SocietyJune 7, 2016

‘The line was a snake of embarrassment’ – One man goes undercover for 75c Big Macs


Tens gathered outside Queen Street McDonald’s this morning for a chance at a cheap feed. Don Rowe feeds at the corporate teat and reports. 

“Oh my God. No way. Oh. My. God.”

These were not the words of some Pentecostal in the throes of religious ecstasy, wrapped in snakes and screaming at the roof, but a real reaction of an actual guy on Queen Street this morning to the news of 75c Big Macs and 45c Cheeseburgers, available for a limited time under the golden arches.

Ignoring the fact that the only 5c coins left in New Zealand are hidden under couch cushions, that’s an astounding price point. Fifty or so people certainly thought so, lining up like McDonald’s was about to drop the new iPhone. But unlike the iGeeks who are likely camping out now for 2018’s release, this line was a snake of embarrassment at having the time and inclination to prostrate oneself for hamburgers. Or it was for me, anyway.

At 10am on the dot the line began to move. Then it stopped again for another ten or fifteen minutes. A guy carrying a sack of Burger King walked past, all smug-like, real pleased with his decision to dine with the King – but at what cost, may I ask? Certainly not the $4.50 for six Big Macs on offer at Maccy D’s.

The line stretched around Mrs Higgins, cordoning in their customers and throwing serious wrong-neighbourhood vibes. The press circled, a One News camera searching like the eye of Sauron. The customers jockeyed to hide their faces. Beside me, a young man held an awkward kebab.

Closer to the door, promo models were swooping and greasing. One of them spotted kebab guy, “What’s this?” she asked coyly. “I… I… I didn’t know!” he said, clearly prepared to throw the kebab on the floor and stamp it like a cigarette if only she’d keep on talking.


Through the door we were funneled, greeted by an enthusiastic”Welcome to 1976″ and fully six or seven cameras and microphones. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was blasting without any irony. The place was spotless, stripped of the undesirable like Rio before the Olympics. No sooner would a Big Mac wrapper hit the floor before it was seized upon and rushed at arm’s length to a bin. Maybe social issues were different in the ’70s, but this is not what Queen St Macca’s looks like on an average day in the year of our lord 2016.

I asked a guy next to me what he was thinking. Would it be a 45c apple pie? Perhaps a medium fries for the same price? What about five quarter-pounders with cheese for $3.75? “I’m just here for the chicken nuggets,” he said. There are no chicken nuggets. Not in 1976.

Ronald McDonald, fully several metres tall, watched from the wall while hundreds drank deep at his greasy teat. More than 30 staff milled behind the counter. Some sported sideburns, others fake moustaches. One girl was dressed as Frank Zappa.

From her I took six Big Macs and ate two, with attempts at a third. It remains in the office fridge, taunting, mocking.

It’s Ronald’s eyes I see when I close my own.

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox