Sprinkle spree gets former McDonald's worker $5K

A UK employee making $300 a week was accused of putting too much topping on a McFlurry -- and won a settlement over the issue.

By Jason Notte Dec 19, 2012 3:11PM

A sign outside the fast-food chain McDonaldThere's a reason your McDonald's (MCD) ice cream toppings might look a little meager lately: Ronald McDonald is counting every sprinkle.

Welsh McDonald's employee Sarah Finch, 19, discovered this the hard way earlier this fall, when she was fired for putting a generous helping of chocolate sprinkles on a McFlurry dessert that a coworker had already paid $1.61 for. Finch later took McDonald's to court, and on Wednesday the company settled by giving her $5,000. She made less than $300 a week at McDonald's.

McDonald's reported a 3.5% drop in global revenue last quarter and has been cranky about it ever since. Already, the company is shifting its focus from premium items like angus burgers and smoothies to its low-budget Dollar Menu, opened more outlets in the U.S. on Thanksgiving to boost revenue and nudged American franchise owners to stay open on Christmas to bring in an extra $5,500 per store -- or just $500 more than the company just paid for firing an employee who'd been with the company for 18 months just for making a McFlurry prettier.

Ron Mounsey, managing director of the McDonald's where Finch worked, put McDonald's newfound humorlessness into words back in September in a letter to Finch's mother obtained by The Sun:

"You may feel it is trivial, but with 740 employees in my business, if my management team were just to overlook such incidents then quickly it would become a free for all."

That makes Ronald one sad clown. Remember, we're talking about sprinkles here: An ice cream topping of dubious chocolate content that invariably ends up spilled on the counter or floor before a customer ever puts spoon to dessert. As Finch told The Guardian, it wasn't as if she'd filled a sandwich bag full of them and hustled her coworker out the door. She was a bit heavy handed in her approach to the fast-food chain's unwritten sprinkle rules.

"There is no standard for such measures -- they are always imprecise and will vary among customers," Finch says. "My colleague had asked me: 'Make it a nice one'. So the measure I gave erred on the side of more than, rather than less than, the mean."

That's apparently an offense worthy of termination under the Golden Arches, where it costs precious little to cut loose a low-cost employee. About 60% of low-wage workers in the U.S. are employed in the fast-food industry, according to the National Employment Law Project.

McDonald's pays crew members an average of $7.63 an hour, or more than a dollar less than the average $8.66 cost of two Big Macs, according to the employer review site Glassdoor.com. That's less than the $7.66 an hour made by Burger King (BKW) and Wendy's (WEN) employees or the $7.77 made by staff at Taco Bell. If a worker puts in 40 hours a week all year long, that adds up to $16,000 before taxes. By those numbers, Blair's settlement just gave her the equivalent of four months' pay at McDonalds.

That's assuming they'd let an employee work that long. Executives at the Papa John's (PZZA), Red Lobster and Olive Garden owners Darden Restaurants (DRI) and Jimmy John's chains joined franchise owners at Denny's (DENN) and DineEquity's (DINE) Applebee's chain in threatening to cut employee hours to avoid paying their health care costs under the Affordable Care Act.

With such a low bar for employee earnings, it's little wonder McDonald's seems to value its sprinkles more.

More from Money Now

Dec 19, 2012 5:51PM
What's next tweezers and you count them out for each flurry. Tight A$$'s
Dec 19, 2012 5:14PM
I would say there is a little more to the story than that. SHe was probably a trouble employee who they figured it was cheaper to fire and settle with than have her poisoning th well of othewr employees. Its just business!!
Dec 19, 2012 5:13PM
It is all about corporate greed.  It has always been about corporate greed.  It shall always be about corporate greed!
Dec 19, 2012 5:11PM
and yet, mcdonalds policy is to throw away a burger that isn't prepared correctly. I ordered a burger with mayonaise added. It came without the mayo. I brought it back up and told the person behind the counter. she apologized, took it from me, threw it in the trash and had a fresh burger with mayo on it made for me. i appreciated the customer service, but hated the waste. And now this girl gets fired for making the product the way that she thought the customer would enjoy it.
Dec 19, 2012 5:04PM
what if you order 3 burgers and get 2 do they get a rise
Dec 19, 2012 5:04PM

That why I go to Braums in Oklahoma they are very generous, MMMMM!  :)

Dec 19, 2012 4:54PM

This is what is wrong with the US working poor! They do not care that the CEO has the God given right to make all the money and they should be happy to have a job and work o/t for free to give the CEO and mangers more money to make them happy!

Dec 19, 2012 4:54PM

I remember when it was fun to go to McDonalds

But I'm pretty old

Dec 19, 2012 4:49PM
call me and I will give you a damn dollar for the sprinkles.  Give the girl her money for embarrassing her and then give her job back to her.
Dec 19, 2012 4:49PM
Can't you be fair and accurate? Food spilled before its even eaten; dubious chocolate content... Good grief. Why is it that people such as you find it so challenging to ... be honest?
Dec 19, 2012 4:37PM
They have automated machines that fill the drinks and ice, they have automated machines that dispense the coffee...do ya think it would be too much to have a machine to dipense the sprinkles?? Penny wise, pound foolish!!
Dec 19, 2012 4:27PM


How much does a CEO make at McDonalds ?...

Yep...we better cut back on those sprinkles...The price of jet fuel is going up...can't afford the Co. jet anymore...

OH- and I still need to buy the wife a new car...hmmmm..how much mustard are we putting on those burgers ?

Dec 19, 2012 4:11PM
If half a dozen sprinkles are that expensive, why do they even use sprinkles?
Dec 19, 2012 4:05PM
If they don't want the employees to over indulge in applied chocolate sprinkles then give them a measuring device so they can use a standard amount. How many sprinkles can you buy for $5000?
Dec 19, 2012 4:04PM

If they don't want employees giving extra sprinkles then provide them with a measuring device they can use to dispense the correct amount.


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