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"Off-the-charts" debate follows news of McDonald's 1-minute drive-thru test

A McDonald's drive-thru promotion in Florida has kickstarted discussions on the treatment of low-wage workers, the quality of food and customer service, and even fast food's effects on health and society in general.

When McDonald’s restaurants in Florida began a limited-time promotion guaranteeing that drive-thru orders would be ready within 60 seconds, it seemed like a pretty interesting development to us. But we had no idea just how interesting others would find it. The response it has generated on the TIME Facebook page has been off the charts.

And it all stems from what seems at first glance like some quick, little article about a limited-time promotion that’s only available at McDonald’s in one state. What gives?

After reviewing hundreds of comments, as well as seeking comment from McDonald’s, low-wage worker activists, and assorted industry observers, here are some theories for why the story received such a huge reaction.

Concern for Low-Wage Workers

The comments section discussion is dominated by a wide range of people—McDonald’s workers, former McDonald’s workers, fast food customers and noncustomers alike—who essentially are worried that McDonald’s employees will be screwed over by such a guarantee. They say that fast food staffers are already overworked and under too much stress, for wages that aren’t nearly up to snuff. There’s “enough pressure right now without having to deal with this,” one commenter who said she is a McDonald’s employee wrote. “They are some of the most mistreated workers in our community,” another commenter wrote of McDonald’s workers. “This is a terrible, terrible idea and I do not support it whatsoever.”

Worker activist groups such as Chicago-based Fight for 15 and New York City’s Fast Food Forward have been campaigning for more than a year to push fast food giants such as McDonald’s to institute a minimum hourly wage of $15. As a Fight for 15 statement explains, “We believe that people who work hard for a living should make enough to support themselves, their families and their neighborhoods—and that workers should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“This is just another example of how McDonald’s is the boss, despite what it says,” reads a statement released to MONEY, credited to Angeling Carter, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker in Miami who makes $7.93 per hour. “The corporation sets rules and controls just about every aspect of its stores, from drive-thru service speeds to up-to-the-minute reports on labor and sales. If McDonald’s really wanted to improve customer satisfaction, boost their bottom line and help the economy, it would raise workers wages instead of telling franchisees they are paying too much.”

McDonald’s responded to our inquiry by saying it was “great” the post received such a big response on social media. A statement from the company also clarified, “The 60-second guarantee promotion is reinforcing a standard we’ve had for many years regarding timing from the ‘cash’ window to the ‘food present’ window.”

Because there’s been much confusion about what exactly is being guaranteed, let’s reiterate: The timer starts after the customer has placed an order, paid for it, and received a receipt. After that, employees are to deliver the customer’s food within 60 seconds. If they miss the cutoff, the customer does not get his or her order for free. Instead, the customer receives a coupon good for a free sandwich on a future visit to McDonald’s. And again, the 60-second guarantee is a promotion only at McDonald’s in Florida with drive-thrus (approximately 800 restaurants), only Monday to Friday from noon to 1 p.m., and only through August 29.

As for the criticism that the guarantee is unfair to workers, McDonald’s instead characterizes the promotion as “energizing our crew and … entertaining to our guests. Contrary to some of the Facebook comments, the feedback thus far from the crew is that they are having fun with it. They are engaging with customers in a new way and are having some fun camaraderie with each other.”

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