Oprah took 300 lucky audience members from her season premiere to Australia and is airing several shows leading up to their trip so her viewers can learn about the land Down Under. As part of one of these shows, an Oprah guest reporter, Carrie Bickmore, informs viewers that "hip" Aussies gather and socialize at McCafes, coffee shops that are part of the McDonald's empire.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Or is there?
Bickmore, in a segment promoted as a "crash course in Australian lingo and culture," called McCafes "hip hangouts" and used their slogan "it's all a little bit fancy" to describe the chain, claiming it's where "guys come for business meetings [and] girls come for a catch-up over coffee." According to The Australian, McDonald's paid Harpo Industries for the spot.
Let me get this straight: Oprah takes 300 people to Australia, because traveling is part of a "best life" involving exposing oneself to different landscapes and cultures. That's the whole point of leisure travel, right? So in order to acclimate her viewers to the unique cultural offerings that make Australia Australian, she tells them about McDonald's coffee shops.
Four groups of people Oprah seriously pissed off with this really lame conception of a show:
Oprah gets paid for this. And does not disclose it on the show. A show rep only confesses when questioned by a newspaper. Lame.
Many Aussies are up in arms. The Oprah visit has been widely hyped by the Australian media, and they resent McCafes being presented as the best of what their country has to offer.
Coffee enthusiasts are particularly miffed, as Australia has a thriving coffee culture, due to the large number of Italian and Greek immigrants to the country, that certainly doesn't consider McCafes as their pride and joy.
The Australian government, in an attempt to boost tourism to the country, is footing the bill for the trip, to the tune of AUS $5 million. In light of that, I'd be extremely upset that her shows didn't highlight Australia's culinary landscape.
Listen, I don't hate Oprah. She built her empire herself and seems particularly generous in leveraging her power into benefits for her viewers. I wouldn't turn down a free trip to Australia. However, women in America listen to what she has to say. They really listen. And when she insinuates that when you should travel, if you want to be like the locals, head to McCafes (or McDonald's, or any other chain you can experience here in the US), that's both irresponsible and just plain bad advice. Had she taken her viewers to Paris, would she bypass the legendary bistros and brasseries for McDo?
If you are fortunate enough to travel to a foreign country, do yourself a favor: ignore Oprah. Seek out what the locals eat where they eat it. You can visit the Golden Arches any old time ... here in America.
Do you think Oprah took an ethical and public relations nose dive with the McDonald's kerfuffle?
Image via The Consumerist/Flickr