The Great McDonalds Delivery Debacle

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We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming…

It’s not all heart-break, high adventure, and orgies of awesomeness in my life. While I do still have a few entries to share from my summer tour of the United States and there’s some tales to tell after my recent visit to Changzhou; sometimes my life is little more than staying in bed, watching reruns of Game of Thrones, and indulging in a little home delivered McDonalds.

I’m reluctant to tack the word ‘goodness’ on the end there because, well, McDonalds may just be the Devil.

Home delivered?

McDonalds in Seoul, South Korea

You read that right. Both China and South Korea have taken sloth and indulgence to new levels by having the world’s greatest purveyor of greasy goodies deliver heart-attack inducing treats to your door with little more than a phone call.

And while South Korea (at least when I lived there) required you to speak enough Korean to place your order and provide your address, China has a handy little 24 hour English hotline that is accessed simply by pressing #2 when prompted. Pretty nifty!

Just like home

You’ll be relieved (or horrified) to know that McDonalds is pretty much the same the world over. McDonalds has fantastic quality control and that translates into getting a similarly good (or bad, depending on your tastes) serve of fries, Big Mac, or McFlurry wherever in the world you go.

McOz Burger, McDonalds
The awe-inspiring McOz complete with beetroot.

Most countries have made small edits to the menu such as the not-particularly-good Bulgogi Burger in Korea or the beetrot blessed McOz in Australia, but the menu is otherwise fairly recognizable.

Except, for some reason, Asia refuses to recognize the greatness of the Quarter Pounder. It’s not available in South Korea or China.

EDIT: A number of my readers back in South Korea have informed me that Korea recognized the greatness sometime between 2009-2010. You can even get the delicious Double Quarter Pounder now.

You don’t travel halfway around the world to eat the same junk you ate drunk at 3am back home, but the golden arches of McDonalds are a welcome little slice of home when you’re far away. It’s by no means a regular part of any foreigner’s diet while abroad (or I should hope it isn’t), but you’d be hard pressed to find somebody who hasn’t indulged in a sneaky burger or some McNuggets when homesickness gets a wee bit too much to ignore.

The Debacle

Since Nomadic American’s arrival in the country, a bit of sneaky late night McFlurry action has become a somewhat worrying fixture in our weekly diet. While we get out and try local food when we can, there has been the occasional evening where a Strawberry Orea McFlurry is a prospect too good to refuse.

Last night was one of those nights.

Despite the coming of winter and the cool in the air, we found ourselves huddled under a blanket in Heather’s Jiangning apartment wishing there was something to eat aside from snack food purchased from the convenience story under her apartment. With memories of our 4.30pm wanton soup dinner (what were we thinking?) distant, we decided to see if we could get McDonalds delivered to her place.

It had been easy enough to get food at my apartment in the past. The twenty or so foreign teachers who work here have ordered from McDonalds so often that they know our address before we’ve even finished rattling it off.

“Oh, the college? Okay. It’ll be there in ten minutes”.

But how to order when we didn’t even know Heather’s address? A bit of Google maps, a bit of trawling through old emails, and a lot of help from a wonderful McDonalds employee seemed to be the order of the day.

Until we realized that they’d sent our order to the old campus and not the new one. So call #2 was made.

Her: You want to change the order?

Me: No. I need to give you the right address

Her: We have already sent your order

Me: But we won’t be there

Her: You’re not at the college?

Me: We are, but there are two campuses

Her: 什么? (Chinese for ‘what’)

Me: The address is…

What followed was ten frustrating minutes of trying to first say and then spell the address I’d found on Google maps. When that didn’t work, the employee had a novel suggestion.

Her: Can you text it to me?

Me: Huh?

Her: Use your cell phone and send a message.

I was game if she was. The text went out and she called me back.

Her: You want your order to this address?

Me: Yes, please

Her: Not the other address in Baixu?

Me: No. That is a different school

Her: So you aren’t at the college?

Me: We are. They are different addresses. If you can cancel our old order and send it to this address instead, that’d be great.

Her: The order with two McFlurries?

Me: Yes. That’s the one.

Success! Half an hour later there was a timid knock on the door. Heather gave a cry of surprise and I hurried to tug on something more company appropriate than my Mickey Mouse boxers, and there he stood…

…with only 1/3 of our order. And no spoons for the fucking McFlurries he had remembered to bring. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Wait a minute,” the kid apologized, “I will go back and get the spoons”.

“We ordered more,” I said with an easy grin.

He pointed to the receipt that showed we had only ordered a pair of McFlurries. Not to be deterred (and aware he was going back to pick up a pair of plastic spoons anyway) I quickly pointed to the missing items on the glossy menu he had with him and placed the rest of our order.

“Okay,” he said, “Please go inside. I will return soon”.

And return he did. He might have brought me the wrong burger and the wrong drink, but ninety minutes after we’d started the process – I wasn’t going to complain.

Meanwhile, Heather’s phone began to ring as the original delivery driver tried to get us to collect our order. When my attempts at explaining in my God-awful Chinese didn’t get the job done, he called a half-dozen more times before we finally got a text message.

Your McDonalds is outside. Please collect it.

Heather hastily informed them that we had already received our order and there had been a mix-up. The reply came:

I am McDonalds employee. The driver waited but he has come home now. I am sorry.

Even in defeat, their customer service was the bees knees. In Australia, we’d have been turned away the moment the operator heard a language other than English. Here we had a hotline, we had delivery drivers and operators texting us in English, and we had a driver prepared to trek back to the store simply to pick up some spoons.

An adventure was had.

McDonalds was eaten.

Episodes of Game of Thrones were watched.

And, most importantly, they’d have the address on file should we ever get the urge to assault our waist-lines again.

Lotteria European Frico Cheese
Alone at last! Sharing a tender moment with the sinfully good European Frico Cheeseburger from Lotteria, a South Korean/Japanese fast food chain.

Your Say

Have you had any fun experiences with fast food abroad? Found any delectable local delights or charming knock-offs? My stomach would love to hear all about the experience.

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  1. Gotta love Maccas delivery. In the Middle East, you can get almost anything delivered. In fact, we used to send the taxi out for Thai food and, including the taxi fee, would still be cheaper than anything we get back home.

    Another benefit of having McDonalds everywhere – you’re guaranteed of finding a western toilet that is clean and usable!

    • I don’t think I’ve ever seen a toilet – let alone a western one – in a Chinese McDonalds. I don’t check regularly though, so there’s that.

      The Middle East is one of my next options for teaching. Did you like your time there?

      • Overall, the Middle East is great, but the biggest mistakes I’ve seen expats make is not remembering that they are Muslim nations under Sharia law. We were in Saudi, where it is illegal for anyone to date. That doesn’t mean people don’t but you have to be a little more creative with how you get around it (luckily, I’m married so didn’t have to worry about it, but had plenty of friends who weren’t). In compounds you’re fine and at embassy functions – but even going out for dinner can pose risks.

        Biggest benefit to the Middle East is NO TAX! The one thing about Sharia law I love – it is against Islam to charge tax or interest.

        • You might also want to avoid ‘dating’ locals. Saw one guy on our compound in Saudi come to great grief because he dated a Saudi woman!

          • No dating? How on earth do people find the person they’re going to marry? Not that I’m personally looking to marry into the family of a wealthy shiekh or anything…

          • It’s all smoke and mirrors. We attended a wedding in Finland of a couple who met in Saudi (both Finnish though). At compounds and embassy parties, there is plenty of fraternising between unmarried couples, but you just have to be creative when out in public. As for dating Saudis… bad idea. The German guy I was talking about disappeared only to be dumped severely beaten and allegedly raped outside the compound a few weeks later. As for the girl, no idea what happened to her, but can’t imagine it was good.

        • Yeah, I’ve read some horror stories, but those are almost always a case of the foreigner not being respectful of local law. It’s definitely a culture that intrigues me greatly.

  2. Hong Kong delivery is not so wonderful! Being sick and needed of comfort I ordered myself a full Mackay feast, including a McFlurry. It’s not that far from my house, but in the midst of winter and my sickness, delivery seemed appropriate. So 1h30 later (I called back the delivery service, “2min,2 min, miss”) my luscious mc flurry looked more like a sad milkshake and the crunchy fries were cold so was my burger. As I checked my order with the delivery guy and looked at my cold, dump, melted food, I told him I was not happy. He had already called the elevator back and just said “Microwave and freezer, then still good, bye”. And disappeared. Never used the delivery again.

    • I think it depends on what part of Hong Kong! We’ve always had good experiences with delivery (granted we’ve only done it twice).

      Also Hong Kong sells the quarter pounder … interesting that China doesn’t!

      • Still no sign of the Quarter Pounder here. The Double Cheeseburger goes close, but not sure why they’re afraid of unleashing the QP on the Chinese masses. They’ve got about a thousand other burgers :-/

  3. Don’t complain! Here in Europe (Austria in this particular case) there’s NO Mc Donalds delivery at all. *cry* 😉

  4. Korea does have Quarter Pounders and even Double Quarter Pounders, and has had them on the menu for over two years now.

    • Yeah, somebody pointed that out for me. I lived there as recently as 2011, but didn’t visit Maccas in my five months there. Last time I was there before that (mid 2009) they didn’t have them.

  5. ha ha great read. I am glad you got your food in the end, good on em. Probably the same there but here in Philippines you can get rice with your meal and even spaghetti with bolognese sauce. Haven’t tried the home delivery yet 🙂

    • Rice and spaghetti bolognese? Interesting!

      KFC here is wildly different to back home or in the US, but McDonalds is relatively simple in its differences. Love the Strawberry Oreo McFlurries!

  6. Oh gosh, I had not eaten McDonald’s in years before coming out to Korea. Now it’s a staple weekend meal. The boy and I make the trek by bus for burgers, fries and the occasional milkshake. Drooool!

    • There isn’t one nearby? Yikes! I was all about the TGI:F or Outback Steakhouse weekend trips when I was in Gwangju. In Busan, it was all about the Mexican food down on the beach.

      Funny how much a part of our ‘diet’ it becomes while we’re on the road.

  7. McDonalds delivery is both the greatest and worst thing to happen in my life. Also, they have the quarter pounder in Korea now! I think it was introduced in early 2011/late 2010, shortly before I arrived. Also, I’m jealous you have an English option. I get severe anxiety each time I call and order…

    • A few people have told me that now, haha. I guess it must have come after I left in 2009. I was back there last year, but I’m certain I never went back to Maccas while I was there. I was always more of a Lotteria man.

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