July 13, 2067
OAK BROOK, IL–In yet another example of the through-the-looking-glass pricing schemes that have become popular among consumer products bellwethers over the past 18 months, McDonald’s announced today that it will begin paying its customers to eat select combinations of its menu items. Starting August 1, customers ordering from the new “Surplus Value Menu” will also receive cash payments ranging from $.15 to $1.45. The flagship of the new menu, the “Big Mac Surplus Value Meal,” including a Big Mac Classic sandwich, french fries, and a branded soft drink, costs the customer nothing, and comes, instead, with a cash payment of $.99.
“A number of related insights lead to the development of the ‘Surplus Value’ strategy,” explains McDonald’s Marketing VP Friedrich Shank. “The first is that we live in an attention economy, and in an attention economy you pay for eyeballs, or, in our case, stomachs. The second, and more important, is that consumers with more money buy more. Ford kept wages high so that his workers could afford to be his customers. We’re taking that one step further and paying our customers so that they can afford to be our customers. A huge percentage of our potential worldwide market continues to live at the subsistence level and can’t afford our products. This new strategy will bring them into the McDonald’s fold.”
Fielding questions from concerned investors, Shirley Wheere, McDonald’s IR Chief, noted that “McDonald’s is adopting this new strategy from a position of market strength. We continue to dominate the quick-service and education channels. The ‘Surplus’ strategy aims at top-line growth, from which we expect notable bottom-line follow-through.”
“Sure, I’m concerned,” opines independent industry analyst Orna Kincklenum. “Whenever you see something like this it gives you pause. Dramatic loss leader pricing is a desperate measure. You don’t amputate the limb unless it’s about to fall off anyway.”
Economic and business theorists characterize strategies like the “Surplus Value Menu” as attempts to “extract internal value from negative enterprise externalities.” Harvard economist J. Yis Prudome explains: “The classic example would be the relationship between a polluter and a company that supplies clean-up equipment and services. If, by polluting, I make business for the clean-up guys, I can partner with them, both to tailor my pollution in order to make their clean-up more efficient, and, more importantly, to get payment in exchange for agreeing to continue polluting and making more clean-up business. To understand how a company like McDonald’s can afford to do something like this, you just have to ask yourself who, outside the firm, benefits when people eat more Big Macs? That’s who’s paying you to eat them.”
Others tie the McDonald’s announcement to its recent retention of FeedBank, the financial services and consulting subsidiary of temporal networking giant Futurefeedforward. “If you look at the SEC filings of all of the companies who’ve announced something like this in the past year,” points out Plum Difference, director of investor and consumer advocacy group FIGHT, “you’ll see that all of them partnered with or hired FeedBank in the months preceding the change in business strategy: BP, International Paper, MT&T, all of them. FeedBank pushes the idea that the time value of money is about to reverse, that future dollars are worth more than present dollars. What’s happening is that FeedBank is helping the big guys pawn-off their present dollars on an unsuspecting public.”
The Surplus Value Menu will be available, beginning August 1, and for the foreseeable future, at participating McDonald’s franchises worldwide.