

Lauren is 16 now, driving and working part time with me. She still remembers the McDonald’s where no one talked to us. She literally still remembers that.

Delighting the Patient Training.001

No matter how amazing your products or services are, what people remember is how your employees made them feel.

The great news is our McDonald’s story ended well. My family still loves McDonald’s, and we all remember how Lauren felt when opening the box of Happy Meal toys.

How do your employees make your customers feel?

Do your employees make customers feel like an interruption, like a commodity, like they could care less if the customer ever came back? If so, you need to take swift action.

For help in how to talk to customers, check out:

5 Ideas to Improve the Way Your Employees Talk to Customers – Use these free 5 tips (plus videos) to hold a 5-minute training session to help your employees sound friendlier and “warmer” in face-to-face interactions and over the telephone

Customer Service eLearning– 10 courses to improve the way your employees talk to customers over the phone and email

Phone call Flow Strategy – Free 9-point guide (also with videos) to improve your telephone customer experience

Trainer’s Kits – Do-it-yourself facilitator kits for corporate trainers to train on a variety of customer service topics


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