What I Learned from Four Years Working at McDonalds
Kate Norquay

This is really on point.

One thing I’ve noticed since reading this is the way different brands impute their values through the type of people they put on display. (edit: I think this isn’t a conscious decision, but an emergent result of other factors—see below.)

For example, in New Zealand, we have two supermarkets owned by the same company: New World and Pak’N’Save.

New World is where our version of the “soccer mom” goes to shop. It’s the most expensive supermarket; it’s full of organics, delicatessens, the pricier brands. When you go there, as a soccer mom, the type of person you see working there reminds you of your daughter’s friend.

Pak’N’Save, the cheap supermarket, embodies cheap. The supermarkets have bare concrete floors, their advertisments feature stick figures because “we’re so cheap, we can’t even afford good advertising.”

What type of person is on the check-out when you go to a Pak’N’Save? The same type of person that Kate Norquay worked alongside in McDonalds.

I don’t think this is a conscious malice on the part of the brands or the managers. (edit: see more below.) But it seems like people are used to impute brand as much as advertising or the store design.

This feels important to notice. Because a real risk is that we go back and associate the brand values with the people who work there.

Follow-up thoughts:

The full-time employees at any supermarket—New World or Pak’N’Save—are the same type of people Kate worked alongside at McDonalds, and the same stereotype plays out. This all reinforces Kate’s observation.

Something else to think about is that the employees of supermarkets will always be reflective of the neighbourhood they reside in.

And the time of day people of privilege shop at the supermarket (the evening) is often when the full-time employees are home with their families.

So it’s not a great example of cause and effect. However: the net result is the same. Your point of interaction, if you’re a person of privilege, with a ‘classy’ brand, is likely to look like you; and if you go to a ‘cheap’ brand, you’re probably going to interact with more marginalised people.

We need to be careful not to let our perception of the brand change how we view the people.