I was told off this week by my students for using McDonald's as an example to illustrate my point yet again. In fact it was the second week on the trot that I was reprimanded as they told me previously that I was always peppering my conversation with Latin phrases "'cos it makes you sound more clever."
"No I don't," I replied - I've told my students a million times not to exaggerate. The offending example came as I was attempting to explain how fatty foods (especially those from the exalted temple of the Golden Arches) were a demerit good. I thought about it for a little while and realised that two weeks ago I'd told them about the use of 'stars' to motivate McDonald's staff and their extensive training programmes when we discussed labour productivity. I'd also mentioned them when we discussed possible issues relating to economies of scale and the fact that a homogenised world can lead to less choice (a weak argument in their view - a McDonald's in every town sounded like a wonderful idea) and discussed the use of persuasive advertising as an example of non-price competition. They were right, I seemed to be talking about McDonald's all the time - and I'm a vegetarian!
"Mea culpa," I confessed.
In my defence, of course, I have always felt it is important to bring in the real-world examples that may resonate more closely with young people. Economics can be highly theoretical and sometimes other-worldly - I imagine that it must seem like Harry Potter without the cracking plot lines. I always get a look of bemusement when I explain the theory of perfect competition or perfect monopoly and then say that there are very few actual examples ("if I had perfect knowledge, Jon, I'd go on the Million Pound Drop"). McDonald's has always struck me as universal in its appeal and that young people understand its products, services and business approach.
However, I don't want to sound like a stuck record (not that they would know what one of them would sound like). So turning to my trusty set of blogs (starting with Tutor2U of course!), news apps, wesbites, and RSS feeds to find fresh and inspiring new examples imagine my surprise when I find that McDonald's was mentioned not once but four times in the last 24 hours' worth of business and economics news. Reuters ,among others, announced that McDonald's profits and share value had fallen due to the strong dollar reducing the value of international sales for the company when revenue is repatriated to the USA, indicating that this downfall is a barometer for the American Economy. The Telegraph, on the other hand, report that McDonald's has seen a 10% increase in its revenue within the UK due to its clever repositioning as a family restaurant to compete with up-market supermarkets. The Belfast Telegraph reports that McDonald's have replied to criticism from Jamie Oliver about the apparent irony that arose with the chain's high profile contribution to the fitness-promoting London Olympic visitors park (it's all about ensuring high quality customer service apparently). Even the good-old Daily Mail has posted a video showing the McDonald's fries' journey from potato to fryer (good example of adding value).
Using McDonald's as an example? I'm loving it.