The True Story Behind the Mysterious McDonald’s Gold Card

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by Reader's Digest Editors

What would you do to get free McDonald’s for a year? How about free McDonald’s for your whole life? For some, that dream is a reality.

The mysterious “McGold Card” came into the spotlight when actor Rob Lowe flashed his on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2015. Lowe didn’t get his just for being famous, though—he also happens to be friends with David Peterson, who owns and operates six McDonald’s locations in California and whose dad invented the Egg McMuffin, according to Business Insider. With his card in hand, Lowe was entitled to unlimited free food at his friend’s franchises for a year.

Lowe isn’t the first person to receive a McDonald’s gold card from Peterson—and actually didn’t even get the best deal. The franchisee also gave one to local philanthropist Larry Crandell as a 90th birthday present, which Crandell tried to use at least once a month. That solid metal card earned him a lifetime of free meals until he passed away at age 93.

Other locations—and sometimes even the whole company—have been known to give those valuable cards away, too. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney revealed his dad was a proud owner of “a little pink card” that gave him free McDonald’s meals. George Romney had done training
sessions with McDonald’s employees before the chain really took off, so Ray Kroc—who helped launch the fast food chain into an international powerhouse—gave him a lifetime of “a hamburger, a shake, and French fries at McDonald’s,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The card didn’t go to waste either. Mitt Romney said his dad would go in almost every day for a hamburger or fish filet sandwich. (If a soda is on your go-to order, find out why Coke tastes extra good at McDonald’s.)

 
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Warren Buffett revealed to CNBC that he has a card that gives him free McDonald’s in Omaha with no expiration. The billionaire also revealed Bill Gates has a McDonald’s gold card that gives him free food at any location around the world for the rest of his life.

Non-billionaires still have a shot at getting their hands on the coveted McGold Card, but you’d have to do something more than buddy up with a restaurant owner. In 2013, Cleveland local Charles Ramsey saved three women and a girl who had been kidnapped by his neighbor years before. In interviews, Ramsey kept mentioning he’d been holding a “half-eaten Big Mac” when he made his rescue, and thousands of Twitter users urged the company to reward him with a McDonald’s gold card. The fast food chain listened and gave him free McDonald’s for a year, and 14 Ohio locations offered to keep giving him free burgers for the rest of his life, according to CNN Money.

If McDonald’s isn’t your fast food chain of choice, Burger King has its own version of the McGold: the “Burger King gold card,” which grants free meals for life. Jennifer Hudson earned one as a former BK employee, while George Lucas got a card to thank him for partnering with the brand during movie releases. Famously, Burger King sent one to Hugh Laurie after he claimed he had one in an interview—even though he didn’t. The card might be even more exclusive than the McDonald’s version. As of 2008, only 12 people were proud holders of the card, according to AdAge.

Alas, the rest of us might be stuck paying out of pocket for our burger cravings.

A Shrine to Brine: The Mysterious Case of Missouri's Highway Pickle Jar

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iStock.com/MorePixels

No one knows how it started. No one knows who was responsible. Some may even have dismissed it as an aberration, a glitch in the scenery that would soon be corrected. But eventually, drivers in and around Des Peres, Missouri who took a highway off-ramp connecting I-270 North to Manchester Road began to notice that a jar of pickles was sitting on a dividing barrier on the ramp. And it wasn’t going anywhere.

Since 2012, the pickle jar has confounded drivers and internet sleuths alike, according to Atlas Obscura. Some have speculated that someone was trying to send a secret message or share a private joke. Perhaps someone pulling off to the side due to car trouble felt the need to place the brine-filled jar on the concrete wall and then forgot about it. Maybe someone thought it would be a kind of three-dimensional graffiti, incongruous amid the bustling traffic. Maybe it’s an indictment of commerce.

Whatever the case, once the pickles appeared, advocates refused to let them go. Jars that end up toppled over or otherwise damaged are replaced. Sometimes they reappear in protective Tupperware or with a holiday-themed bow. Sightings are photographed for posterity and posted on a Facebook fan page devoted to the jar, which currently has over 4200 members and has morphed from a place to theorize about the mysterious jar's origins to a place where people swap pickle-related recipes and stories.

There are dry spells—no one has posted of a pickle sighting in several months—but followers remain optimistic the jar will continue to remain a presence in Des Peres even if the motivation for placing them near the roadway remains as murky as the briny juice inside.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Why the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich Has Been on the McDonald's Menu for Nearly 60 Years

McDonald's has introduced and quietly killed many dishes over the years (remember McDonald's pizza?), but there's a core group of items that have held their spot on the menu for decades. Listed alongside the Big Mac and McNuggets is the Filet-O-Fish—a McDonald's staple you may have forgotten about if you're not the type of person who orders seafood from fast food restaurants. But the classic sandwich, consisting of a fried fish filet, tartar sauce, and American cheese on a bun, didn't get on the menu by mistake—and thanks to its popularity around Lent, it's likely to stick around.

According to Taste of Home, the inception of the Filet-O-Fish can be traced back to a McDonald's franchise that opened near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959. Back then the restaurant offered beef burgers as its only main dish, and for most of the year, diners couldn't get enough of them. Things changed during Lent: Many Catholics abstain from eating meat and poultry on Fridays during the holy season as a form of fasting, and in the early 1960s, Cincinnati was more than 85 percent Catholic. Fridays are supposed to be one of the busiest days of the week for restaurants, but sales at the Ohio McDonald's took a nosedive every Friday leading up to Easter.

Franchise owner Lou Groen went to McDonald's founder Ray Kroc with the plan of adding a meat alternative to the menu to lure back Catholic customers. He proposed a fried halibut sandwich with tartar sauce (though meat is off-limits for Catholics on Fridays during Lent, seafood doesn't count as meat). Kroc didn't love the idea, citing his fears of stores smelling like fish, and suggested a "Hula Burger" made from a pineapple slice with cheese instead. To decide which item would earn a permanent place on the menu, they put the two sandwiches head to head at Groen's McDonald's one Friday during Lent.

The restaurant sold 350 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches that day—clearly beating the Hula Burger (though exactly how many pineapple burgers sold, Kroc wouldn't say). The basic recipe has received a few tweaks, switching from halibut to the cheaper cod and from cod to the more sustainable Alaskan pollock, but the Filet-O-Fish has remained part of the McDonald's lineup in some form ever since. Today 300 million of the sandwiches are sold annually, and about a quarter of those sales are made during Lent.

Other seafood products McDonald's has introduced haven't had the same staying power as the Filet-O-Fish. In 2013, the chain rolled out Fish McBites, a chickenless take on McNuggets, only to pull them from menus that same year.

[h/t Taste of Home]

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