Sunday 20 November 2011

Phew! The Great McDonald’s Curry Sauce Crisis of 2011 averted

So McDonald’s stops providing a condiment and the Internet gets into an uproar. Why does it feel like déjà vu all over again?

Let me take you back to 2008.

That was the year when Mas Selamat Kastari managed to disappear and be everywhere at the same time. I wanted to order a Mas Selamat hoodie at, but the shipping charges were just ridiculous.

That was the year when Singapore won its first Olympic medal since 1960 only to have the party ruined by she-who-must-not-be-named.

That was the year when the Grand Prix turned into grand comedy with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa’s hilarious pitstop at Singapore’s first Formula One night race. Loved that dangling hose!

That was the last year when no one heard of Lady Gaga. I miss not having heard of Lady Gaga.

And to the horror of many Singaporeans, that was also the year McDonald’s stopped providing its garlic chilli sauce, replacing it with a sweeter non-garlic chilli sauce.

Oh my gosh, the outcry! The indignation! The cyberstorm in a teacup!

It was as if Wildlife Reserves Singapore had cancelled the Halloween Horrors event.

Or someone had turned Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance into the NDP Fun Pack Song.

Or a radio show caller had told heartlanders to stay out of Holland Village.

Or a soldier was photographed with his maid carrying his backpack.

Let it not be said that Singaporeans are apathetic.

At one point during The Great McDonald’s Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008, I counted as many as 14 Facebook groups (the largest had more than 2,500 members) demanding that McDonald's bring back the sauce. An online petition garnered as many as, uh... 20 signatures.

McDonald's response at the time? “Thank you for your feedback... We have a wide range of sauces to complement our menu items and the current chilli sauce provided is in response to meeting our customers' changing tastes.”

I for one was glad the fast food chain finally got rid of its halitosis-causing garlic chilli sauce. At last, I thought, McDonald's was responding to meet my taste.

Unfortunately, the more typical sentiment online was closer to this posting in a forum: “Get a group of friends to wear the same T-shirt that says, ‘Bring back old garlic chili!’ and sit at Mac.

“Once a few people take notice, the whole chain automatically begins. People start to take photos ‘secretly’, upload to Stomp.

"Soon media gets word, people start to voice their views openly, leading to increased awareness and voila! Mac might just bow to public pressure on this.”

Wow, this must be how the whole Occupy Wall Street thing started.

Although I don't recall any media coverage of The Great McDonald's Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008, the company apparently must have bowed to pressure of some sort because by the middle of 2009, the garlic chilli sauce was back.

Singapore rejoiced. Now that the crisis was resolved, we could get on with our lives and focus on watching Lady Gaga videos.

It seemed everybody was happy - except me. So I wrote to McDonald's for an explanation.

This was the company's reply: “We recently re-introduced garlic chilli sauce at all our restaurants in response to strong customer preference, and have since received extremely favourable feedback.”

Oh well, I guessed I could live with the garlic chilli sauce - as long as I had the option of getting the curry sauce for my fries (although officially, the curry sauce is meant for the McNuggets).

But even that threatened to change when McDonald's ran out of the curry sauce last weekend. Netizens were outraged. It was like The Great Garlic Chilli Sauce Crisis of 2008 redux.

But last week, McDonald’s moved quickly to avert The Great Curry Sauce Crisis of 2011 by apologising and reassuring Singaporeans that the shortage was only temporary.

This time, it even got some media coverage. And no one had to wear any “Bring back curry sauce” T-shirts.

Meanwhile, I guess the barbecue and the sweet and sour sauces are okay too. And there’s always ketchup.

Just keep the garlic chilli sauce away from me!

You know what? To console myself, I think I'll get the Mas Selamat hoodie after all.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 November 2011

UPDATE: Know your Great McDonald’s Curry Sauce Saga: a trilogy