Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Class Rules and Chicken McNuggets

Hot off the presses, or hot off the internet I suppose: Did you hear about the woman who called 911 because McDonald's ran out of McNuggets? It's all over the internet!

Sadly, yes. Latreasa Goodman of Florida is becoming famous even as I type this, while her story and her picture is multiplied throughout the world-wide web. We can make an educated guess as to who is sending it (they have the internet and time to enjoy it, for one thing), and why it is newsworthy. They think this is the story of a stupid woman.

It is the story of a woman who didn't get information she needs to navigate reality. Lack of education is not stupidity.

Okay, here's my summary. This 27-year old woman walks into a McDonald's, orders chicken McNuggets. Yum. She pays four dollars or whatever they cost. After taking her money, they tell her that the store is all out of McNuggets, and ask her if she would like something else from the menu. Ms. Goodman says no, she wanted McNuggets, just give me a refund. The employee says no, store policy says no refunds, we can give you something else but not cash. (Kind of an asshole policy in a situation like this, if you ask me.)

So she calls the police. That is, she calls 911. In her mind, she was the victim of theft. They took her money, didn't give her the merchandise, and wouldn't give her a refund. In her mind, if you've just been robbed, you call 911. It makes sense from her perspective - and her lack of education.

She told a reporter something very revealing:

Goodman told WPBF News 25 that she didn't "have a right to jump across the counter and snatch" the money, so she chose to handle it another way.

Look at the procedural knowledge this woman has. She appears to know only two ways to pursue a refund at a fast-food restaurant: physically fight for it, or call the police.

I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I was raised in a middle-class home and when I was HALF the age of Ms. Goodman, I knew how to speak to adults in a formal register and pursue a refund if I was not satisfied. If I didn't get the refund there, I know other ways to pursue it: angry letter or phone call to the company, find a way to publicize what they did, or -- let it go. Walk away from the four dollars.

Ah, and that is another thing. Walking away from the four dollars is easier for some than others. Suppose in your budget (assuming you have a budget) you have $20 for discretionary spending for the month. Now reduce it to $10 if your income is uncertain. Subtract four dollars. In poverty, that four dollars is a big deal and so is the dignity with which one is treated by a store clerk.

Latreasa Goodman did not handle this situation in an acceptable way: she was cited for abusing the 911 line, and learned an expensive lesson in how to survive in the world. The fine, I am guessing, is far more than the four dollars; and now she is going to be held up for ridicule across the internet by people who got better information earlier, because they had more resources. Lucky us. Ha ha ha, look at that "stupid person."

In this case, "stupid" = doesn't know the rules by which my social class operates.


Kelly said...

This is the first I've heard about the mcnugget issue.

First of all, I'll agree... that's an unreasonable policy on McDonald's part. If they run out of something that's already been paid for, they should make a refund. (and geez... how did they run out? don't they keep plenty of stuff like that in their freezers?)

As for the woman's behavior... calling 911??? Puleeze! There were too many other alternatives for dealing with the situation.

Algernon said...

You and I know alternatives, Kelly, but in poverty not everyone learns basic procedural steps for navigating their culture.

This has been extensively researched and documented, and it is fascinating stuff.

I did a lesson plan around this news story today and it was fascinating. 4th graders aged 10 years new more strategies for pursuing a refund in this situation than this 27-year old woman did.

And people are passing this story around to laugh at her for being stupid? I can't. She is an example of the importance of education.

Anonymous said...

it's true -- McDonalds will tear you up if you're not careful... i had two Big Macs today in one sitting, and I feel like it was the worst mistake of my life