McDonalds and Ugly Americanism;

The McDonalds nearest us in Budapest, on Vorosvari ut., two blocks west of the Florian ter. trolley stop, has re-done their decor. They have an Elvis theme and seem to be trying for a slightly older clientele -- teens rather than kids. There is lots of neon, a juke box, and a booth done up to look like a 50's automobile. The focus points of the decoration are three life-sized wax figures of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean. The ugly part is that the Dean figure is holding a cigarette. It is not the case that Hungarians smile on teen smoking, selling cigaretts to minors is illegal. Just three weeks ago our son's grade school (a Hungarian public school) had an assembly with presentations about the dangers of smoking and drugs.

Do you suppose that McDonalds decorates their stores in the United States with images of people smoking cigarettes? I'll bet not. So what is going on? Is it just the case that corporate morality is an oxymoron? A sad way to start the 21st century.

By the way, if you want extra ketchup, to put on your fries for example, expect to pay extra. This extra charge seems standard in fast food places here in Hungary. At McDonalds you pay 49 forints for a 25 ml packet. I find that I like two packets with a medium fries. Ketchup is not a rare condiment in Hungary, any market will carry several brands. And Hungarian ketchup is very similar in taste and consistency to the American product. In a grocery store the price is 395 forints for a 500g (ie. half a kilo) plastic squeeze bottle. Converting everything to good old American measure, that is $1.41a pound in the supermarket and $36.95 a pound at McDonalds. Think about how significant the blessings of economic imperialism are the next time that the clerk at your American McDonalds drops a free handful of ketchup packets onto your tray -- and doesn't even think to recommend smoking to your kids..