In 1952, the official slogan for Coca-Cola was “What you want is a Coke.” In 1982, the catch phrase was “Coke is it!” Today’s slogan for the world’s most popular soft drink is “Life begins here.” These are only a few of the sayings used by Coca-Cola since it was developed in 1886. However, the 1969 mantra, “It’s the real thing”, best described this refreshing beverage in an amusing Burger King incident that took place in 1974.
The majority of the work force at Burger King was made up of high school students wanting to make some money. And like most kids that age, they loved Coca-Cola; they just weren’t too keen on spending their hard-earned cash on it.
Fortunately, Burger King had a policy that allowed employees to drink for free while they were working. There were only two stipulations - you couldn’t be on the frontline and you had to use your personal plastic cup.
The reason for using a personal cup was that the paper Burger King cups actually cost more than the Coke itself. Swear to God. Not drinking on the frontline was just common sense.
Pretty sweet deal, huh? Needless to say we all took advantage of the King’s generosity. For some strange reason, it seemed like the young females seemed to partake of this benefit far more often than their male counterparts.
This fact was especially evident on a warm summer evening in 1974. I saw that every time I went into the back there were two or three girls enjoying a cold beverage.
When I mentioned this to our manager Tony, he said he had noticed the same thing. Suddenly there was a light bulb over my head. I asked Tony if he wanted to have some fun. He nodded vigorously as a wicked grin spread over his face.
I told him we would need a couple of bolts that were the same size. One had to be old and rusty, the other shiny and new. He went to look through the toolbox.
Moments later he returned from his office with the two bolts. I laid the rusty one on the shelf over the sink and told him to put the shiny one in his pocket and follow my lead.
Sure enough, as we walked over to the walk-in cooler there was Janet and Sherry taking a Coke break. Innocently, I said, “Jeez, you guys sure drink a lot of Coke.” Both ladies shrugged their shoulders and Janet said, “So what? It’s free.”
To which I replied, “Don’t you know what that stuff can do to your stomach?” Before they could say anything, Tony added, “Ya, the acid in Coke can take the rust off metal.”
By this time Debbie had joined the group and asked what was going on. Of course, she was gulping down a Coke. Sherry told her, “Paul and Tony are saying that Coke is bad for us and it can eat rust off of metal.” Debbie rolled her eyes and blurted out, “Ya, right!”
I quickly replied, “Oh, you don’t believe us? Go over by the sink and see if you can find any rusty nails or bolts.” Janet scampered over to the sink and quickly returned with the rusty old bolt that we had planted there.
Tony then told Debbie to go fill a small courtesy cup with Coca-Cola and bring it back to him. When she returned, he dropped the dirty old bolt into the small paper cup. He then carefully placed it on the table near the time clock.
Turning to the trio of skeptic females, he said, “Okay, it will take awhile to eat off all of that rust, let’s check back in an hour.” With that he told us all to get back to work.
The next sixty minutes seemed to last an eternity. By now the entire crew had heard about the “experiment”. Everyone was anxious to see if Coke would really eat the rust off of that old bolt.
It became increasingly difficult for Tony and I to keep a straight face but we knew we had to if our diabolical scheme was to be a success. Somehow we did it.
Just before the hour was up, Tony quietly went into the back and replaced the rusty bolt with the shiny new one. Now all we had to do was wait.
Tony had just returned to the front when Janet blurted out, “I can’t take it anymore! I have to know!” Glancing at his watch, Tony said that since it wasn’t very busy, they could go look.
Lead by Janet, Sherry and Debbie, the crew bolted into the back while Tony and I watched for customers. Luckily there were none because the loud shriek that came from the backroom would have scared them right out of the restaurant. Our plan had obviously worked.
The shaken crew returned to the front with a trembling Debbie holding the shiny bolt for us to see. Tony and I were fighting back laughter when Janet announced, “You guys were right. I’m never drinking Coke again!”
When the others began nodding in agreement, I had to get out of there and asked Tony if I could take a break. He told me to go ahead.
A few minutes later Tony joined me in the dining room. Making sure we were alone, we both busted out laughing. Wiping a tear from my eye, I asked him if we should tell them the truth. He said we had better. We agreed to come clean and tell them the truth after my break.
As you might have already guessed, our duped co-workers chastised the two of us most vehemently. We were called extremely bad names. Names that I don’t care to repeat at this time. But it was well worth it. For one hour, on a warm summer evening in 1974 at Burger King, Coke was the real thing.
The final chapter of the Burger King Trilogy is a real doozy. You don’t want to miss it. Until next time…from the booth.