In my more formative years I worked the counter at McDonald’s. It was an okay job for someone with no prior work experience and helped to support my SNES habit. However, the one thing I hated was when a customer approached the counter and would ask for a “free smile” because it was written on the menu.

It had gotten to the point that I could tell the look on a customer’s face before they even opened their mouth to ask for my worthless grin. And so, I’d give them that “oh you” smile as if I hadn’t heard the joke a thousand times before and a little bit of myself would die inside.

Now a whole new generation of Japanese youngsters will get to have that same experience as McDonald’s Japan announced the return of zero-yen smiles to their menus at all stores all day long.

During a Tokyo press conference McDonald’s Japan President Sara Casanova announced that free smiles would be proudly displayed on all menus starting 25 May. The move is a part of the company’s strategy to go “back to basics” and try to win back the support of customers lost through various contamination scandals over the past year or so.

McDonald’s restaurants in Japan had free smiles on their menu before much like other parts of the world. However, since the turn of the millennium it began to gradually disappear. Casanova also acknowledged that in 2013 the discounted grins appeared on lunch menus, but this would be the first time to have them around the clock and at all locations. In other words, total McSaturation.

Japanese readers had this to say:

“Why so serious?”
“Slime: 0 yen”
“I wonder what would happen if I asked for 100 smiles.”
“No, just a smile please…and can I have that to go? Hehehe”
“Maybe back to basics should include rolling back the president’s salary.”
“I’ll have one smile and phone number combo please.”

It’s hard to say how far the free smile campaign will go to aid the 38 billion-yen deficit reported last month. However, economists are holding their breath in anticipation of how it will affect the smile market in Japan. Some of you might recall the removal of McDonald’s free smiles leading to massive spike in price and a “smile shock” which left many Japanese people unable to afford to smile anymore.

Many people actually thought that Japanese people were being super-serious in photos when really they just couldn’t spare the money for it.

As for McDonald’s, this is clearly just a small piece of their overarching strategy to restore customers’ faith. As Sankei Shimbun reported, it is hoped that by instilling the spirit of the 0-yen smile in employees it is hoped to attract customers back again.

Having been repeatedly and deeply penetrated by the spirit of the free smile myself, I have my reservations for its success. And for the employees of McDonald’s stores in Japan, I can only apologize on behalf of all smart-asses in the land for the onslaught that’s about to befall you. A storm is coming.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News via My Game News Flash (Japanese)
Photos © RocketNews24