The Great McDonald's and Baxter State Park Switcheroo

Nancy - August 18, 2006

Baxter State Park has a lesson to learn from McDonald's; at least the one in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. We often go there for breakfast on our way up to the White Mountains for a hiking adventure. We drive up to the order screen and immediately a woman's voice says, "Good morning! Welcome to McDonald's!" She sounds like she's greeting long lost relatives whom she adores! And peppy! It doesn't matter how early we get there, she sounds more awake than anyone should - ever.

We place the order and drive up to the first window to pay for our breakfast. And there she is in the flesh, just as bright and cheery looking as she sounds. "Hi! How are you this morning?" She asks as we hand her our money. We can't help but say we're great. How can you be anything less than great when someone treats you like that? "Thank you," she says, taking our payment as if we had just given her a free gift. We drive up to the second window and this woman is just as happy! "Good Morning," she says with an ear-to-ear smile. By now we are used to this, but the first time it happened, Pat and I thought we were on candid camera. We leave smiling and ready to greet the day - all because of two exceptional McDonald's employees.

Baxter State Park Rangers could take a tip or two from the Hillsboro Ronald McDonald morning team.

We arrive at Baxter State Park on August 10, 2006, at 4:40 a.m. (Now I know that sounds crazy, and it is! The Park opens at 5 a.m. and there are only 36 parking spaces in the day hiking section of the Roaring Brook Campground lot. If you don't get one of those spaces, you can't climb Maine's highest mountain, Katahdin, using the Helon Taylor Trail to Knife Edge - which we had been looking forward to for about a year.) At 4:55, a Ranger opens up the park gate and holds up both hands signaling us, the first in line, to wait ten minutes. We wait about eight, can't stand it anymore and begin to inch forward in our car toward the Ranger Station. A woman in a car driving towards us sees us coming, turns her car around and heads back to the Ranger Station. We arrive at the station and hear her yelling at the Ranger who is approaching our car. "I didn't know you opened the gate. Why didn't you tell me?" She is clearly pissed off. Good morning to you too!

The Baxter State Park Ranger leans down, peers at us above his glasses and grumbles, "If you don't have the exact amount, I can't let you in because I don't have any change." Luckily we had set aside $12 the night before and are prepared with two fives and two ones. We hand him the bills. "Name," he barks. We tell him. "Emergency contact phone number?" We tell him. Where are you going?" Roaring Brook Campground, we say. He hands us the rules and regulations, gives us a registration paper that sticks to the inside of our windshield, and mumbles, "You can go," as he turns back to the station. Okay, what's wrong with this picture? This cantankerous bastard threatens to bar our entry to the Park because he doesn't have his fucking change pouch after we got up at 4 a.m. to be there? Are you kidding? What is he? Nuts? And whatever happened to -- Welcome to Baxter State Park! How can I help you?

That was not our last encounter with a Park Ranger. Coming down from Katahdin summit there was a sign at Chimney Pond Campground Ranger Station asking all hikers to sign in. Pat signed the registry while I poked my head around the corner to see if anyone was there. Sure enough - a Ranger. I was out of water and asked him if he had any at the campground. "All our water here is unpurified. Sorry," he said gruffly and immediately went back to his paperwork. Well, and a howdy-do to you too! Yes, we've had a good hike - Knife Edge was kinda hard though. Yes, it's too bad it's raining. Sure - we'll take care - thanks... Idiot!

So I have an awesome idea! Ohhhhh, I'm so excited! Let's take the Baxter State Park Rangers and make an even exchange for the two wonderful women in the Hillsboro McDonald's! An even switcheroo! I figure those women could appease absolutely anyone, even half-awake cranky out-of-staters having to deal with the ridiculous Park regulation requiring them to get up at 4 a.m. to sit in their cars in line for half an hour to qualify for a parking space so they can hike a mountain. The McDonald's morning team will be the symbolic sunshine, greeting hikers with warmth and good cheer as they enter the Park. Contagious in their enthusiasm and zest for life, they will pump-up everyone they encounter and consequently climbers will begin their hikes with an extra spring in their steps.

And the Rangers? Well, clearly they won't measure up to the cheery morning fast food combo. (God help the patrons who don't have correct change -- no breakfast for you!) So McDonald's management will raise a ruckus and we'll have to undo the switcheroo and return the Rangers to the Park and the morning team to McDonald's. By then, hopefully, McDonald's management will have realized how valuable their two cheery, perky employees are and will welcome them home with a raise or a bonus. And even more hopefully, Baxter State Park management will have learned what customer service truly is and will fire the Rangers' asses!