Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

At the time, it seemed a moving story.

A North Carolina Popeyes had run out of its suddenly popular chicken sandwiches. So the local Chick-fil-A manager walked over to the disappointed Popeye customers and offered some of Chick-fil-A's fare for free.

It was a lovely gesture. And, of course, a highly competitive statement. 

I'm reminded of this tale because of a new story emerging from the closure of a McDonald's.

This franchise, in the Tokyo district of Akihabara, put up a sign in its window. As Sora News 24 reported, it read: 

Thank you for your 22 years of patronage. The Akihabara Showadori branch McDonald's will be permanently closing at 6 p.m. on January 31. Thank you for the past 22 years. We deeply appreciate the customers who supported this branch, and hope you will continue to dine at other McDonald's locations.

The sign was accompanied by a picture of Ronald McDonald turning his back and waving, which some might find imperfect symbolism.

Fast food is hard. It seems that, in a district well known for its concentration of tech types, and aficionados of video games and anime, McDonald's was no longer a thing. Or, at least, this McDonald's. There are three others in the area.

Still, the local Burger King decided to offer a public show of respect. It put up a sign featuring a bowing Burger King employee and these words: 

Thank you for 22 happy years. Our neighbor two buildings over, McDonald's, will be closing today. Esteemed rival, and fellow friend who loved Akihabara,
because you were close by, we also could do our best. Without you here, McDonald's, thinking of the future fills us with sadness. Selfish though it is for us to say this, everyone, please go to McDonald's today. Challenging ourselves to be as good as McDonald's has been our goal, so with a smile, we say thank you.

In the midst of competition, it's easy to forget that there's a certain camaraderie between competitors. They know they endure many of the same issues. Staffing, the dictatorial behavior of head office, customer dissatisfaction, they see it all. Your competitors often really aren't so different from you. They obsess about you, just as you obsess about them.

Many might think that Burger King's gesture was, therefore, a sort of "there, but for the grace of the King, go we." The mere idea of sending customers to a competitor looked like a beautiful existential gesture.

Until, that is, a tweeter called @sato322 pointed out that reading the initial character of each line, you get something akin to "our win" or "victory is ours." As @sato322's tweet reverberated around the web, gaining tens of millions of views, he mused he was shocked by the numbers in the audience. 

It's not for me to suggest that Burger King's intentions were mean-spirited. Then again, the chain does have a previous charge of sending customers to McDonald's with trolling intentions.

The award-winning Whopper Detour campaign sent customers to order a one-cent Whopper at McDonald's. The idea was that anyone who ordered a Whopper on the Burger King app and was within 600 feet of a McDonald's would get one for a ridiculous price. Geotargeting is the future, after all.

One has to remain open-minded, then, whether the Akihabara Showadori Burger King was respectful or crowing.

Or perhaps, given the tough, fickle nature of the business, it was both.

Published on: Feb 1, 2020
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