McDonald\'s Food Allergy Policy Language Barrier

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 5:39am
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Okay. I live about 45 minutes south of Chicago. About 20 miles. (That's a guess, I've never timed or measured it.)

This is very subjective, but I'd say we have a prominent Hispanic population. A very successful one at that. Lot's of businesses and franchises that are Hispanic owned or staffed largely by those in the Hispanic community.

Including a McDonald's in my area. There are [i]Three[/i] Mcdee's within 5 to 10 minutes of my home. Five if you say 15 minutes in heavy traffic. I could very well chose any of the five (er....six, now that I think of it) and still not be inconvenienced by the drive. (Scary, folks, isn't it?) Like Walgreens. Could be part of Area 51 for all I know. Some subterranean underground.

Anywhooo. I [i]choose[/i] to go to the McDonald's owned and operated largely under Hispanic influence. All three in my area are clean, neat, and in repair, (newer), but I choose to solicit the business under Hispanic management. I know I'm emphasizing that, but that's the deciding factor folks. It's the cleanest, the fastest, and the food is always fresh, warm, and appealing looking. They don't crunch the tops of the take out bags either. The manager always gives Iz an "under three toy". Sometimes, slips the boys a toy as well ("Wowee robots" today). When I go to the drive-thru...I actually get a straw, silverware when necessary, and a napkin.

Anywhooo. Even sans the toys, I'd still go based on the product and facility presentation. The staff are courteous.

Anywhooooooooooooo. Today, I had something to digest. Today, we went there for breakfast. My oldest son is adamant about "choosing" what he wants to eat there lately, and he was heavily invested in obtaining a "Cinnamon Melt". Near rabbid. [img][/img]

I told him we'd have to look at the ingredients, and possibly the manufacturer. Investigate.

I asked the girl (anglo, highschool, completely lost) at the register to show me the ingredient list. I wasn't sure if it would be on the regular "nutrition" brochure since I had not found their "bakery" cookies there before and had to obtain the information from the "product" booklet kept in the back. I had three children with me and was not in the mood to thumb through the fold out brochure.

I was hoping for a miracle, I know.

Anyw.....she said "No we don't have ingredent lists." I quickly told her they did and if I could please see the manager, she'd get it for me, I was sure.

The manager came, and when I reminded her of my sons allergies to peanuts and nuts, she quickly (and [b]mistakenly[/b], I might add) informed me: [i]"There are no "nuts" in them"[/i] as she motioned to the [i]picture[/i] on the menu overhead. I told her we needed to read the ingredient list to make a more accurate assessment.

The manager, hispanic, knows me well enough [i]to know I am not hispanic[/i], gave me the nutrition brochure in the kiosk by the registers. The brochure written entirely [i]in Spanish[/i]. It was not a "bilingual" brochure. She looked through it, showing it to me, and I finally said: [i]This is in Spanish[/i], where is the ingredient lists [i]in English[/i]? I think she was a bit surprised that she didn't notice she was reading along in Spanish and that I didn't "get it". [img][/img] I know enough spoken Spanish, but surely not enough to read an ingredient list. [img][/img] [img][/img] Maybe it's my name.... [img][/img] My daughter's name. Something about me.

So. She looked in the kiosk for a brochure in English.

There wasn't one available. Didn't even look like there was a slot open. Got to admit, I felt [i]slighted[/i]. You know, English being the national language, (it still is, isn't it? lol...) but no brochure in English. LOL even harder!

She eventually obtained one from the [i]back office/supply room[/i].

The "melts" were not listed, so I told her there Must be a "product information" page in the back [i]book[/i]. She went and found another manager (?) I guess, whom I've not seen previously, who obtained the page I needed quickly for her, but probably didn't anticipate her giving it [b]to me[/b], as when she (the anglo manager) saw she was givng the product information page (a copy) to me, she quickly came over and started going [i]on and on and on[/i] to the other manager that:

[b]"we can't discuss ANYTHING related to allergies and ingredients with customers"[/b]

HUGE LOOK OF SURPRISE on the hispanic manager's face. I felt sorry for her truly, since the other manager was very curt and abrupt. Scolding. I was almost sorry I asked. I wasn't intending for this person, whom I talk to on a weekly basis, whom I let even cuddle my infant daugher, whom I shared my pregnancy cravings with, get scolded by someone who was maybe there just [i]temporarily[/i].

I scarfed up the page and just as quickly told her that I didn't think the company meant I couldn't read he brochure or product information pages [i]for myself[/i] or why would you have them to begin with? I told her I had previously called corporate in Oak Brook some years back and I wasn't under the impression that I wasn't allowed to[i] read[/i]. That as I understood it the new "gag" order was only in regards to [i]interpretation[/i] and verbal dissemination of info from employee to customer. Hey, I could be wrong, but that's how I understood it.

(I'm also adding that maybe the "melts" might make their way to the "ingredient lists" in the future, but I'm not sure. Maybe it depends on who manufactures it. Like the bakery cookies.

So, I read the product information, and at the bottom is a "manufactured in a facility that also process peanuts and nuts" warning. In plain view. (or something to that affect, the page is still in my car, can't read it now, might post it later)

So. That's my trip to McDonald's today. Just thankful that I'm not the type to let someone else decide if a food is safe or not for my child based [i]on a picture[/i]. I'm sure McDonald's corporate is glad too.

[i]How messy that would be.[/i]

But my further observation is, [i]how well is McDonald's educating it's employees who might have a language barrier, in many areas, including "Allergens"?[/i] I was under the impression it was part of their training. Especially for "managerial staff"? Don't get me wrong, the manager is very proficient in spoken english. Written? I don't know. She's very pleasant, efficient, neat. I'm just wondering about the look of surprise one manager (Hispanic) gave the other manager (Anglo) when the issue of the "gag" order was discussed, and why one manager (who was new, or at least new to the location) knew where the "product information" was, or that it even existed, and the other who had been there for several years, since it opened, did not. Is McDonalds backing up their "on the books" practice with what is practice in "actuality"? You know, what *is* in the training manual anway?

General Disclaimer: I am not offering advice in any manner or form.
ooo yick. edit gobs of italics.

[This message has been edited by MommaBear (edited March 18, 2007).]

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 5:42am
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by MommaBear:
[b]Anywhooo. I choose to go to the McDonald's owned and operated largely under Hispanic influence. All three in my area are clean, neat, and in repair, (newer), but I choose to solicit the business under Hispanic management. I know I'm emphasizing that, but that's the deciding factor folks. It's the cleanest, the fastest, and the food is always fresh, warm, and appealing looking. They don't crunch the tops of the take out bags either. The manager always gives Iz an "under three toy". Sometimes, slips the boys a toy as well ("Wowee robots" today). When I go to the drive-thru...I actually get a straw, silverware when necessary, and a napkin.
I go there despite the fact it has a "playland". I despise those playlands. I went through years of constantly telling my children "no" when they asked to go in the playlands. The boys have since outgrown it, but I'm sure the baby will soon be pleading. I'm sure I will still say "no". Ick.

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 6:25am
NicoleinNH's picture
Joined: 06/21/2003 - 09:00

Mommabear-I had a similar experience with Dunkin Donuts. I don't think they are big in the Chicago area but out here there is a Dunkin Donuts every 1/2 a mile. Corporate responded fairly quickly, but it left me wondering how "trained" their employees are when the managers were not.
I've had employees of restuarants, even managers, assure me that they KNOW the product is 100% safe--then when I look at the ingredients myself, I see they are 100% wrong.
I hope your son found something else for breakfast [img][/img]

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 6:31am
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by NicoleinNH:
[b]I hope your son found something else for breakfast [img][/img]
He grabbed a "Deluxe Breakfast". no advice, it works for us, I'm sure lots of people on this site wouldn't touch it. Even if only for the fat content. [img][/img]
But yes, he's still griping about that "cinnamon melt". I think it's because so much at McDonald's has been available for him to eat before. I think he was just assuming McDonald's wouldn't be putting any risk into something that was a "stand alone" item and didn't list peanuts or nuts as an [i]intentional[/i] ingredient? I mean, it shouldn't be hard for them to do, right? I guess it wasn't on their list of priorities.
. Maybe him and I (and my younger son) should just be thankful for what he *can* eat off the menu. [b]I'm almost glad he can't eat it.[/b] Didn't really check the fat grams, but I wouldn't be surprised if it made me cringe.

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 6:38am
lalow's picture
Joined: 03/24/2004 - 09:00

a while back i went to a mcdonalds in mesa, arizona on vacation. i was looking for something nuts/milk free for my ds for breakfast. i really had no hopes for finding something but we were waiting there for someone. anyway, the staff/manager had NO idea of any information about ingrediants in the food. they kept showing me the page which had the calories listed. i dont believe they understood what i was asking for but one of the managers was english speaking but didnt know either. we ended up leaving. i really hate fastfood anyway.
James 5 yrs, NKA
Ben 4 yrs, PA and MA

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 11:22am
Carefulmom's picture
Joined: 01/03/2002 - 09:00

The cross contamination is so widespread there that I would not find an ingredient list helpful. Sure, it would rule things out, but after watching the employee using the same hand to touch 8 different items, McD`s is out of my comfort zone even with an ingredient list. I also saw her use the same tongs for milk items and non-milk items, so I assume they tong share for everything....or at least I can`t assume that they use separate tongs. About the Spanish instead of English, it is so out of hand here in Los Angeles. I can definitely see being handed a brochure in Spanish by the employees at McDs, and I definitely don`t look Hispanic. About the gag order, maybe it has to do with the huge lawsuit over the french fries and McDonalds not declaring the allergens. GREAT attorney, he enthousiastically took my Van De Kamps case.
[This message has been edited by Carefulmom (edited March 18, 2007).]

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 1:42pm
PennMom's picture
Joined: 08/01/2006 - 09:00

Thanks for posting this- I wondered about these when I saw the commercial yesterday. Their website for allergen/nutrition information has them added under desserts now, the allergen labeling states "CONTAINS: WHEAT, EGG, MILK AND SOY LECITHIN. " but doesn't mention processed in the same plant with... that you saw- I am glad you mentioned that- makes them out of my comfort zone! Thanks again!

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 2:34pm
Lindajo's picture
Joined: 10/14/2003 - 09:00

MB, I understand completely where you are coming from. I do not intend to offend anyone, but I don't understand, in this country where English is a [i]first[/i] language, they put employees who don't speak or understand English in a customer service position. I have been in many frustrating positions where neither I nor the person I was dealing with could understand each other. I am sure that if we went to another country where English was not the primary language, we would have to learn their's in order to survive. I feel the same way about our country.
I can't speak for McD's because I don't go there, but like NicoleNH said, we have Dunkin Donuts on every block in my town. I once went into one and asked for a "mocha latte" and was given a "gingerbread latte". When I asked her to remake the mocha latte, she made another "gingerbread" one. I asked for a refund and she started yelling at me in a language I didn't understand and I asked for the manager. He, too, hardly spoke any English and offered to make another. My DD who was with me was very frustrated also and told them they should listen to the customers more so they get the order right. After some arguing, I did get my money back and the manager yelled at his employee (all in their native language) and somehow I felt it was blamed on me.

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 2:37pm
McCobbre's picture
Joined: 04/16/2005 - 09:00

I have a couple of reactions, emotional and otherwise:
1) first, recently in a south of Downtown Houston (very inner city) MickeyDs, I asked for an ingredient list for the snack wraps (I eat them all the time--wanted to know caloric info). No, they didn't have them. Yeah, right. But I knew that if I took some time when I got back to my office, I could get the info from the website. I ususally get them grilled w/o any sauce (freaks out the staff--keeps them on their toes). But I was surprised the nutritional info wasn't readily available. Upset even.
2) I don't know why, but the whole lack of ingredients in English thing in your experience didn't really bother me. I'm used to having to ask about peanut ingredients in Spanish at family owned restaurants here in Texas. So I don't know, it didn't register to me as odd or a problem really (I'll read ingredient lists and I have to switch to the English ones on purpose sometimes). However, I can see how someone who never deals with that might have a difficult time. I mean, if you don't know how to ask for peanut in Spanish, then yeah, it could be a serious problem.
3) What bothered me was the snotty manager's attitude toward discussing allergens and then influencing this other one that was trying to be helpful. URGHHGH!! Yeah, that seems really, really wrong.

Posted on: Sun, 03/18/2007 - 10:59pm
ajas_folks's picture
Joined: 04/28/2000 - 09:00

One mega-corporation.
Two managers:
One trying to practice the art and International language of [i] customer service [/i], and
the other practicing corporate policy of [i] cover your rumpness [/i].
Made me think of sign here in town which says something like
[b] [i] Example.
A language that everyone can understand. [/i] [/b].

Posted on: Mon, 03/19/2007 - 12:36am
saknjmom's picture
Joined: 04/02/2003 - 09:00

I have also had the experience of mc donald's not having the nutritional information available in English. It was about 1 year ago and DS wanted an apple pie. I told him I didn't think it was a good idea and he said, let's read the, thinking this was a good learning experience for DS, I went to the wall where all the info is hanging and could not find a single brochure in English....we were not even in an area with a high concentration of hispanics. I asked the people who work there and they were like, no that is the only brochure we have. Two ladies offered to translate for me...I passed on that.
I emailed the corporate headquarters. Now, when I go to mc.d I tend to investigate their literature....many times, there are no brochures and many times they are only in Spanish....


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