“I’m Lovin’ It”: McDonald’s customers pay it forward

Rebekah Devorak | Asst. Opinions Editor

It’s time to reevaluate that squishy feeling you get when you think about McDonald’s. Rather than simply softening your waistline, McDonald’s new promotion aims to charm our hearts with a little bit of lovin’.

The fast food powerhouse debuted “Pay with Lovin’” during Super Bowl XLIX with an emotional commercial. Unsuspecting customers with a hankering for a Big Mac were surprised when the cashier announced that their totals couldn’t be paid with money. Instead they had to “Pay with Lovin’”, by calling family members, dancing, hugging and spreading general compassion for others.

The promotion is running now through Feb. 14 at all participating McDonald’s, which is a nice nod to the Hallmark holiday all about the sweet stuff. One hundred customers are randomly chosen throughout the course of the event at each location to have their chance to show others what they love about them. If chosen, the customer then selects a piece of paper, which has their unorthodox form of payment written on it, from a heart-shaped box.

While “Pay with Lovin’” is probably more marketing stunt than company-wide kindness (according to a Business Insider article, McDonald’s has been desperately trying to grow their customer base as national sales in the U.S. continue to fall), it’s still heartwarming to see a mega-company like McDonald’s trying to inspire something other than a wish for more McMuffins.

In today’s world of go-go-go, it’s refreshing to have a chance to break for a second and remember what’s really important in life. When you think about it, the majority of people visiting a McDonald’s in the first place are probably only doing so because they don’t have time to cook. It’s unfortunately true that those little things – calling your mom to tell her you love her, offering someone a hug – are the first ones to be tossed out the window when life gets hectic.

Pay-it-forward experiences are not a new phenomenon, but they’re usually initiated by the customer rather than the company. You order an iced vanilla latte at Starbucks and decide to pay for the person’s caramel macchiato behind you. They elect to do the same for the hazelnut frappuccino behind them, and before you know it you have 378 consecutive people paying it forward, as was the case at a St. Petersburg, Florida, Starbucks in August.

But, the random acts of kindness mentality isn’t for everyone. Much like the inevitable person who ends the drive-through chain, there are people who are not lovin’ McDonald’s campaign.

Not everyone is comfortable with asking a stranger to dance or hugging the customer behind them. Even being asked to call home has unleashed a series of negative reactions. In one McDonald’s, a man was told to give his mother an “I love you” call. In the commercial, the call went perfectly and smiles were had all around. Unlike the commercial, this customer had a history of depression and suicide attempts, so much so that when he called his mom she thought he was about to kill himself.

It seems as though many would much rather surrender the cash for their meal than suffer an emotional phone call or an embarrassing pseudo-conga line with employees just for a freebie.

All in all, however, this promotion is a nice change of pace, even if the real life execution may be more cringe-worthy than the commercial. If nothing else, it reminds us that it’s good to take a step back once in a while to appreciate the little things in life.

Besides, who knows what might come from the lovin’ throughout the rest of the event? A Quad City Area (Illinois/Iowa) McDonald’s even had a marriage proposal.

I’m just hoping it wasn’t a command from the heart-shaped box.