My Seasick Crocodile

I'm one of the millions of Americans who no longer eat fast food. And the fast food industry doesn't really care about us. Why care when there are even more millions who think fast food is wonderful, convenient and if nothing else, unavoidable.

I think I discovered this recently when Julia was interviewing me as part of an assignment for her Consumer Behavior course. I had to talk about brands I “hate” and why. Inevitably, the conversation degenerated to fast food brands. The brands we all began internalizing even as toddlers when words like “happy meal,” “whopper” and “biggie” became parts of our early vocabularies. “Why should I care about fast food brands,” the twenty something me who hasn't eaten fast food in more than a year asked me. “They're all roughly the same -- unhealthy, unnatural and oh yeah, really unhealthy.” And instead of the reassurance I was expecting from myself, the eight year old me replied to Julia, “I like Wendy’s best, then McDonald’s second and I hate Burger King!”

Huh?! Are you meaning to tell me that after four years of fast food abstinence that I still have a taste for it, and even a preference? I disgust myself a little.

Well okay, I guess those images we glean as children stay with us, no matter what common sense prevails. And I suppose that means that I still like cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and French fries, and given the hypothetical fat-free choice among the three of them, I'd take the least worst – the seasick crocodile. Which I guess in my case is Wendy’s. Why? Probably because my parents liked it the best growing up? And McDonald’s second. Why? Probably because my parents liked it least when I was growing up. (Hey, I had to rebel somehow!) And Burger King least. Why? I have no idea. Because one had to be the worst to me? Because of some bad birthday party experience with an super scary clown? Or a Burger King perhaps forgot to make my burger “plain” one too many times. Or maybe my unsophisticated tastes hated that “burned” taste of Burger King actually attempting to grill their burgers (whatever that means). Well who knows, but somehow Wendys’ and McDonalds’ mega advertising/branding campaigns (likely hoping to reel in youths for life) succeeded on me, but BK’s failed miserably.

And now all is left of my fast food consumption is a skeleton preference ranking with Burger King still squarely last. I guess their chances of winning my business when I was a little kid and actually “hated” them was actually better than now when the three are as close to indifferent as my childhood prejudices can possibly allow.

“Could Burger King do anything to gain your favor over the other two, at least in your hypothetical,” Julia asked inquisitively.

BK ever become by seasick crocodile? “Sure,” I responded facetiously. “Become healthy. Honest to goodness, top to bottom, 100% healthy without losing the taste and I'd be there every day. From whole grain buns to no trans fat ever to everything in between. Do what you need to do. I don't care, but make it healthy.”

If it's impossible, then none of them will ever get my business (or any of the other millions of fast food naysayers’) and Burger King will never get my hypothetical vote. It never won me over with taste, so if it can’t win me over with health then Burger King will never be my seasick crocodile.

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