Detroit TV Station Lets Ridiculous Claim That McDonalds 'Made Like $500 Billion Last Year' Stand

Vickie Thomas and the news department at Detroit TV station WWJ really ought to be ashamed of themselves. The open question is whether they even know enough to be ashamed.

In reporting on a Motor City McDonald's store which was forced to close — whether it was for a few hours or all day and night isn't disclosed — Thomas quoted a "protester" claiming that "McDonald’s made like $500 billion last year." Most readers would interpret "made" as the company's annual profit. The company's worldwide net income in 2012 was $5.5 billion, barely 1 percent of the protester's completely unchallenged figure. The "like $500 billion" cited and allowed to stand is also 14 times larger than the $35.6 billion in gross sales at all of McDonald's U.S. franchised and company-owned stores.

Here are the first seven paragraphs from Thomas's report (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Local McDonald’s Forced To Close Amid Protest For Higher Wages

A local McDonald’s restaurant was forced to close after its employees walked out and hundreds gathered outside to protest for higher wages.

The restaurant on 8 Mile and Lahser roads along the Detroit/Southfield city line was just one location locally where fast food workers are participating in a nationwide “walkout for better wages.”

Over 200 protestors crowded the restaurant, carrying signs that read “We are worth more. Strike for 15,” as in $15 an hour.

Terrance Collins told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas he has worked at McDonald’s for a few years, and has been struggling ever since.

“I started off making $7.40, they gave me a manager position and raised that to $7.75. When they took my manager position, they dropped me back down to $7.40, and I have two kids to put on top of that that I’m trying to support. And the ends still doesn’t meet so no, it’s not a comfortable living,” he said.

Other employees shared Collins’ views.

“It’s a very uncomfortable lifestyle working for $7.40 at McDonald’s when McDonald’s made like $500 billion last year,” one protestor said.

If the "closure" described is typical of what was seen in other locales around the country, it was short-lived, based on a review of Candice Choi's report yesterday at the Associated Press:

In New York, City Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn joined about 300 to 400 workers and supporters in a march before the group flooded into a McDonald's near the Empire State Building. Shortly after the demonstration, however, the restaurant seemed to be operating normally, and a few customers said they hadn't heard of the movement. The same was true at a McDonald's a few blocks away.

In Atlanta, a TV station showed customers and workers in a McDonald's going about their business as protesters read a statement inside the restaurant.

... In another neighborhood of New York City, workers chanted "We can't survive on $7.25 an hour" outside a Wendy's and effectively cut off business. There were no customers inside.

In Detroit, the dining area of a McDonald's was shut down as workers and others protested outside. A Subway in Seattle was able to stay open despite dozens of protesters outside chanting for $15 an hour.

But WWJ's Thomas never bothered telling us how long the store stayed closed. Additionally, if the store involved is the same one as the AP's Choi described, it did even totally close if, as could be inferred from the last excerpted AP paragraph, the drive-thru remained open.

It would appear that Vickie Thomas and WWJ really had no idea how ridiculous the protester's claim was. It would have taken 60 seconds to go to the company's income statement at NASDAQ.com and see that the company's worldwide net income in 2012 was $5.465 billion.

The segment disclosures section of McDonald's 10-K annual report to the SEC (Pages 15 and 16) tells us that its U.S. company and franchise store sales in 2012 were $4.530 billion and $31.063 billion, respectively. The "$500 billion" the protester cited is 14 times larger than the combined total of $35.593 billion.

Or could it be that Thomas and WWJ really know how outlandish the claim was, and let it stand anyway in the interest of furthering the protesters' cause?

Though the report also cites the Associated Press as contributing, the $500 billion "made" figure doesn't seem to have seeped into other coverage of yesterday's protests. Thank goodness for small favors.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.