Oct 10 2017

The Szechuan Sauce Fallout

A few days ago, I wrote 2 articles regarding McDonalds Szechuan sauce and Rick and Morty fans obsession with it. When I wrote the original article, I let loose my thoughts on the sauce being of poor quality and not worth obsessing over. The next day, when the sauce was to be distributed in very limited quantities I wrote a follow up expressing how the very reason people want the sauce – because it was mentioned in the cartoon Rick and Morty – is in and of itself, well, rather stupid.

Now, thankfully, while the articles got decent traction, no random people online started any drama about it. My personal life, however, was a different story.

You see, I had several people want to give me grief over expressing myself on this subject. Attitudes ranged from “just let people enjoy things” (I wasn’t trying to stop them), “why are you so obsessed with this if you don’t care about it?” (because Rick and Morty fans won’t shut up about the sauce), and “Yes, it’s stupid, but everyone buys stupid things, right?” (yes, we all do – hell, even I do, but I’m not going to wait in line for a McDonalds nugget sauce all because it was mentioned in a cartoon!)

I addressed these concerns, but some people still didn’t like that I was expressing myself. That’s fine, I’m beyond used to that (the more you complain about it, the more I’m going to say what I think actually, so keep it up), but what caught my attention was both what happened during and after the sauce was to be available. To say the least before I go into detail, it made me feel much better about the articles I had written Friday and Saturday on the sauce.

Let’s begin.

Only a small selections of stores would receive the sauce. Each McDonald’s store that would have it only got a limited number of packets – I heard it was 20 per store, possibly fewer. Stores were mostly scattered around the US, with some major areas void, while other cities had a few. Memphis had 2 stores, one properly in the city and the other in a more wealthy suburb – neither were near me, otherwise I would have gone there just to document the madness myself. Fans of Rick and Morty lined up well beforehand to get the sauce – far more than 20 people per location, all dying for the chance to get and taste one packet of the stuff.

Well, as you can expect, a vast majority went home empty handed. While certainly they were upset they didn’t get any sauce, I’m sure most were adults about it, moving on with their lives after maybe some complaining on social media.

Others, however, weren’t as mature (as if waiting in line for a terrible condiment sauce can be considered a “mature” action, but I digress.) There were multiple reports of violence and other hostility surrounding the sauce. Insults hurled at McDonald’s workers, fights, a stabbing, and of course the associated involvement of the police.

All this over a McDonald’s dipping sauce flavored like a condiment that can be purchased in any store.


Back to the subject of social media, many people took their outrage to Facebook and Twitter, yelling at McDonald’s for the lack of sauce (even though they were told ahead of time it would be very limited), even going so far as to create a new hashtag, #SzechuanGate to name this event (don’t get me started on the -gate suffix, that’s a long overdue article.)


Within 24 hours of this constant bombardment, McDonald’s released a statement saying that more sauce was to come. It was the classic “You spoke, we listened” junk that every company posts these days. About what you would expect, right?

Here’s the thing. McDonald’s isn’t stupid, not by a long shot. Not only did they certainly make money by the fact that people who went to the store to get the sauce had to make a purchase, but certainly a majority of people who went bought something regardless of if they got sauce or not.

Beyond that, for them to decide that they would make more after a day seems a little fast. It’s obvious that they always intended to make more and that this was either just a trial run or, more likely, McDonald’s planned this out, creating a situation that would make fans mad, only to look like good guys when they announce they will make more, even though they were planning to anyway.

It’s a marketing tactic that many believe has been done before, and while risky for something like this can, and probably will, work quite well for the company. It targets the easy anger of “millennial’s” and their love of being given what they want. Make them mad, then make them happy and they will love you for it!

Now, I’m going to go one step further, and say that I think McDonald’s planned the entire thing out from day one. By that I mean they had the mention of the sauce put in and, knowing that 15-25 year olds are very easily influenced by pop culture combined with the popularity of the show, that they would follow the character Rick in demanding the sauce.

Create a demand, then fill that demand. A classic tactic. Of course, I don’t have any hard evidence for this, but given the nature of things, it looks like a probable chain of events. Add in that the creators of the show haven’t actually said why the seemingly random reference to the sauce (with the McDonald’s element being of equal focus when any old Szechuan sauce should suffice) even exists, well, it all combines to in my mind to be a very odd, but clearly effective viral marketing technique.


Let me remind you one more time… this is all about a McDonald’s dipping sauce that was only available in 1998 as part of a Mulan promotion, and people only care about because it was mentioned in a popular cartoon. That’s it.

It’s stupid. There. I said it. It’s fucking stupid.

Don’t wonder why I’m writing about it – I’m just reacting to the absurdity of it. What you should ask why everyone else is so obsessed… that’s the real issue here.




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