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Oct 18, 2023

No More Soda Refills? Oh, the Humanity!

Hard times for soft drinks

By Ed Goldman

In a younger and more hospitable time—say, a few days ago—a person could happily consume a 32-ounce soft drink at McDonald’s and then, get this, refill it as often as he or she desired. The only penalty was what it did to the person’s bladder, kidneys, breath and weight. 

If it was a diet soft drink, of course, feel free to eliminate “weight” from the immediately previous sentence in the prior paragraph (I think I could have a career writing GPS routes, don’t you?). The trouble is that drinking too much diet soda can give consumers a false sense of weight-watchfulness—and they then “reward” themselves for their virtue by huffing a platter of McCookies, McCake, McPie and McGluten.

Edgy Cartoon

Sip code

Actually, the idea of self-serve soda was almost as alien to me as coffee refills when I first encountered each. 

I discovered the latter when I moved to California as a kid and saw a coffee shop waitress refill my mom’s and dad’s cups at least once and sometimes, twice or more per meal. In New York, if you asked for more coffee, your waitress would say, “It’ll cost you another nickel” or dime or quarter, depending on the establishment and, it must be added, the quality of the coffee. In a shop like Denny’s or its many predecessors, the coffee was so weak that truth-in-advertising would have demanded it be called coffee-flavored hot water. But that’s another matter, as lawyers like to say. 

(For younger readers or those who’ve neither sued nor been sued by someone, attorneys call cases “matters.” I’ve always meant to ask The Goldman State’s inhouse counsel about this but realized that when I forgot all about doing so the next day, the answer probably wouldn’t have mattered.)

Let’s stay on topic, shall we? McDonald’s recently emailed The Associated Press that “the goal of the change is to create consistency for customers and crew members across the chain’s offerings—from in-person dining to online delivery and drive-thru options.”

Let’s give the wire service one more moment to shine: 

“Over recent years, analysts have also pointed to changes in consumer behavior since the COVID-19 pandemic — including an uptick in digital and online delivery sales among fast food restaurants… . McDonald’s digital sales…accounted for almost 40% of systemwide sales for the second quarter of 2023. Revenue rose 14% to $6.5 billion for the period…and net income nearly doubled to $2.3 billion for the quarter, exceeding analysts’ expectations.”

Let’s be clear about a few things:

– Nobody “dines,” in-person or otherwise, at McDonald’s. You may grab a table or booth and even sit down to eat your Happy Meal and gag on the toy. But there’s no way this can be defined as a dining experience. That’s like calling a tailgate kegger “cocktails at 4.” 

– The cited “analysts” are math and algorithm geeks, not psychoanalysts or the most respected group of all, play-by-play analysts. Precisely what those expectations were and their getting exceeded means for us as consumers and God-loving Free Masons aren’t entirely clear. Sometimes one simply has to have faith in the unfathomable, as supporters of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. might say.

– The reference to McDonald’s “digital sales” does not mean the fast-food chain, long suspected of using less-than-nutritious ingredients in its hamburgers, packs its patties with fingers or toes. The jury’s still out on hooves. In fact, the jury considers that another, yes, matter.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


Ah, food. A necessity of life. A joy of the senses! — But what would it be like to be food-insecure living in California, the farm-to-fork state?

Recently, Golden Pacific Bank, a division of SoFi Bank, N.A., provided a $10,000 grant to the Yuba Sutter Food Bank. The not-for-profit organization is committed to leading the fight against food insecurity in the Yuba-Sutter Community through community partnerships such as Golden Pacific Bank. Its directors believe, as do we, that it takes community and partnerships to help our neighbors.

Here’s what they wrote to us:

“It was such a pleasure to meet with you today. On behalf of the Yuba-Sutter Food Bank Board of Directors and myself, I would like to thank Golden Pacific Bank for supporting our efforts to lead the fight against food insecurity in the Yuba-Sutter community.

“We truly appreciate your gift of $10,000.00. Your support helps families, seniors, and children in need receive nutritious food when they need it most. Because of your generosity, together, we are leading the fight against food insecurity and providing hope in the lives of those in need.

“This money will be used to continue our food recovery efforts that provide beautiful, healthy foods to our agency partners that are our hands and feet for distributing food to the needy people of Yuba-Sutter.

“Thanks again for your support. The Food Bank runs on love and donations! We would love to host another volunteer day for your employees. It’s a great team building activity.”

And thank you—for feeding those in need and in so doing, helping to nourish our soul.

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