That time Bill Gates went through a McDonalds drive-through with no cash
There was that time in the late 1990’s that Bill Gates went down to the Bay Area to join some employees for a sales presentation to some other company.
One of the salespeople was assigned to pick up Bill from the airport. Bill’s flight was late, and there was barely enough time to get from the airport to the sales call. Bill got into the car and said he was hungry and wanted to go through a McDonalds drive-through before the meeting. (You may recall that Bill is fond of his hamburgers.)
The salesperson had no cash on him, but he assumed that Bill would have money to pay, seeing as he’s the richest man in the world. What he didn’t know was that Bill was notorious for never carrying money with him.¹
They get to the drive-through window, and the salesperson admits, “Sorry, Bill, I don’t have any cash on me. Can you pay for this?” But Bill didn’t have any money either. He explained the situation to the person at the window, pointed out that his passenger was none other than Bill Gates, and requested some leniency.
He didn’t get it.
They had to drive away empty-handed, and Bill suffered through the meeting hungry.
This experience taught a valuable lesson: Always be prepared when you are called upon to pick up an executive, for they often will ask for something to be picked up on the way from the airport to the meeting. From that point onward, the person telling the story always prepared for picking up an executive by keeping a variety of beverages in the car, as well as $100 in cash in his wallet for unexpected mid-trip expenses.
¹ The fact that Bill doesn’t carry cash pours cold water on some variations of stories about Bill Gates.
“This experience taught a valuable lesson: Always be prepared when you are called upon to pick up an executive”
What a crock. The actual lesson here: if you’re an executive and there’s a chance you might want your lackey to swing by McDonald’s drive-through on the way to a meeting, bring your own damn money.
It should not be anyone’s job description to pay for meals for their boss.
Who knows if Bill Gates ever learned his lesson from that incident. But he sure should have.
I don’t think the expectation is for the employee to pay out of pocket for the boss’ meal. That’s what travel expense allowances are for.
In fact when I travel with my boss, I often pay for the group meals on my card – because I only need 1 level of management approval, and my boss is sure to approve the expense report.
Many companies’ policies forbid lower ranking employees from paying for higher ranking employees for just that reason – that the expense is approved by someone who benefited from the expense.
And, for what it’s worth… Back in the day (80s, 90s, before everything was computerized), if you needed a receipt for your expense of eating at MacDonald’s, it was an exercise. The cashiers couldn’t give you a receipt, you had to wait for a manager, who would then go into the back and get a receipt book and fill one out by hand.
And these people didn’t carry credit cards either?
What if he needed a tie instead of a burger?
Thought the same thing.
I was expecting Bill to carry some special version of AmEx or some other card given to billionaires only.
McDonalds didn’t accept credit cards until the early 2000’s. So if Bill was going to pay for his hamburger with an AMEX in the 90’s, he would first need that time machine Raymond talks about.
Wow, I did not know that.
It seems like they really did not start taking credit cards until 2004: https://www.chiefmarketer.com/mcdonalds-accepts-credit-cards/
That is really unexpected.
And I’m guessing there was no ATM in that city either.
Bill should have travelled to Australia 🙂
We’ve had good point-of-sale use of debit & credit cards easily back in the 90s. I haven’t swiped my credit card probably since 2004 or earlier too – chip & PIN for quite a number of years, and for probably the last decade it’s just tap (and PIN if >$100, or >$200 since COVID and the desire to reduce keypad touches)
I find it mind boggling how hobbled the US banking system is with its outdated POS terminals.
Yeah, the ubiquity of being able to pay for anything anywhere with a payment card (or phone that’s emulating the payment card NFC protocol) is a really recent thing.
I dont get it. If he is so found of hamburgers but never carry cash and the joints dont take card, does he make the burgers himself, carry around a person with cash, carry around a “friend” with cash or expecting he is famous will get him free burgers?
Happy belated Win95 birthday
I remember that the boss of my second job nearly always don’t bring enough CNY cash when he goes to China, so on lots of the time when my supervisor travel with him, he borrows money from my supervisor to pay the restaurant bills (and that’s before credit card is a commonly accepted payment method in China). And on one occasion that I travel with them, my supervisor rant to me about this, and wonder what will happen if he doesn’t have enough cash either.
So yeah, maybe “Always be prepared when you are [del]called upon to pick up[/del][add]travelling with[/add] an executive” is universal.
Raymond, I would be very surprised if Bill Gates shared the sentiment you expressed at the bottom of your post. It also may show cultural differences between countries. In Australia, we wouldn’t really accept that an employee should be expected to carry money to procure favours for his boss.
Wasn’t a “burger master” that day was he?
I like the lesson here! When you get off the plane you’re often smelly, hungry, and thirsty.