McDonald's is undoubtably one of the most familiar and popular restaurants in the world. Boasting hundreds of thousands of venues throughout the globe, it's widely-regarded as the last word in fast food. A lot of this depends on the good reputation that the brand has: it's seen to be a place where anyone can enjoy a burger and fries.
You can be old or young, rich or poor, as American as George Washington or live in some far-flung corner of the planet, but the philosophy of the company is the same: you're always welcome at those Golden Arches.
However, this week the McDonald's corporation managed to provoke fury and moral outrage, after a video emerged on social media which appeared to show staff mistreating a homeless vagrant, who'd been treated to a free meal by a kindly stranger. Man; I'd hate to work for their PR department right now, wouldn't you?
The incident which caused the furore occurred in a McDonald's chain in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Wednesday February 28. There, a good Samaritan named Yossi Gallo Galimidi decided to buy a homeless man lunch, after seeing him wandering the streets begging for change.
However, when the man in question sat down to enjoy his food, Gallo was shocked to observe that the McDonald's staff had called the police, who proceeded to escort the man from the premises without charging him with any felony.
Gallo argued with law enforcement for some time, insisting that he had paid for the man's meal of his own volition, and that he had a right as a customer to finish his meal.
However, one of the officers on the scene stated that the homeless man that he was trespassing, and that a number of customers had allegedly complained that he had been aggressively panhandling. An outraged Gallo promptly filmed the scene before him and uploaded it to Facebook, where it quickly went viral, attaining nearly 50 million views.
Commenting on the incident in a later interview, Gallo stated: "He was very quiet, very polite, didn't cause any kind of problem," Gallo said. "He didn't smell. He doesn't act up. He wasn't doing anything that you would not want in a restaurant ... It was overwhelming how fast this got out. And it just shows a lot of people do care."
He added: "If someone feels I'm doing this to show off, then by all means show-off. If I'm doing this to show-off I'm helping; why don't you do that as well? If everyone does that we'll have a beautiful world. I hoping it sends a message to people: don't be afraid to stick up for someone that is homeless. They are people, too. We could have been there, too. It doesn't take much to not be homeless." Gallo also added that he held no animosity towards the female officer who responded to the call, and believes that she behaved admirably.
Maybe the homeless person in the video had been behaving disagreeably, and maybe the police and McDonald's staff acted unfairly; but either way, the backlash against McDonald's as a result of the video has been fierce, and it's fair to say that it will probably affect their stock in the short term.