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Burger King Should Stick To Burgers

January 26, 2018

It’s a compelling video: a Burger King restaurant where a Whopper costs $4.99, $12.99 or $25.99 depending on whether you want it slow, fast or hyperfast. The goal is to explain how charging different prices for a Whopper is like Net Neutrality. It doesn’t work. Sure, they have actors playing Burger King employees explain that the disparate pricing, and higher cost for faster burgers, is similar to the repeal of Net Neutrality. But, they are explaining it wrong.

I admit that Net Neutrality is confusing to many people. And even though I work in the IT industry, I avoided dealing with it. I finally addressed it recently. (No Longer Neutral On Net Neutrality.) I won’t go over my opposition to it again here. But, I do want to address the cute Burger King ad.

Burger King is telling us that repealing Whopper Neutrality is just like repealing Net Neutrality. And since repealing Whopper Neutrality caused Burger King to jack up prices and slow down service, repealing Net Neutrality means that service providers will jack up prices and slow down service. It must be true, because we have actors pretending to be real people finally understanding Net Neutrality because, I mean really, who would pay $25.99 for a Whopper, right?

The problem with the ad is the basic premise: that the only thing keeping Burger King from jacking up their prices and ripping you off is the mystical Whopper Neutrality law. If you think about it, that’s not true at all. What would happen if they really did “repeal” Whopper Neutrality and try to charge you $25.99 for a fast Whopper and make you wait 20 minutes if you only paid for the slow Whopper?

We both know what you would do. You would go across the street to McDonalds and buy a Big Mac. Or, you’d go down the street to Wendy’s. Or, you’d decide there’s a business opportunity and you’d open up a buger joint that sold flame broiled burgers.

But, suppose you just had to have a Whopper? So, much that you might actually be willing to pay their jacked up prices? You know what would happen? McDonalds would install some broilers and they’d get in the flame broiled burger business and sell it to you for half the price of overpriced Whopper.

One more premise that Burger King got wrong. They stated the reason for repealing Whopper Neutrality was to try to sell more Chicken Sandwiches. If that were true, they wouldn’t need to jack up the price of the Whopper. No, they’d start selling more Chicken sandwiches. They might decide there’s a business opportunity in focusing on chicken. They’d go out and compete with Chick-fil-a.

The final false assumption from the ad: Burger King would have you believe that the only thing keeping you from being exploited is the existance of some law that forbids it. But, there is no law, right? If there is no law preventing Burger King from jacking up the prices, why don’t they? Why don’t they charge $25.99 for a Whopper since there is no Whopper Neutrality law preventing it? Because they are a business that actually is trying to make money. And they know that they can make more money charging $4.99 for a Whopper than they can charging $25.99.

What’s this have to do with Net Neutrality? Not a lot. Prior to 2015, when it was first passed, there was no Net Neutrality law. And yet, we didn’t have a segregated interent with different lanes for the rich/fast access and other lanes for the slow/poor access.

Even today, if your ISP decides to charge you $25.99 for a Whopper, you’ll go find another ISP. And if you don’t think you have other options, ask yourself how often you access the internet via your phone. And if Comcast, or some other ISP decides they want to jack up their prices, you will find people starting their own ISPs.

Don’t believe me? Ask Kevin Miles. He runs a small ISP named “Miles Wireless.” It only covers my little town of Pleasant Grove. Kevin runs it by himself. If you don’t want to pay prices that the cable company is charging, Kevin is more than happy to sign you up at higher bandwidth and lower cost.

Burger King has a well made ad, but it suffers from the same problem that the arguments against Net Neutrality always have. In fact, rather than showing why the repeal of Net Neutrality will hurt consumers, the ad actually is a pretty good illustration of why we didn’t need Net Neutrality and it’s repeal is not going to hurt the internet.

However, Burger King’s real goal is to sell Whoppers. The ad does a fantastic job of accomplishing that goal since it has people watching and commenting on their ad. You can’t buy that kind of advertising. . .and you don’t need a law to make it work.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

  1. Fantastic!

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