Jonathan Leger – SEO And Internet Marketing Blog Internet Marketing Blog


All I Wanted Was An Ice Cream!

I'm going to tell you a story about an ice cream cone. This story has a direct bearing on how you design your web site. It may not seem to relate to your business at first, but it does, so please bear with me. It will all make sense shortly. Ready? Here goes.

I was out and about tonight when I suddenly had a craving for an ice cream cone from McDonald's. Not the dipped kind, just vanilla. It's only 170 calories, and I had eaten pretty light today. I lost 40+ lbs 3 years ago and have kept it off in no small part by not trying to completely rob myself of the food I like.

Anyway, I get to the drive through and order my ice cream cone. I pay the guy my $1.08 and pull up. There are two cars in front of me. As I watch the transactions between the employee at the window and the person in the first car, there is a lot of back and forth. The passenger doesn't like the toy in the Happy Meal, so it gets changed out. There are multiple bags because it's a big order, and one of the drinks is wrong, so that takes more time. That's okay, I think, I'm not in that big of a hurry.

The first car pulls away and the next one pulls up. At last, I think, I'm close to getting my ice cream. Another round of back and forth begins between the guy in front of me and the employee in the window. This time, though, there are long pauses in between each of the bags he gets (it was also a big order). I'm starting to get irritated, not with the guy in front of me or the size of his order, but with how many times the workers at the McDonald's are getting things wrong.

I know from experience with this particular store (the one closest to my house) that they get something wrong in the order about half the time I go there. I have to check my receipt and check everything in the order because it's wrong that often. I keep going there because the next closest McDonald's would add about half an hour to my trip time, and while the mistakes are irritating, they never take up that much extra time, so it's still the most time-economic choice.

The moment of truth finally arrives and the guy in front of me pulls away. It's time for my ice cream cone! I pull up and the employee in the window asks, "Did you order just an ice cream cone?"

"Yes," I respond with a smile.

"We just put the ice cream in the machine," the employee says -- and I look and see that, indeed, they are just adding the ice cream to the machine -- "Would you mind pulling up and waiting?"

At this point I ran out of patience. I was waiting in line for a solid ten minutes. Why couldn't somebody add the ice cream into the machine while I was waiting, knowing that it was going to be needed? All I ordered was an ice cream, and I was going to have to wait even longer for it to freeze in the machine. Had I been going to a store that never had problems like this, I probably would have just pulled up and waited. But because of this particular location's history of sub-par service, I chose not to.

"Nevermind," I said, "just give me a refund. This has taken too long already."

Asking for a refund was a mistake. The employee had to go to the manager and tell him I wanted a refund. The manager nodded but never came to the window to give me the refund. After another two minutes of waiting, I finally gave up and told the guy at the window, "You know what, it's only a dollar, it's not that important. Have a great night." And I left.

All I wanted was an ice cream cone.

Fifteen minutes and $1.08 later and I was driving away with nothing. As of tonight I have decided that I will avoid that McDonald's except when absolutely necessary. They have lost me as a repeat customer. It's a shame, really. All they had to do was put the ice cream in the machine when they got the order and I would have been okay. Not thrilled with the service, but okay.

So what on earth does this silly experience have to do with your web site? Everything! A poorly designed web site sales experience is very much like a badly run McDonald's.

For instance, have you ever tried to buy something from a web site only to find that you were required to create an account before you could make your purchase -- even if the purchase was very small? I have. It's irritating, especially if it's a one-time purchase and I know the odds of my coming back again are near zero.

Or how about those web sites that make it easy enough for you to browse their products, but they don't list their price on the same page as the product? No, they make you go to another page and scroll through their entire product line to find the price. Again, time consuming and irritating.

Then there are the shopping carts that make you go through 37 steps to perform the checkout rather than keeping it all on one or two pages.

But my absolute favorite are the web sites that sell digital products (like help desk software) that don't give you immediate access to your purchase. No, you have to wait for manual verification that can take 24 hours or more. Anytime I run into that, I get a refund and never buy from that web site again.

As a site owner you might find all kinds of "logical" reasons to justify why your site does any (or all of) these annoying things. But you need to think like a customer, not a vendor. Make it as easy and fast as possible for people to buy from you, and deliver the product as soon as possible. Doing that will seriously increase your conversion rate and encourage repeat sales. A customer might put up with your slow, annoying buying process the first time, but the odds of them coming back are very small.

To test your site's shopping experience, get the most impatient person you know to go through the entire sales process and ask their opinion. It's even better if the person isn't tech savvy at all. That way you know that your buying process is also easy for pretty much everybody to use and understand. Repeat that testing process with as many people as possible, and make changes so it's easy for those people to buy.

Changes to the buying experience that you think of as small and insignificant can really improve the customer experience -- and your bottom line (like putting the ice cream in the machine when the order was placed rather than waiting).

Seriously, man, all I wanted was an ice cream.

Please post your thoughts and feedback in a comment below, and please share this post using any of the social buttons below if you found it useful. Thanks in advance!

Related Internet Marketing Q&A

Comments (67) Trackbacks (0)
  1. It’s funny how many websites (and shops or salesmen) get in the way of the person just wanting to buy something.

    I like to get my parents (who are older and don’t really like or use computers) to take a run through my site to see how long it takes for them to buy/enquire, what they get stuck on and what annoyed them. After the really obvious kinks are gone I use Crazy Egg to look at how the masses use the site, really great program that.

  2. The drop out rate on the checkout page of shopping carts can range from 20 – 50%.

    Reduce that just 10% and it can mean $1000s, $10,000s yearly.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as removing 2 or three fields.

  3. G`day Jonathan…

    Got your email this morning about an ice cream.

    All I wanted was an ice cream!‏

    That was a good one you came with a good post you put together i see what your point is ((-;

    I hate McDonald’s all together the food is just junk and the service i`m sure a lot of people would know about the customer service experience side of it!

    My own advice If you are dealing with any sort of online marketers always do your home work first before buying any sort of website and do your research on the product and find out more information before you even think of hitting that buy it button..?

    Remember a lot of Scams online now…

    Also with your Trust Jacker it`s all good Jonathan it didn`t bother me but maybe some people it might..? i knew what it was and i`m using it as well, but i`ve notice you are using it to redirect it to your own site which it didn`t show that in the set up video you might find it could turn some people off..?

    I`ve done it how the TJ video says how to set it up and i had no problem ((-: this system is awesome..

    Keep up the good work Jon…

  4. Good example. I’m a loyal customer of mcDonald’s.

  5. I was buying from a local online store. It’s not in English and took me ages to register for. However, after purchasing I am totally thrilled. I ordered at 9pm and got the item at midday the next day. They’ve never made a mistake with any orders, and their prices are actually a little more than many other places online. But their service is fantastic. I am willing to pay a premium for good service, as I do with my web host who typically respond to helpdesk requests in under half an hour.

  6. It is amazing what some of the big companies like McDonalds and Walmart can get away with that the little guys cannot. Have you ever been to a Walmart and been able to get through the checkout line in less than 15 minutes?

    Customer service has taken a back seat to “Best Price at any cost to custormer service”

  7. Good lesson, Jon. Thank you.

  8. My most embarrassing moment, when proudly showing one of my most long-standing sites to an Internet coach, was when he said “But, where’s the BUY button?”

    Amazingly I had been making sales from the site, but I can only admire the persistence of those clients to have unravelled my convoluted process!

  9. One McDonalds I go to all the time for the same reason you mentioned (proximity), will do something I haven’t see elsewhere.

    If all I do is order a coffee and there are full orders in front of me at the drive thru, they will give me the coffee at the first window when I pay so I don’t have to wait.

    That really impressed me the first time it happened – a small touch, but it earned my loyalty. They went out of their way to speed me on my way and I didn’t even have to ask.

  10. If we give our users an experience on our site, they will always come back. Most of the people on internet are trying to look for something or the other. They mostly have very little patience. They quickly read a few paragraphs and jump from one page to another without actually reading the whole content. After a few clicks, they just leave. Keeping this behavior in mind we should design a user experience on our site. If we are able to grab the eyeballs in the first 30-60 seconds, the user will stay longer and possibly become a customer.

  11. Another annoying thing I’ve found a lot lately, (particularly at Walmart) is getting to the checkout and the merchandise ringing up at the wrong price. It’s happening literally every time I check-out with at least one item! And, the worst part is that the workers are annoyed with me for pointing it out.

  12. An excellent comparison that holds true for all of us. I think some businesses have forgotten it is all about pleasing the customer. Online businesses only have a website to communicate with customers. It should be navigable, user-friendly and serve up what they want right away. Unfortunately, many do resemble a poorly run McDonald’s.

  13. Good points and I wish Starbucks stores would also sell ice cream :)

  14. hi Jonathan
    Great article and oo so true I allwys find it a real pain when you want to buy a one of item only to find that you have to provide your life history (filling in a one page membership application first )
    Other site make things real complicated and confussing to just by one item the site that springs to mind is GoDaddy make life a miserly every time you want a domain indeed i avoid them and go to namecheapetc Thats all aimed at getting added valus by extra sales.What a nightmare.
    cheers enjoy Sunday
    regards peter mcgrath

    • I only buy anything if I can see the price. If the price is hidden I don`t bother to look for it by clicking to other pages.

      I should also check all my sites for such mistakes. Thanks for an awesome article.

  15. I work retail and customer service is a big thing for us. We bend over backwards to keep things like what you experienced from ever happening. However, no one person or thing is perfect.

    You should have gone straight to the top and using explained your experience. Many times things get shaken up and straightened out. It is imperative that you use a friendly voice and a big smile.

    • I never expect perfection. I know sometimes mistakes happen. As I pointed out in the post, this was a regular problem at this particular location. Had it just been an occasional issue I would have felt differently about it.

      • Hi Jon,

        I can’t wait to show this article to my wife. She knows how much I despise the McDonald’s franchise.

        Sure you could have gone straight to the top and perhaps got some satisfaction, but it would have then cost you more time and I doubt any thing you would have said would result in a change to their internal operations.

        Virtually every time I go there no matter where they are located I have similar problems.

        Back in July while on route to my vacation destination my wife persuade me to stop at one because she had these coupons that she wanted to use before they expired.

        Lo and behold, although there were plenty of employees to handle an influx of vacationers and I commend them for the job they were doing knocking out the orders, some how wouldn’t you know it. They not only ran out of french fries, but somehow my french fry order was mistakenly grabbed by another employee and given to another customer!

        By this time my wife was back in our vehicle laughing and wondering why I seem to be the one this happens to all the time. I couldn’t help but laugh along with her and point out that the law of attraction is alive and well.

        The bad news for you Jon, is that I suspect you may have been lucky with your visits to the McDonald’s a little farther away from your home. I think it is only a matter of time before you see similar results from other locations.

        This problem may be more universal than even I thought it was.

        Thanks for the insights on how to improve our processes.


  16. OK Jon, your story is so true, it’s universal.

    I’ve owned several of your products for two to three years now and consider my self a loyal fan and customer but you really picked the wrong time to through stones. My last two orders took four days and two days to be completed and that includes first contact from customer service.

    We all need to pickup the boulders in our own yard before we start throwing stones at the neighbors.

  17. Hi, Jon; I hope this time my comment will be seen. Getting a bit tired of reading your good articles, then spending time writing stuff, and being ignored.

    Why on Earth are you poisoning yourself with macd`s absolute crap in the first place?

    By the comments re Trustjacker, it seem s I should cancel mine?

  18. On a side note. When viewing this site through my iPhone browser everything is blurry when I zoom in. Could be due to the redirect and TJ.

  19. Hey Jonathan

    Nice read… Your totally right when buying from websites with ease. Why make it harder to find things rather than distracting them from buying.

    I’ve often purchased from websites that don’t work properly or make you fill out loooonnnnggggg forms before you can purchase this is also the case for digital products.

    KISS – Keep it simple stupid… Nice rant john but spot on.

  20. the lessons in the story were pretty obvious, didn’t learn anything there, but it did remind me of this awesome cinnamon icecream i had on a cruise 2 years ago… mmmmmm… so delicious. Can’t get it here is australia

  21. Jon, congratulations on the weight loss. Not getting the ice cream was probably the best thing you ever got from McDonald’s. The food is nasty and filled with stuff you can’t pronounce.

    I though you were going to say that by the time you got your ice cream it was melting because they made it when you ordered it and it sat by the window while the other drivers dawdled. Thought the message was going to be about keeping your website “fresh” looking. Either way, point well taken. Thanks!

  22. Good article Jonathan and it highlights similar experiences we come across regularly.
    Poor management leads to poor performance from staff. They care little about the customers as they are on low wages and rubbish incentives.

  23. “To test your site’s shopping experience, get the most impatient person you know to go through the entire sales process and ask their opinion. It’s even better if the person isn’t tech savvy at all. ” – That advice is worth its weight in gold, as usual, Jon!

  24. No comments about the pop-up.
    My sentiments entirely re: your ice cream experience.
    What I hate even more about some web sites is signing in to purchase, no way!!
    If I go into a store to purchase I don’t have to sign in, nor do I have to read the legend of the staff or store. :-/

  25. It’s even more irritating when trying to buy from a website that doesn’t work properly, you may try to put in your information one more time, but more often than not you would just leave the site and never return again.

  26. Good suggestion, On all the software sites these guys run there is no signups to buy. You have to watch out for double billing if you are not careful.

  27. Ice Cream! What a wonderful invention, remember the days when we made it at home on a Sunday with all the family? Anyway You hit the nail on the head..we work so hard to get a customer to a page, then we run them away with the BS. It happens to me all the time. I am not actually a web designer. I should be.. but I cannot get it thru the designers that do work for me to design it like I want..

  28. Whats true in the real world is even more relevant online where people have no patience at all,

  29. Wow Jon! You hit it again as always. I count myself a patient guy but with limitations. I recently wanted a new hosting service and found one which I thought should fit into my budget but after clicking the “Register Now” it continues to take me to the home page instead of the registration form. I flipped my tops and left.

    I got a mail offering me a wordpress plugin free. After subscribing, I had to go through 4 pages and each time I clicked “No, just take me to my download”. After the 5th page guess what, I left. I went back to my email and unsubscribed immediately. The guy has lost me forever.

    Thanks Jon for these tips you give. I am your fan.

  30. Hey Jon,
    Gotta love your analogy.

    I was at the store the other day and was looking at the ‘French Vanilla’ ice cream and grabbed the ‘Old Fashioned Vanilla’ by instead.

    Why would anyone put 2 types of vanilla side by side!? Good grief. lol
    You would think I would learn to grab the one I am looking at.

    Now that I have cooled down, I just wanted to share a bowl of good ‘Old Fashioned Vanilla’ Tillamook ice cream with you.

    Here’s to you Jon-
    Keep up the great sharing.


  31. Jon, whenever I have a great or not so great customer service experience, I will frequently seek out the manager and let him or her know. My thinking is that if the manager really cares about the store, my comments, good or bad (er … constructive) will be appreciated. My hope is that the employee who gave me a good experience will get a little bump from the boss, and that my poor experience will be a lesson on where the shop can make improvements.

  32. Great Post Jonathon, Its funny, your email just interrupted me working away at a new version of one of my websites and I have spent a few hours trying to make my signup process as painless as possible. I have always found conversions increase when thing are simple for the customer. It definitely worth the extra time spend. Thanks again for the reminder why I am up so late!

  33. Hi Jon,

    Hasn’t anyone told you that fast food is bad for you anyway? Ever seen those vids on how long McD’s hamburgers and french fries “live” for? :-)


  34. McD’s are AWFUL on drive thru! I had the same exact thing happen with a frappe mocha. That’s all I wanted, lol! Same exact thing, except I was dumb enough to wait almost 15 MINUTES! I wanted it, I was willing to “pull up and wait,” but my patience wore thin. It’s a shame, really, leaves a “bad taste in your mouth,” lol! But some things are worth waiting for, like your Tip Builder software, which I signed up at Kiva for yesterday, and am still waiting for… ;0)~

  35. Well Jon, I have finally found something on which I do not agree with you!

    I really do not have a sales page on any of my sites, many of them being affiliate sites, and the others being writer’s sites.

    However when the clerk at McDonald’s made the statement “Would you mind pulling up and waiting?”
    I would have said no! I have waited long enough and I would sit right in front of the window, until I had my ice cream!!!

    Go figger, basically that is the difference in men and women, and unfortunately it could be the difference in success and your website being extremely successful…
    As anything you put on line succeeds and I have not seen that much success yet.

    Nevertheless, I will continue to work until I do succeed! Thanks to you,


    • Hi Honey Jo,, so true, we see and hear of successes but have these guys got rich selling us ideas, or proven with out a doubt, verified by an impartial party, NO, maybe all hype with Photoshop’d BS.. I mean if what they sell is so good, why are they not doing it themselves.. because they lost their balance with Google changes, and have to sell ideas to feed themselves.. I hope you are referring to the same issue.

  36. I hear ya, Jon. Don’t even get me started on McDonald’s. All the Mc’Ds around here have terrible customer service too. I could write a book on it, but not enough people would need to buy it as they are already living the same experience too, just like us, unfortunately.

    But in general, I think all the fast food establishments have sunk to new lows. When I worked retail type jobs like that, we were trained to say “thank you”, etc. Now, it’s only me, the customer, saying “thank you” while they act like they are doing me a favor. Just another aspect of how our country is going down the tubes. When companies can’t be bothered to have their employees trained to extend basic, everyday, garden variety courtesy, it’s a sad day. But I digress…

    Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. Rule #1 should be: “Make it easy for the customer to pay!”. I couldn’t believe it the other day as I waited and waited and waited at the local Steak-n-Shake trying to get a cashier to come to the register and take my money! Even the other customers still sitting at their tables were looking over wondering what was going on. The cook looked my way, and some other employees, but not one of them bothered to locate the cashier on duty. When the cashier finally did show up, there was no “sorry for the wait”. She just went on like nothing had happened. “Par for the course” these days as far as customer service goes, unfortunately.

  37. I’m blown away the McDonalds swapped out the toy in the happy meal bc someone didn’t like it.

    The baseball card industry is probably freaking out.

  38. You pointed out the problem very well with a simple analogy… Making it as easy as possible for people to buy whatever it is that you are selling, seems so obvious, but it often gets overlooked.

    Beware of advice from lawyers and accountants on this. How many people run off/lose 10-50% of their potential sales by being overly cautious about verifying the buyer? They lose 50% of their sales to order to avoid a possible 1-2% rip-off from bogus cards, etc. !?! That’s bad practice because it’s bad economics.

    When a buyer decides to buy and hits the “Buy Button” there will always be niggling doubts that come up.. “…do I really want to do this?”. Don’t let ANYthing slow down the sales process after that button is pushed!! Thank the buyer for making a smart decision, and get his/her money before they change their minds!! ;-)

    Good post, Jon! Thanks!


  39. Ok, this has to do with McDonald’s and not websites, but my local McDonalds now make you come inside if you have more than 1 order per car. They’ve lost a lot of business from me and my friends because of this. There are several other fast food places nearby – some right next door – where we CAN place separate orders. What are they thinking?? (PS – I think I know about your exit popup – TJ?)

  40. Oh Yes i got the pop up and all i wanted was to read the post about, All I wanted Was An Ice Cream…..hehe

    But then again, I am glad i was able to read the post after the pop up, about the SEnukexcr and TBS. It was pretty interesting. I have tried TBS and it is great, have tried SEnukeX as well and putting them together, im sure it will be a great package.

    By the way, i like the All I Wanted Was An Ice Cream post, i can relate and it does really happen when you have to wait and then you get nothing….just like when you are visiting some site and you are expecting to see some good info or the info that you need about a product and they don’t give it to you right away…..

    But maybe it is also for the reason that, you get to click another page of their site…..just my thought

    Anyways, now i really want an ice cream but not from mcdo…..somewhere!

    Chow and More Power

  41. OK That alright, hope you success for your plugin.

    Have a nice day,

  42. Isn’t that basically what Trust Jacker is meant to do?

    Is that why you set it up? I probably agree that your post was of interest, bu the pop up was a surprise.

    Has given me a first hand experience as to whether I would be happy to use Trust Jacker now and how my readers would feel.

    Still a good article though. :) And love your programs.

    • Yeah, it’s Trust Jacker — but the issue wasn’t the exit pop but that I had the “Redirect” option on. That option shows an alert and then forces the user to go to the next page — a really bad idea in my opinion (though the plugin’s creators say that it increases conversions a lot). So that box will remain unchecked from now on! :D

  43. I know what you mean – I signed up to a new webhost two weeks ago – Before they could aactivate my order they had to call me and verify by phone – Even though my address had Australia on the order they were not calling using the international code. It took a day for them to respond to emails and call me international. Once I had finally logged into my new account I had a tech issue so went to online support. Before they would assist me I had to tell them my secret online support password which was never set up meaning that they could not assist me

    Back with my old host now after cancelling – How many hurdles can some companies put up to frustrate their customers???

    • Yikes. What a headache. Sorry you had to deal with that. It’s just ridiculous how much trouble some businesses are willing to put their customers through. I don’t see how they don’t realize that they’re losing a lot more than they’re gaining.

    • Sound like 1 company I know. Does it starts with the letter V………

  44. Hi Jon,

    I know exactly what you mean about making things easy. I just ran across this a couple days ago from a well known marketer (who should have known better) and again today when trying to pick up a few PLR articles on a WSO. The person wanted people to go through a simple, but irritating registration process to make a $5.00 payment! I tried twice and then clicked away.

    Maybe I’ll PM that individual and give them the link to your article. :-)



  45. Jon,

    For what it’s worth, that pop-up is crap. It forced me to leave your site FOUR TIMES before I even got thru reading the article.

    I mean…I only wanted an ice cream…I mean, to read the article! ;-)


  46. Im curious as to why you are using a redirect to own site?

    What is the advantage?


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