Will McDonald's sell Coke for $1 this summer? Still a rip-off

The report this week that McDonald's Corp. and Coca-Cola are pushing McDonald's indie franchises to lower the price of all sodas to $1 this summer makes little difference to consumers. At any price, we get screwed.

I know, I know. Railing against the mark-up of fountain soft drinks is as useful as being annoyed that Snooki of "Jersey Shore" is a star. It's just the way it is. It's profitable.

But I'm still going to rant. If I can make a few of you consumers think twice about ordering your fizzy sweetness to wash down a burger, then my job is done. You'll save yourself a buck, or $1.39 if McD's owners don't go along.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required), suggested that soda dispensed from a machine cascades at a 90% profit margin. That might be conservative. One former restaurant manager wrote in a blog item that his eatery sold $2.29 Cokes which actually cost 13 cents a glass to produce.

Cola from a tap can also be gross. Nearly half of all soda fountains contains bacteria from feces, scientists said. Click here for the poop scoop.

With apologies to the list of retail ripoffs compiled by WalletPop colleagues Ken and Daria Dolan, pop is king in my book. Consider this: Ireland makes 70% of Coca-Cola's caramel-based concentrate at a profit that would make Scrooge blush: It costs $2.60, including labor, to manufacture enough concentrate for 50,000 Cokes, Mark Thomas wrote in his bookBelching Out the Devil. The world drinks 1.5 billion Cokes a day, by the way, and a good number of them are consumed at McDonald's.

McDonald's isn't alone of course in peddling overpriced, gassed-up syrup. Convenience stores, bars, other fast food joints and restaurants are guilty as well. McDonald's simply wants more of the action, so for 150 days it's asking its owner-operators to heed the McMessage: a goodwill price point like a dollar is ultimately going to pad everyone's coffers. Last summer, franchisees balked at a similar $1 push for 100 days. Most agreed to sell only the iced teas at that price.

This summer might be different. The recession has dragged on, so independent McDonald's would look like the Hamburgler if they don't let their faithful have a Coke and a smile for less. A spokeswoman told the Journal that 90% of restaurants already sell soft drinks for a dollar. Think that wasn't a little elbow twist from Corporate to the holdouts?

It's really none of our business. Not in a meaningful way. Soda from a dispenser will never be a bargain.

That's the real thing.
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