When Brandon sent me a message saying the szechuan sauce would be available only 20 minutes from my house, I knew it was my duty as a Rick and Morty podcaster (and the only one of the two of us not stuck on an island in the Pacific) to try and get my hands on it. The sauce I speak of is the now infamous szechuan Dipping sauce that Rick obsesses over in the season three premiere of Rick and Morty. Part of a Mulan marketing campaign at McDonalds in the late 90’s, this running gag from one of the biggest episodes in the show’s short history spiraled into an internet obsession. When McDonald’s said they were bringing it back for one day only, just about every fan wanted their chance at a taste.
This is my story of sauce day 2017.
The day started with me waking up and taking my kid to breakfast. I went home and played xbox with my son and contemplated just how early I should head out for a giveaway that started at 2pm. Something, in my gut, told me that I should probably head out at 11:00am (just in case) and see what the situation was at the one McD’s in my city with the sauce. When I got to the store around 11:30 the parking lot was fairly clear and I saw no trace of a line. I went inside to learn that management made a decision to hand out numbers starting at 5am. They felt this “first come, first served” policy fell in line with terms of the giveaway. I was handed number 38 and told right away that they only had 18 packets of sauce in the store.
WHAT THE EFFFFFFFF…?!?!
There were a few things I felt immediately upset about. The biggest issue was the realization that I let myself, my cohost and my listeners down by not going earlier. I own this and I am sorry. The second issue was that the giveaway was supposed to start at 2 pm, not 5 am! When I called the store the day prior, there was no mention of handing out tickets and it was made clear the event started at 2 pm. Finally, I was upset that McDonald’s would only send 20 packets (I know the store said they only had 18, but my bet is 2 went “missing” among the staff) to a city of nearly 500 thousand people.
With the sauce out of sight and the potential of getting a szechuan sticker with my number 38 card, I decided to stick around and talk to other people waiting there to get the sauce. I met a lot of Rick and Morty fans and was almost surprised by the variety of people who came out. I found myself being the bearer of bad news more times than I can count, as I shared with people that the sauce was already claimed. There were a lot of people who showed up early and I asked them what their plans were when they got the sauce. For the most part, the atmosphere was positive despite the fact that people were constantly being told they would not get the Mulan dipping sauce, Morty.
Storm Before the Calm of the Storm…
Things were fairly calm until about 40 minutes before the giveaway began. I got a chance to talk to the manager of the store who expected increased business that day, but had no idea she would have fans outside her restaurant before they even opened. I asked her why the decision was made to hand out numbers. The manager told me that the franchise owner thought it was the best way to minimize having too many people on the property.
I sat in a booth with some fellow fans who knew they wouldn’t get sauce but wanted to see it all go down. As we chatted, a line started to form outside. By 1:30 that line stretched the length of the McDonald’s and at least one customer was asked to leave after making a scene (this was not a young customer either, dude was in his 50s and he was pissed). At 1:30 everyone with cards had to line up and get ready for the 2 pm start. As we stood in a very unorganized group the line outside had already doubled and wrapped back around the front of the building.
One by one, numbers were called, sauces were sold and orders of Buttermilk Crispy Tenders were distributed. That is until about number 13, when in another testament to the poor planning on the behalf of Big Mac, they ran out of tenders. So now, people just bought whatever they wanted and got their swag. Number 19 (the first non-saucer) was happy to get her poster. That is of course, until she realized that the ten posters being given out were of all different types of sauce art and she did not have the szechuan poster. The manager made it very clear that everyone would “get what you get.” Another great move by the “D”…
By the late early 30s we were on to stickers (believe it or not, some of the mid-20 numbers were no-shows) and the line outside was as long as ever. I finally stepped up to the register, the last customer present with a number and got my sticker. The manager was cool and made sure I got a szechuan sticker that was toward the bottom of her sticker box (remember kids, it pays to be nice to people even if you think they made a horrible choice in organizing their event). I opted to eat my nuggets in the restaurant (with my underwhelming side of sweet and sour) mostly due to the fact that the parking lot and side street were gridlocked as sauceless people tried to leave.
A Dream Come True?
I sat a few tables away from Tom and his friends. Tom was actually the first person to get to McDonalds that day and had easily gotten his packet of sauce. I interviewed him earlier in the day for the podcast and he was a nice dude. To my surprise, after taking a ton of pictures, he grabbed his sauce and pulled back the lid. His group of friends all had their phones out capturing the moment as he tried the sauce for the first time. A few minutes later as I nibbled on fries and hoped to see a break in traffic, Tom approached with a freshly dunked nugget. I was floored. After thanking him about 1000 times I whipped out my phone to capture my taste of the sauce. I’ll post that video with this blog so you can catch my first reaction.
I was a little surprised by how strong the flavor was. Like a very strong teriyaki with maybe a bit too much soy sauce. I’d use the term umami but I’d feel too pretentious, and as I told Brandon later, while the sauce is good, it probably wouldn’t be my default on the menu.
Wurf the Hype?
So yeah, that’s my experience with the sauce. I saw a ton of news on social media later about all the fans that were pissed about not getting the sauce with some places even reported rioting. While I understand McDonald’s wanting the event to feel exclusive and to cash in on the popularity of Rick and Morty (despite the event having no official relation to Adult Swim or the show), they really laid an egg here. I watched literally hundreds of people get turned away but I couldn’t stop wondering how this would be good for business. Rick and Morty generated a mass hysteria over dipping sauce jokes and McDonald’s squandered the opportunity to make a lot of fans happy.
I’m finally getting this all out into words and just about 28 hours after the sauce was released. McDonald’s has already apologized for their botched sauce distribution and announced that they will make it available nationwide this winter. I appreciate that they are trying to make up for yesterday, but is it too late? I know thousands of fans will be happy to finally try the sauce, but I know for others it will take more than buttermilk crispy tenders to cover up the bad taste in their mouth.
If you want to hear more of my thoughts, check out Interdimensional RSS this week for more about my sauce experience and to hear audio interviews with some of the fans!