Renee & Steve in Florence travel blog

Across From Train Station

Photo Not Permitted

Another Illegal Photo

We've seen two McDonald's in Florence: one inside the train station and the other across the street from the train station. McDonald's is one of the places in Italy where two major value systems clash. One value is the old-world artisan mentality that is expressed in the pride in cooking-from-scratch with regional ingredients, the art & architecture, and even the fashion, shoe-making & leather crafts. The other value is the American (although now, it can be seen almost everywhere) push for profitability that is reflected in the fundamental rule of marketing: "find a need and fill it".

In the old-world value system, a fast-food restaurant like McDonald's would be unthinkable. But, in the value system of profitability, McDonald's fits perfectly at a train station that brings to Florence, hordes of people from all around the world, especially America. The familiar McDonald's "Golden Arches" is a powerful magnet for American semester-abroad students who have never not known Mickey-Dee's in their lifetime.

Of course, most of the employee's in Florence's McDonald's are Florentines. Now it gets real interesting because, probably, most of them just need a job and a paycheck. They might not be looking for a personal transformation from the old-world values they were raised with to the foreign values of do it fast, do it cheap, and keep the customers coming back. So, waiting in line at the McDonald's that's across the street from the train station was painfully slow- they just wouldn't keep things moving quickly and efficiently. And, when the line of customers was out the door, they were slow to open another of the 3 idle registers. And, for tourists who want American-style coffee with half-and-half in a cardboard to-go cup with a lid, they just don't have the half-and-half and they only have porcelain cups with saucers. (Incidentally, they do have tiny cardboard cups and lids for espresso-to-go.)

Another fascinating thing is the Florence's McDonald's rule forbidding customers from taking photos inside the restaurant. Is there anything proprietary or top-secret that one can see at a McDonald's counter? If profitability is the main value, then you'd think the franchise owners would be happy to have customers snapping pictures and showing them to friends and family-- you know, marketing through word-of-mouth. But, when Steve held up his camera to take a shot of the counter and menu on the wall, a cashier immediately warned him that picture-taking was forbidden. And, when he tried to snap a photo of an "I'm lovin' it" poster, the young fellow who was mopping the floor also wagged his finger and admonished him. With that, Steve's Jack Bauer persona clicked-in and he found a way to get the surreptitious photos that can be seen at the top of this page.

Now, don't get us wrong. We love the old-world mentality of Florence! That's why we are here for a month- to get immersed in it and enjoy it. But, it's just so fascinating that when they attempt to plop an American, profit-driven, fast-food place into a city that cherishes it's old-world ways, you get some sort of a hybrid mutation that doesn't work very well at all. Just as well-- we'll take the Osterias, Trattorias, and Gelaterias every time!

Ciao for now.

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