Genuine service, or meaningless marketing ploy? We conduct an experiment to see what happens if you pass on the Golden Arches’ offer to see some pearly whites.
While Japan isn’t the only territory in which McDonald’s has proudly offered free smiles as part of its customer service, Japanese diners have always been particularly fond of the nicety. In 2015, “Smile: 0 yen” was reinstated as an official menu item at all Japanese McDonald’s branches, and as of this July, smiles have also been added to McDonald’s home delivery service (yes, fast food burgers being delivered to your doorstep is yet another awesome thing about Japan’s culinary culture).
However, there’s one big difference between how the smiles are offered through the McDonald’s delivery app as opposed to inside their restaurants. When you finish placing your order through the delivery app, it displays a “Smile: 0 yen” icon which you can tap to request the item, or ignore and tap to finish your order. In other words, you’re effectively asked whether you want the smile or not, and so we wondered what would happen if we passed on the offer.
To find out, we ordered a batch of burgers to be delivered to SoraNews24 headquarters in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, making sure that we selected the free smile as one of our items. Shortly after, the doorbell rang, and Seiji, one of our Japanese-language correspondents, jumped up and opened the door.
Standing there was a snappily uniformed McDonald’s delivery woman, with an insulated bag containing our food in her hands and a smile on her face, just like we’d requested.
OK, so now we knew that McDonald’s was as good as its word about supplying smiles…if customers asked for them. So we then placed another order, but this time we didn’t select the free smile when the prompt came up.
Once again, Seiji was closest to the door when the bell rang…
…and as he swung the portal open, he saw the very same delivery woman, this time with an even bigger smile than she’d shown us the first time!
Seiji handed over the necessary payment and closed the door as the woman walked away. But rather than start eating, he collapsed on the floor.
We’re not sure if this was because Seiji isn’t used to getting even one smile from a woman in a day, let alone two, or because he was despairing over the fact that no matter what actions he takes in life, he seems powerless to effect change on the world around him.
▼ Seiji is a complicated guy sometimes.
But it turns out that McDonald’s free smile delivery service actually does provide customers with reason to believe in their own existentialist capabilities. Once we picked Seiji off the floor and carried him over to the lunch table, we noticed something.
Each of our orders were big enough to require two bags. Here’s a shot of our first batch…
…and here’s the second.
Notice anything different?
That’s right – if you request free smiles, McDonald’s makes sure you get them, and since your order is to-go, the smiles are mobile too, appearing as hand-drawn greetings on the delivery bags! But if you don’t ask for the smiles, the bags come with no extra doodles or messages.
This brought Seiji’s smiles-received count for the day up to four, and coupled with the fact that he now had a two-fisted lunch to enjoy, our reporter couldn’t help letting loose with a smile of his own.
[ Read in Japanese ]