Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Author: Mike Lortz

Our next writer is a stand-up comedian, so let's do a stand-up comedian-style intro, shall we?

Ladies and gentlemen, you might know our next performer from his sportswriting at "Bus Leagues Baseball"and "RaysIndex", or you might know him from his own web site "" or maybe you've seen him on stage at the Tampa Improv or cavorting about town as his afro-ed alter-ego Jordi Scrubbings. You may even remember him from his guest spot on this very web site a year ago. Or it's entirely possible you're not familiar with him at all. Either way, let's keep it going right now for Miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike Lortz!

The Inconsistent Value of Fries and Drink

As always, it’s an honor to be here among other great writers. I’d like to thank the academy, my co-stars, and my writers (oops!). And of course, thanks to Clark for hosting this great bloggeration mixtape. Every year I find new voices here and this year is no different.

Speaking of no different, last year I used this forum to voice a complaint on a situation that had been bugging me for years. For those who forgot, or who weren’t around, last year I spouted off on the insane amount of letter labels I receive in the mail from charities. I even created a new word: “free-tionary”. It hasn’t caught on yet, but I’m still using it.

This year, I’d like to again get on my soapbox about something that has bugged me for a while. One of those societal peccadilloes that make no sense on the surface and make even less sense the more you investigate. One of those things most of us face regularly without even knowing about it.

A little bit about me, I am fast food restaurant addict. I’m single and typically too lazy to cook, so I go to fast food restaurants at least once a week. This is different from a fast food addict. I eat healthy, I just do it at McDonalds, Wendys, and Subway. I’m a grilled chicken sandwich junkie. And of course, I always get a value meal. I know fries are terrible and sweet tea is liquid crack, but I gotta get both. Not getting a drink and fries with a sandwich is like eating cereal with no milk, drinking kool-aid with no sugar, eating peanut butter with no jelly, and eating ham with no burger.

But what really tweaks my melon is when the price of these valuable extras varies between meals at the same restaurant. It’s true. Sometimes the value in the value meal is different per meal. Most people don’t realize this as they use value meals as convenience more so than for a true value.

Confused yet?

I recently toured a McDonalds, a Burger King, and a Wendys on Kennedy Ave in Tampa. I figured proving my theory would be best at fast food joints on one of Tampa’s most highly trafficked road. Here is what I found:

First, some insight on my methodology. Because of its average size between small and large, I decided to set “medium” as the basis of my cross-restaurant comparison. Disclaimer: I didn’t get picky and measure ounces.

At McDonalds, value meals come with a medium size drink and fries. Those components individually cost $2.19 for the fries and $1.99 for the drink, totaling $4.18. For some insane reason, McDonalds has the greatest price variance for these components in their meals. For example, if you order a Big Mac meal, the price is $5.99. The sandwich by itself is $3.29. That’s $2.70 for the fries and drink. That price is consistent for the ¼ pounder with cheese as well.

However, if you order the “two cheeseburger” value meal, you will pay .80 cents more for the same fries and drink. One cheeseburger costs $.99, two cost $1.98, and yet the meal with medium fries and a drink costs $5.49. That’s $3.51 for the fries and drink.

How does that make any sense?

Down the road at Burger King, things are little less varied. A medium drink and a medium fries costs $3.84. Unlike McDonalds however, Burger King sets their defaults to small and medium costs 50 cents extra. But there is still variance for the same product. For example, a Whopper costs $3.49 individually and $5.99 with a medium drink and medium fries. That’s $2.50 for the value part of the meal.

However, if you order the 10 piece chicken nugget you pay more for the medium drink and medium fries. A 10 piece nugget box by itself is $2.69 and the meal is $5.49. That’s $2.80.

How does that make sense? Where did the additional 30 cent cost come from?

At least things are more normal at Wendys. There a medium drink costs $1.99 and a medium fries costs $1.99. That’s between the price of Mickey Ds and the King. But where Wendys gets credit is in its value pricing. Like Burger King, Wendys sets their default to small, and upgrading to medium is additional 69 cents. But every medium sized combo is $2.69, regardless of the meal. It doesn’t vary from chicken to burger to salad to anything else.

So cheers to Wendys for being consistent with their product prices. Even though the nine usually makes you have to carry a number or two, you can sorta kinda do the math in your head.

And as Andy Rooney used to say, I like that.


Ruprecht said...

I'm exhausted ...

Number Whisperer said...

I'm so with you on this one.