Everyone has heard the one about the lady in the US who spilt McDonald’s coffee on her lap and won a cool US$2.7M. The figure was later reduced to $600,000 but surely the fear of litigation had sunk deep in McDonald’s psyche all over the world.
This is why the cold reception a Mickey D’s in China gave to a woman who walked into one of their glass doors might seem understandable. However, when brought to the public they were ultimately judged as “being pretty douchey.”
It all started when Ms. Wei in Hanzhou finished her meal and proceeded to exit the restaurant via their side exit leading into the shopping center that the McDonald’s was located in. However, Ms. Wei failed to notice the glass door blocking the exit and walked straight into it. As seen in the photo, the door had no writing on it and the frame’s black color blended in with the surrounding wall.
Although undoubtedly funny to those watching, anyone who has ever walked into a glass door can testify that aside from the embarrassment it hurts like an m-fer. In fact, Ms. Wei suffered an injury to her eyelid requiring 5 stitches.
In the old days, the restaurant probably would have apologized and agreed (if not offered) to pay her modest hospital bill of 500 yuan (US$78). However, clearly realizing that any form of apology could set them up for “punitive damages” they denied any and all responsibility saying:
“This restaurant’s design was approved by the fire inspector. Also because it meets the building’s safety standards, this incident cannot be our fault… [Ms. Wei’s] carelessness was the cause.”
One employee rubbed salt into the wound by adding “You’re the only person who hit that door. It’s your fault!”
With that, Ms. Wei filed a complaint with the Consumer Association. However, when they approached McDonald’s and the accident, the company replied “We are currently putting in her claim for compensation with a senior executive.” This was a complete shock to Ms. Wei who never heard this from the company herself.
Feeling at a loss, she took her story to the internet which resulted in a deluge of support for the spurned customer. The most echoed comment being along the lines of “You ought to sue.”
With a potential lawsuit on the table and McDonald’s stuck in a quagmire of bad PR a lawyer was asked about this case.
“If it was the case where this door usually has a note or some marking on it except for that time, then McDonald’s would certainly be liable. Regarding their claims about safety standards; their approval by the fire inspector has no bearing on this accident, and further research would have to be done to see if the building’s safety standards are up to the national levels.”
So we will have to wait and see what the next move is. Likely McDonald’s would want this whole matter to disappear and settle out of court, but we may just have another hot coffee incident brewing in the People’s Republic.