Burger King
Commentary by David Summers, January 2005

Well, it looks like Burger King is at it again.

Despite a letter from Kenneth Knoppow requesting that the recent heightist Burger King ad campaign be discontinued, yet another offensive commercial has made it to the airwaves.

The commercial takes place in an office lunchroom, where a group of employees and their boss are about to enjoy a lunch of Burger King hamburgers. The employees are all seated except for a short “wimpy” looking man, who is standing next to his significantly taller boss. The placement of this short man next to his tall boss is an obvious attempt to emphasize their height difference. As they begin to enjoy their lunch, the boss informs his employees that he must fire one of them. One of the employees asks, “How are you going to decide?” The boss replies, “I’m thinking of a number - between 1 and 10.” He then glares down at the short man and says, “What are you thinking of - what's you number.” to which the short man answers, “Uhh - Four.” Without asking the other members of the group to guess a number, the boss simply tells him, “You’re fired.”

What makes this particular commercial especially offensive is the fact that it goes beyond simply ridiculing a short man’s appearance. In this case, not only is the short man portrayed as weak and insignificant, but the unfair treatment he receives is made to look funny. Was he fired because of poor job performance? No. Did the other employees guess numbers that were higher or lower than the short man’s guess? No. In fact, they didn’t even get a chance. It is obvious that the short man was fired because of his height.

Are we being too sensitive because this is just TV fantasy. No, because it is a reflection of a real life injustice. Short men are paid less than tall men - on average $789 / inch of height per year. When prospective employers were asked to chose between men with the same qualifications, they chose the taller man 72% of the time. Corporate officers are overwhelmingly tall. Only one state, Michigan, protects people from height discrimination, making what is seen here perfectly legal. This commercial perpetuates the notion that short people are less valuable.

Does anybody care?

Burger King certainly doesn’t. Apparently, Burger King thinks that discrimination is funny. Well, not ALL discrimination - just discrimination against short men. Would they treat an African American, a Jew, or a Muslim in this way? Of course not. Not only would they never get away with it, but they would probably find the idea reprehensible in the first place.

One could make the case that Burger King’s actions are simply a symptom of their underlying ignorance, and not meant to be malicious. However, in March 2004, Kenneth Knoppow wrote a letter to the advertising firm responsible for this series of commercials to inform them of the offensive nature of these ads, and to request that they be removed from the air. After he received an unsatisfactory response, Mr. Knoppow followed up his initial letter with another letter which he sent directly to the Burger King Corporation in April 2004.

What was their response?

More bigotry. The ads continue to be produced despite their offensive nature.

I urge anyone who values equality to boycott Burger King, and to write them a letter informing them of this choice.

Burger King Corporate Office
5505 Blue Lagoon Drive
Miami FL 33126