Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is This PR? - McDonald's and service dogs

About a month ago, a disabled veteran, Luis Carlos Montalvan, filed a suit against McDonald's. His reasoning pertains to his service dog that inspired Al Franken's service dog program for disabled veterans. Allegedly, McDonald's refused to allow his dog inside the restaurant twice, even though after the first time, stickers were placed on the doors stating service dogs were allowed. Then, as he says, he went to McDonald's (but they were closed) to take pictures of the stickers and he was beaten with plastic trash can lids by unidentified employees.

This incident has caused more than just a lawsuit. A veterans organization also started a "small, but passionate" protest outside the 5th Avenue McDonald's, where the original incident took place. Whether it was small or not, I'm sure that a lot more people know about the incident. And people have strong opinions about the discrimination. The story is presented a little fuzzy so many people have doubts about the credibility of the events. Others are just outraged at the alleged mistreatment of a combat veteran.

Whether the story is true or not, McDonald's handled it badly. Besides the original written apology by the first McDonald's manager, there seems to not have been any other apology given to Montalvan. Quoted from the article from, this is all that I could find about official McDonald's comments: "A spokeswoman for McDonald's USA said the matter is under investigation and that the company could not comment further, other than to say that McDonald's takes pride in making its restaurants accessible to all customers, 'including those with service animals.'" Since according to the story, McDonald's did not make its restaurant accessible to all customers, this just makes McDonald's look even worse. McDonald's should not have waited for the situation to get to a lawsuit level. They should have handled it at the managerial level (and also, at the employee/worker level). Workers should have been trained better to deal with customers who have disabilities and other special needs, like service dogs. If the problem had been dealt with earlier (and better), the lawsuit may not have been filed and McDonald's could have avoided a lot of negativity.

Verdict? Bad PR.

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