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McMadness: can a latte and doughnut really make you feel like a millionaire?

Dale Berning Sawa

It’s a big news week for McDonald’s. Just as the fast food outlet launched its festive Millionaire’s menu, some of its UK workers have organised a McStrike in protest against low wages and job insecurity. There is a certain irony in telling customers they can “Live like a millionaire” (that is the campaign slogan) as the people on the tills are being paid £8.80 an hour. I joined the queue to see if the Christmas coffee and doughnut live up to the outrage.

I took the lid off my Millionaire’s latte and was hit by something sticky that felt more solid than airborne. I had to peer into the cup to see it, though. The in-store poster featured a tall red cup with piped chocolate cream coiled well above the rim, a bit like the poo emoji, but mine had melted into the hot drink. Of course it had. (Did you know commercial food photographers use shaving cream to emulate whipped cream?)

The doughnut looked like a toffee-coated dalek, its surface bejewelled with lots of chewy shortbread bits. I marvelled at how puffy and unsweet it was as I took my third bite and I was suddenly squirting gloopy caramel everywhere. It is a filled doughnut. I am a certified sugar fiend, though, so I felt golden right then.

A couple of things I noticed on my second visit (I forgot to take photographs first time around) and then on my third (I spilled the second coffee and the cashier mistakenly gave me a plain doughnut). Table service is possible if you eat in. And you can customise the latte with added cream (?!) which takes the whole order over 500 calories (FIVE HUNDRED?!).

I clearly caught the staff’s attention, as the woman making my final latte whispered: “It’s the same customer” to her colleague at the till. “Yup, I’m beginning to recognise you guys, too,” I thought, because that was my third order and I received neither the pretty red cup with the perfect mound of chocolate cream promised by the advert nor the large cup size I paid extra for three times in a row. But I don’t blame them for any of it, because their salaries and the advert are more than a joke – they’re an insult.

After that, I couldn’t bring myself to eat or drink any more. The first purchase stuck in my gut like a bad secret. And that was when I realised: that probably is what being a millionaire feels like, at least the extravagant side of having more money than any one person could ever need. That first bite might be a total high, but it’s all downhill from there, and the only person waiting for you at the bottom of the hill is your own damn self.