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Why does the internet care about one man’s insane McDonald’s story, and is it true?

The story of some tweets, some people, and no milkshake

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Josh Raby, a writer and podcast-creator, had an extremely unpleasant, but fairly whimsical, experience at a McDonald's this weekend. He recounted the experience in a series of 30 very zany tweets. The tale began with a "hey holy shit hello" (which I love as a new email opener) and ended with a poorly made chicken sandwich. Raby's time at the fast food drive-thru lasted nearly an hour, which is way too much time to spend at a McDonald's even under the best of circumstances, obviously.

His story went viral, as stories about nothing important often do, but some out there are wondering if it could possibly be true. What do I think? I think it's time to ask ourselves some hard questions.

Kaitlyn, do you have any reason to believe this story is fake?

I suspect this story is fake because of my woman's intuition, and because we've all been burned before. It was also suggested to me by my colleague Colin Lecher, who requested that we "ask McDonald's if this is a hoax," because "Pulitzers are next week, we still have time, is what I'm saying."

Are you really going to investigate the veracity of this story, using all your energy and all the resources at your disposal?

Well, I see what Colin is saying, but it is 8PM.

Do you have any reason to believe that Josh Raby himself is not real?

Yes, I would like to submit the following tweet.

It makes reference to the Broadway musical Hamilton, a cultural phenomenon that is so absurdly far past the point of being referenced in a way that is cool or funny that I am 80 percent sure this tweet was written by an AI experiment and not a person.

However, long before this "incident," he tweeted about being bullied for listening to Dolly Parton in elementary school. That tweet makes me feel like he definitely is real and that I'm in love with him.

I guess I'm not prepared to make a firm statement about whether or not Josh Raby is a real person.

Does the alleged behavior of these McDonald's employees seem altogether too far-fetched?

Well, there is a McDonald's positioned directly below my bedroom window, and I can corroborate, if not all of these claims, then at least the claim that some McDonald's drive-thru attendants say insane things in the middle of the night.

i believe we are all capable of anything, honestly

Additionally, I worked in food service for about six years and did several things that would be considered inexplicably unprofessional by almost anyone: for example, utilizing a hot glue gun behind an espresso bar for non-work-related, arts-and-crafts reasons; writing "hold your tongue against mine after drinking coffee, baby, that's a French press" on a stranger's coffee cup; and loudly playing a mix tape of some of the angrier Kate Nash songs for the benefit of a coworker who had recently spurned my advances.

It happens.

Did Mr. Raby submit any concrete evidence of either himself or the story being real?

He submitted a photo of empty McDonald's take-out boxes, corresponding to the items he claimed to have purchased. He is not in the photo, so it's not very good evidence that he is real. There are over 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States, all of which serve chicken sandwiches and apple pies, and most of which serve those at any time of day, so these boxes are evidence of exactly nothing. I wonder if he has ever heard the phrase "let's see the receipts," and why, if so, he didn't provide us with a dang receipt.

How has McDonald's responded to Mr. Raby's story?

Well, the answer to this depends on what you mean by "McDonald's." Do you mean a real human being who owns the specific McDonald's that Mr. Raby went to? She responded as such: "he sounds like a yo-yo, idiot person." Do you mean the vague menace that is a multi-billion dollar corporation named McDonald's? It responded like this:

I certainly have an opinion about which is the more reasonable and proportionate response, but feel free to make up your own mind.

Why didn't you just ask Josh Raby himself about the validity of his claims?

Well, for one, I watched two seasons of Vanderpump Rules this weekend so my instinct to believe that someone is lying to me has been greatly amplified, possibly permanently. Additionally, Josh tweeted earlier today that he has been turning down interviews because "I don't know why they would be interesting."

I wonder if Josh Raby has ever read an interview that he found interesting, because other than the GQ interview in which Jake Gyllenhaal says he knows his body is controlled by the moon (and of course everything on this website), I have not. Therefore, I respect Josh's desire not to be interviewed, though I think I could have kept things interesting by insisting on speaking only in Hamilton lyrics.


Why did this story go viral anyway? I have unpleasant experiences at chain restaurants all the time and you don't see me getting aggregated on BuzzFeed over it!

Okay, simmer down. This story fits in with a time-honored tradition of telling long-winded, customer service nightmare stories on Twitter, in series of dozens or even hundreds of tweets. It's easy to find an audience for them, because as you mentioned, almost everyone has had an unpleasant customer service experience. In my experience, the most popular sites for being treated poorly by either customer service professionals or fellow customers are airplanes, coffee shops, subways, the DMV, fast food restaurants, licensed New York State Auto Inspection sites, movie theaters, and the pharmacy, where I am constantly being asked if I am sure that my last name is Tiffany. I imagine your list does not differ notably.

Therefore the primary reason to read a story like this is empathy. It's a very simple, very human thing to feel. It can be cathartic to watch a stranger go up against the injustices of sharing this planet with each other, especially if they do so with wit and / or well-timed profanities. It's really nice to know that other people are out there struggling with the everyday shit, just like you. It's also nice to know a writer and storyteller found an audience, in however an unexpected way.

So, if you got to have a beautiful cathartic experience thanks to this story and Raby got some positive feedback, does it really matter if it was real or a hoax?

No, I guess not!

Unless you're an executive at McDonalds, and then still, no, all press is good press. Even when the customer doesn't get their milkshake.

Well, phew.

Yes.