Being a traveler in a foreign country and losing a passport can be a real nightmare scenario! Of course, you would know that going to your country’s embassy or consulate would be a good first step, but what if you had your wallet/bag/purse stolen and you have no money or phone?
McDonald’s in Austria Now Are Like Mini US Embassies
Well, if that happens in Austria, you can now walk into the almost 200 McDonald’s around Austria to get that first stage of help. This is because of an agreement between the US State Department and McDonald’s to have the fast-food restaurant chain serve as more than just a source of food for Americans in need.
According to the Embassy, there will be workers at each McDonald’s that can help the American get the help needed from the Embassy, but nothing would be done at the McDonald’s that would actually replace an Embassy employee. You will still need to get there to get some of that stuff done but at least the employees at McDonald’s can help put that call in and get things moving for you.
Here is part of what the State Department says on their Facebook announcement: “…staff will assist them in making contact with the U.S. Embassy for consular services (e.g. report a lost or stolen passport, or seek travel assistance).”
Fast Food Thoughts
I cannot imagine what the US government is paying for this and if this is simply a pilot program in Austria that will make its way around Europe or will stay in Austria (are there more Americans getting in these situations there???). I would hope that any of the McDonald’s employees that are being “trained” to help be the contact point would be getting some extra pay or something as well.
In the end, though, this is a smart move to some extent. If you are outside Vienna and have everything stolen, you can go to the local police station or to someplace with internet to get the number to the Embassy. But, now, you can simply walk into any McDonald’s and get that help – while maybe scrounging up a few coins to order a double cheeseburger and cup of coffee… 🙂