Deborah Tan, Opinions

Dear McDonald’s – Deborah Tan

Dear McDonald’s,

One wonders how many Extra Value Meals were wasted in the bid to get hold of this "thing".

One wonders how many Extra Value Meals were wasted in the bid to get hold of this “thing”.

Congratulations on yet another fantastic marketing campaign. From a marketer’s point of view, the recent Hello Kitty campaign you ran is a fine case study of what it means to use desire to drive sales. We all know – from past Hello Kitty collaborations – it was going to be a success, anyway. For a feline without a mouth, and an oversized head, Hello Kitty is the planet’s most sought after commercial hookup. I cannot think of anything with Hello Kitty that has failed.

Anyway, I intend to have a word with the lil’ pussy about being so free with her affections. But today, let’s talk about you.

I do not care for Hello Kitty. Having worked in an industry known for its practice of using freebies to attract sales, I always saw Hello Kitty collectibles as a convenient way to jack up sales numbers. Why no magazine has put Hello Kitty as its cover model completely escapes me? If anyone from magazines is reading this right now, maybe you should consider launching a series of Hello Kitty covers with the different fashion capitals of the world serving as backdrops. If you ever do that, I expect a fee for the idea.

But yes, back to you, you silly clown.

McDonald’s is the world’s largest toy distributor. Since time immemorial, you’ve always given a toy with your Happy Meals. Sometimes, you launch a series of collectibles where each toy comes free with every Extra Value Meal bought. Fine. It’s all fine. In fact, if this is a business model that works, stick with it. Everyone wants something free whenever they buy something. It’s human nature.

What is not fine is the fact that you had neglected to realise that many people would buy the food just for the toy. And what they did after they got their toy was most abhorrent. Many people – upon receiving their limited edition Hello Kitty – simply dumped their Extra Value Meals at the bins.

That’s perfectly good food wasted. Surely this was something you could have seen coming?

Was it not possible for you to work with a movement like the Chope Food For The Needy? For anyone who wasn’t interested in eating their food, they could sign it away so you could hold those food and then feed some poor needy student or the elderly in the weeks to come?

Please do not tell us that the logistics of executing such a plan is an issue. You just coordinated the biggest, craziest marketing stunt Singapore has seen in recent times. Despite the haze, people were still going to your restaurants to buy Hello Kitty! Yes, let’s not even pretend that people really braved the haze for a Big Mac, shall we?

In 2011, it was revealed that over 458,000 Singaporeans earn less than $1,500 a month. 1 out of 7 citizens in this country earns less than $1,000. These are people for whom paying $8 for a fast-food meal is a luxury. These are people who probably could not afford to take their kids to McDonald’s on a weekly basis.

While you were busy profiting from this phenomenal Hello Kitty campaign, did you pause for a moment to think of how the needy could have benefited from this? Did you pause to consider how “sinful” and “ugly” it would be for people to buy these meals and then throw them away because there really is so many McNuggets and french fries a person can put inside him?

In 2007, Dr Lily Neo spoke up for the poorest segment of the population in Parliament. That year, she explained how the poorest in Singapore had only $5 a day to live on.

Sir, my single constituents told me that they needed to skip one meal a day to live on the $260 per month. And now, MCYS is going to give them $1 more a day. But, Sir, $1 a day will not be able to buy them one meal a day in any hawker centre.” Dr Lily Neo, 2007

Have things improved since Dr Neo’s speech? Well, I’m sure everyone knows the answer.

Yes, even though many Singaporeans have shown that they can spare both the time and the money to collect a series of Hello Kitty dolls, we need to be sensitive to the fact that there live among us, families who can barely afford to have three square meals a day.

Dear McDonald’s, perhaps the next time you launch another campaign for a collection of dolls that for some unknown reason causes grown men to MAKE COMPLETE ARSES of themselves in public, plan to give back to the society by getting people who don’t want the food to sign it away for a good cause. I’m sure there are many of us who would volunteer to move down the snaking queues to get the forms signed for you.

And for those of you who threw away perfectly edible food because you only wanted the toy, I hope you realise just how insensitive and selfish your actions were.

I sincerely hope such foolish waste of food will never happen in Singapore again.

As it is, life is hard enough for many of us. Let’s not rub salt into the wounds of those who can barely feed themselves.



15 thoughts on “Dear McDonald’s – Deborah Tan

  1. Dear Mc’Donalds,

    Suggestion: Use Vouchers as an alternative option to dine in or take away.

    Mechanics 1: Purchase Mc’D EVM vouchers and get a kitty toy.

    Mechanics 2 : Go online. Meal Voucher and Kitty will be delivered to your door step. Postage cost applied.

    Plus point 1: No food wastage. Vouchers valid for 30 days. Can be given to friend if you don’t feel like eating. Or can redeem your meal and eat some other day.

    Plus point 2: May reduce the lengthy Q time with the online sales.

    Thank you. Hope it helps.



  2. Deborah, I totally agree with your article. I’ve read so many negative comments here and that makes me see a lack of hope. “Singaporeans are selfish”, “Singaporeans only think of themselves”, “Your plan will never work”, all these just show how ignorant people can be. In stead of beating down an idea, give some constructive feedback. If you can’t come up with an idea to solve a problem, shut up, because I’m sure other people can and you’re just drowning them out. To all the haters, I’m not a Singaporean, but I know some who have hearts of gold and do volunteer work in and out of Singapore. If your not one of them, then speak for yourself. Deborah, thanks for writing your view so eloquently and I hope that McDonalds and every other food chain considers this seriously.


  3. Why not send your feedback to McD both US and SG hq? I’m sure your feedback could help in their CSR and would be much appreciated! Logistics and stuffs can be worked out within their staffs. But do also point out that there are older folks who don’t eat and are advised not to eat fried stuffs. So it may be tough for McD to work out a easy way to distribute the “unwanted” meals that comes as a package.


  4. The weird thing is, the author thinks that McDonald’s is responsible because Singaporeans waste food. Interesting. It’s like me blaming McDonald’s when my child got fat. What the author mentioned about donating the food is ideal, provided if there is enough time to plan for it. Back in 2012, there was a Hello Kitty launch but there was no such queue forming outside McDonalds. Everyone just simply purchase a meal, then the toy. No wastage at all. For this series, such a craze only happens until the fourth toys came out, which i think there is not enough time for McDonald’s to react and give thoughts about this. Giving idea after an incident had happened is indeed much simpler than solving the problem at the point of time when it happened. I guess McDonald’s can consider the author’s suggestion for their next campaign.


  5. I agree with your point about giving away the food to the needy. What McDonald’s did with selling the toy outright without the purchase of the EVM is even more disappointing, because it means they were simply laughing all the way to the bank by selling you an overpriced toy without any other provision of service or product. It also helped them to save on the food costs. If they were really socially responsible as to follow your suggestion, they will have to give the ‘donate’ food away. Now, why would they even want to do that when they can easily sell the toy, and yet be able to keep the food and sell it as per normal?


    • Hi CK,

      The article you attached to your comment did say that despite the fact that people could have bought the toy without buying an EVM, there were still people who threw their food away. As “Sidereus SG” mentioned below, it was still cheaper to buy the EVM and the toy than to simply buy the toy alone.

      I admit I made a mistake in assuming that you had to buy an EVM before you could buy a Hello Kitty. That’s because most businesses do not put their freebies up for separate sale. Even if a “designer” makeup pouch is more attractive to the consumer, magazines and beauty brands will still make the consumer pay for the main product before “rewarding” them with the freebie.

      By putting up your freebie for separate sale, the company is sending out the wrong message to the customers: that their main product is not worth buying at all.

      But it was not my intention to mislead the reader. “Somethingaboutrenes” already highlighted the fact that you can buy the toy without buying the EVM.

      I accept your criticism. Thank you for your honesty and for being so upfront with me.

      However, I continue to stick by my stand that to work with a charity to donate the “unwanted” food away is a better way of dealing with this Hello Kitty craze.

      Thank you,


      • Hey Deborah,

        Reading through your reply, it seem like there’s some contradiction with the answer given. If you don’t mind, could you reply my queries ?

        You mention on the point that many people upon receiving their limited edition Hello Kitty would simply dumped their Extra Value Meals at the bins. If so, wouldn’t macdonald save the trouble by allowing people to purchase the toys without the need to purchase a meal? Remember the early 2000 where people have to purchase a meal for their hello kitty? The negativity press with all those big hoo haa on food being dump away.

        I would actually think it a great move by them, first of all they do not need to have the negative image of people having to dump their food with every single set of toys they purchase and stuff. I just don’t think that seperating the sales of the toy with the meal would be sending out the wrong message at all.

        Also, you mention that working with movement like the Chope Food For The Needy to give away macdonald food to the poor and needy. Would any groups or movements would want consider giving away fast food? I meant no matter how healthy macdonald has improve on their meals, end of the day fast food is still fast food. I would rather those movements work with someone more healthy like SUB WAY or even our local hawkers.

        However, i think from this article there is another point we need to emphasis is those people who queue to buy those kitties instead of the true fans who want it. This resulted in lots of quarrels and how people see us singaporeans as one who simply exploit our cravings for “limited edition” items shown recently with the hello kitty and the N95 mask shortage.


    • Hi hi,

      I think I have explained my stance sufficiently.

      1. From a business standpoint, it is not the convention to put a freebie up for separate sale. Your product should be attractive enough for people to buy whether or not there is a freebie. So while putting the freebie up for separate sale seems like a great move to save food, it sends out the wrong message. McDonald’s may as well go into the business of selling Hello Kitties rather than burgers, then?

      2. Whether or not the food is “healthy” is not the issue I’m pursuing. If you are only given $5 a day for 3 meals, if someone gives you a Filet-o-Fish burger, would you not appreciate the kind gesture? That’s why I’m saying rather than throw the food away, why not have a platform where people can donate that meal to the needy. McDonald’s can choose to either donate real food or the worth of it in cash to the charity. That’s for McDonald’s to decide.

      3. I do not wish to detract from the point of my article by discussing whether people should queue up for Hello Kitty or N95 masks. But if a business wants to promote such a craze, it’s up to people whether they want to participate in it. All I’m saying is, please, think about how you can pay back to the society while encouraging such madness.

      Thank you,


  6. I think you have the finger pointing the wrong person.
    I believe your intention was good, but why is it sound like McD’s fault of the food waste, To me, it is all about those silly ppl that are crazy about some kids toy and waste the food.

    Also, your plan of “Food For The Needy” will not work, since you know Singaporean so well, you know those people are stingy, once the toys are gone, there will be no possible free food.

    Also, how do you define “needed”, if you can’t, soon after toy event is over, they might now crew up for the “free food” offered by kind people. And this will cause another problem.

    So, your plan will never work in Singapore, because you know Singaporean are selfish and only think for themselves.


    • Hi there, you are right to doubt the kindness of Singaporeans. I’m not blaming McDonald’s for food wastage. I think what I’m trying to put across here in my article is the point that McDonald’s can definitely play up its corporate social responsibility in a campaign like this. Companies take the lead and set an example to give back to society because they have the might and the resources to effect changes on a much greater scale. Even if few people take up the suggestion to “donate” their food, it would show that a big company like Macs has heart. And if we don’t try, we will never know. I still believe many Singaporeans would like to make a difference, so by providing a platform and the opportunity for such an initiative to happen, the Hello Kitty campaign would not come across as a “mania” or a chance for people to profit from this. It could have been – no pun intended – done in better taste.


  7. The EVM costs $4.50 (e.g. Fillet O Fish, McChicken). The plush costs $4.60. So in terms of dollars and cents, if one does not intend to eat the meal, and wants to spend the minimum, wouldn’t one purchase the cheapest meal and incur a cost of $9.10 vs buying the plush outright at $10?


  8. If I’m not wrong, McDonalds allowed them to buy it at $10 without meals. Actually the people who wasted the food should have just pass the food along, there are many people they can pass it along like the cleaners, elderly selling tissues, bus drivers etc.

    But ya, your idea is good too! Much more convenient for the customers to pass their unwanted food along! 🙂


    • Hi! Thanks for bringing that point up. If that was the case, then it’s great that food wasn’t wasted. But it would be a real pity if food was simply being cast aside because all people wanted was a toy.

      Thank you!


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