Observations From The Line For McDonald’s One-Day Only Szechuan Sauce Promotion

Like many thousands of people yesterday, I went to McDonald’s to see about scoring a packet of their much-coveted Szechuan sauce. Brought back thanks to the overwhelming demand of fans the world over, Mickey D’s Szechuan sauce was originally offered by the fast-food giant back in 1998, as a tie-in to Disney’s Mulan. When the season three premiere of Rick and Morty was shown on Adult Swim on April Fool’s Day, the show’s cult-like following started to call for a sauce comeback — even leading to a fan-backed petition.

Now, with the third season having recently concluded, McDonald’s announced that, for one day only, their Szechuan sauce would be available at a select few locations starting at 2 pm on October 7th. Worth noting: the web page they’d set up for the event stated the details of the promotion, and was very clear about there being a limited supply. Specifically, “really, really limited!”

After seeing that one of the arches’ few select locations was only about a mile from my house, I made the short drive — arriving just prior to the 2pm launch time. I could tell immediately by the state of the parking lot that it was going to be a certain degree of chaotic. The drive-thru line wrapped around the building, while hoards of Rick and Morty fans (and, I assume, some regular customers unaware of what was happening) filed into the restaurant.

Inside, the line inside stretched from the front counter through to the back of the store, with another line spawning off the first, streaking out one of the other doorways. While McDonald’s tends to be the great equalizer as far as fast-food patrons go — beloved by small children and stoners alike — it was pretty easy to tell that this was a very Szechuan sauce-oriented scene.

“Do you have any of…” began one customer in line just behind me, to an employee who was scouring the lobby looking for whoever was waiting on order number 197.

“Any WHAT?” she demanded, at a volume that strained the boundaries of pleasantness.

“Uh… the Szechuan dipping sauce?” the customer continued, meeker now.

“No, we sold out of that before two,” the employee replied, resuming a more standard level of customer service buoyancy.

This revelation about the sauce being gone before 2pm sent a shockwave of disappointment through the line. Collective groans were accompanied by slouched shoulders rippling across the cadre of over-eager fans. Others tried to grasp for signs of hope like so many red-and-white-striped plastic straws. Having spotted one worker behind the counter filling up a bin with sauce containers, an optimistic patron remarked that there could be more. “It doesn’t look like they’re out.”

It turned out to be false hope (and barbeque sauce), as another employee soon walked through the line with a handful of folded vouchers, waving them in the air and announcing, “That’s it! If you don’t have a voucher, we’re out of the sauce!”

“How many did you have?” asked someone, clearly ready to live in regret.

“Sixteen, and we gave all those out before two,” the employee replied.

This spawned multiple remarks about the fairness of the promotion, the employees, and life in general.

“If we’d left when I said to leave, we could’ve probably gotten some,” uttered a man a few spots ahead of me. His friends grumbled their responses and the whole group decided to wait anyway. They’d earned themselves cheeseburgers.

Based on the reactions on Twitter — including at least one person who’s looking to organize a class-action lawsuit — this kind of scene had played out in McDonald’s across the country. Though my Mickey D’s was noticeably without people in costumes, fights breaking out, and a heavy police presence, it was also without the sauce — which was the unifying theme for pretty much everyone who tried to get the stuff.