Fast Food Hamburgers and the $1 Slice of Cheese

You know what’s messed up? The nickel and diming of fast food hamburgers.

I like hamburgers differently than most people. Most people like lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and ketchup in their burgers. Maybe some mayonnaise or onions too. However, I’m a picky eater and I prefer my hamburgers with almost none of that stuff. I typically eat burgers with just cheese and ketchup. No lettuce, no tomatoes, no onions. Sometimes I’ll get pickles or thousand island dressing and there’s exceptions to the rule like specialty burgers such as Carl Jr’s Western Bacon Cheeseburger, which I get as is. The standard burger for me however is just the meat patty, cheese, ketchup and the bun.


I went to Burger King the other day with my mother to get a couple of Whoppers. I should prefix this by saying that Burger King makes one of my favorite fast food burgers, behind Carl’s Jr and In-n-Out Burger. We had a coupon that would give us two Whoppers, two orders of French Fries, and two sodas for $8. We pull into the drive thru and once it’s our turn, I first informed them of the coupon we had and then, I order us our food just like I had countless times: one burger with no onions and the other just plain with cheese and ketchup only and two cokes. At this point, the man on the speaker informs me that if I added cheese to one of the burgers, it would cost more. I shrugged and told him I didn’t mind and he took our order and we moved forward in the line.

Now as I’ve been eating hamburgers all my life, I am aware that cheese is always extra. Despite the fact that I just saved them some money by not requiring lettuce, tomato, pickles, or onions on the burger, I know that I have to pay more for a slice of cheese to be included on the bun. However, when I pull up to the second window (as the first has been rendered inoperable by a plastic container) and I’ve handed the attendant the coupon, he gives me a total of $9.67.

I pay by credit card but as he’s getting my food, I do the math real quick in my head. The coupon made the meal $8 and the tax rate in California is 7.75%. Roughly the amount should’ve been somewhere around $8.60, give or take a few cents. However, at $9.67, that would mean that to put a slice of cheese on my Whopper, I was charged an extra dollar or so. I can get a pack of Kraft singles at the market for three something and I was just charged one dollar for just one slice.


Again, I know I have to pay extra for cheese but when the amount becomes that gratuitous, I started thinking about it and start questioning the logic we’ve accepted as “the way things are.” I understand that cheese is more valued than the other toppings usually used for hamburgers but especially when I drop almost all of the other toppings from the burger, the least you can do is do me a solid and not charge me for a freakin’ slice of cheese, let alone one whole dollar for it.

What’s more is that this doesn’t hold up to its own logic. How is it that when I get a dollar burger at McDonalds, I get a slice of cheese with no extra fee but when I buy a three or so dollar burger at Burger King, I’m slapped with a dollar tax for some cheese? I’m not picking on Burger King either. If I get a Quarter Pounder from McDonalds but ask for cheese, I gotta pay more. Yeah, it’s technically a different burger as it has a different name, “Quarter Pounder with Cheese”, but that’s semantics. McDonalds is even worse in that a cheeseburger is $1, a McDouble – which is a double hamburger with one slice of cheese – is $1.29, and a Double Cheeseburger – which is a double hamburger with two slices of cheese – is somewhere around $1.50. WTF!?

Now the solution to this you might think would be to charge for each topping so that it’s fair but the only way I feel that’ll work is if that particular fast food chain would be willing to put anything on the burgers. So ingredients normal reserved for specialty burgers, such as barbeque sauce or mushrooms or bacon, would have to be fair game. Therefore, I say just don’t charge extra for cheese. There’s already cases where fast food chains don’t already so I don’t think they’ll lose that much money. Oddly enough, it seems to be for discount burgers where they do this, and that just breaks down the sensibility even more.


Will this prevent me from buying burgers in the future? Of course not. Burgers are one of the most popular food items in the United States and one of my favorite foods. Will this prevent me from getting cheese on my burger? Honestly, no. I don’t have much on the burger as it is. I need something to give it flavor. Should I try just eating a burger as it’s normally prepared? Sorry. Can’t do it. I can’t stand lettuce on burgers (which is strange since I like salads just fine) and tomatoes just taste too squishy. Also I like my burger being completely warm whereas lettuce and tomatoes are typically cooler. Ah well. C’est la vie. At least the fries are good as is.


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