McDonald’s Faces a Milk-Shakedown
This article was originally published on my Substack, Trend Mill.
McDonald’s McFlurry machine is famous for great ice cream.
It’s equally famous for never being able to serve said ice cream.
The machine is out-of-order so frequently that it’s become a long-running joke (read: big customer bugbear). Even the company couldn’t help but poke fun at the problem, tweeting, “We have a joke about our soft serve machine but we’re worried it won’t work.”
Customers have continually made their disappointment heard, and it’s now the most common complaint.
Conspiracy theories have grown louder, including the popular one that McDonald’s employees intentionally lie about the machine being broken to avoid making shakes and McFlurries. (As a former hospitality worker, this is likely true in some cases).
Websites like Mcbroken were created to help customers satisfy their ice cream cravings, showing the operating status of the machines in real-time by using a system that orders a McFlurry from every restaurant every 30 minutes, noting which orders fail due to an error.
You’ve been (soft) served!
In late 2021, the Federal Trade Commission wanted to know why the machines were always broken, believing the issue could be “potentially in violation of antitrust law.” One can only hope they burst into McDonald’s headquarters and shouted, “You’ve been soft-served!”
The issue is twofold: the machines themselves and who has the right to repair them. The machines are expensive, have complicated code within, and have to manage the delicate process of withstanding the cold temperature needed to serve the ice cream and the hotter environment required during its cleaning cycle. In short, the machines are far from intuitive, prone to breakdowns, and are not easy to get back up and running. Some even accuse the Taylor Company — the manufacturers of the machines — of inserting intentionally ‘janky’ code…