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Commentary > Wastler's Wanderings
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Ronald! Don't McCry!
The new dictionary entry for 'McJob' may rankle the clown, but it's nothing to get that upset about.
November 10, 2003: 2:22 PM EST

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - "Just because I'm a clown doesn't mean I don't have feelings too!" said Ronald McDonald.

"You're McKidding, right?" I quipped. His red-painted lower lip began to quiver. "Sorry," I mumbled.

"Sure, everything's a joke when a clown is around. But I take my work seriously. And I don't like things that denigrate it. And THIS ..." he angrily pointed a gloved hand at the dictionary ... "denigrates it."

There was the new entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. "McJob," it said, "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement."

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"Well, that's more a testament to your business success," I offered. "You make food cheap, you make it fast, it appeals to the widest slice of the U.S. population ... people these days put 'Mc' in front of various words to signify that greatest common-denominator, commoditized product approach."

"You mean to signify cheap and plebeian," Ronald accused.

I shrugged.

"Look, jobs in my restaurants are not dead-end," he clucked, starting to count off points on his fingers. "We give lots of kids their first taste of employment. They learn job skills and obligations and go on to bigger and better things. Many of our managers and executives got their start working in crew positions in McDonald's restaurants. We've been recognized for work in minority hiring. We also are a leader in hiring retirees ..."

"Yeah, yeah," I said. "All good points and good work. I believe your CEO, Jim Cantalupo, raised those points in his letter to Merriam-Webster protesting the "McJob" entry?"

Ronald nodded.

"But your restaurant has excelled at coming up with machines and procedures designed to take human error out of the food process, right? Little charts and timers and devices to keep the fries from burning?" Ronald slumped a little. "So you certainly aren't gearing the job toward Einstein-types, right?" The clown sighed. "And you sure aren't paying five-star chef rates to those fry cooks, are you?"

"Still not dead-end," Ronald muttered. "Anyway, I have a trademark on the term 'McJOBS' -- got it when we set up our program for the disabled."

"And a good program it is."

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"Well, my lawyer is telling me we might be able to raise an issue about the dictionary entry and the trademark," Ronald pouted defiantly.

"C'mon, Ronald, you don't want to do that. It'll make you look petty. The fact of the matter is your restaurant -- while producing reasonable food at reasonable prices -- isn't a sacred institution. People don't grow up saying 'Gosh, I want to be a McDonald's Drive-Thru cashier.' But folks may recognize it's a place to get a steady job ... work that may not be intriguing in and of itself, but honest work nonetheless. A standard, run-of-the-mill job ... a McJob."

His lower lip began to quiver again.

No one likes to see a clown cry.  Top of page


Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of CNN/Money and a commentator on CNNfn.




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