McDonald’s McFlurry Machine is broken (again). Now the FTC is on it.
3 weeks ago
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Can the FTC help get you your McFlurry?
As many customers of McDonald’s know all too well, the fast-food chain has struggled for years to keep its ice cream machines working. Without them, people can’t get a milkshake, soft cone, or above all a McFlurry, a cup of soft ice cream with candy and cookies that is whipped about in a blender with a specially designed hollow spoon.
Late-night TV comics joke about the problem. Rivals Jack in the Box Inc. and Wendy’s Co. have roasted McDonald’s for it on social media. An online tracker called McBroken monitors McDonald’s ice cream machine outages across cities.
"I’m beginning to wonder if this McDonald’s even has an ice cream machine," an Atlanta customer tweeted about her local outlet. "It’s been ‘broken’ so long that I’m coming up with conspiracy theories."
Enter the United States Federal Trade Commission. The FTC reached out to McDonald’s franchisees this summer seeking information on what, exactly, is going on with the broken ice cream machine problem, according to a letter it sent, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, and people familiar with the matter. The FTC declined to comment.
For McDonald’s devotees, not to mention the company itself, a dysfunctional ice cream dispenser is no small matter. The shiny metal machines crank out concoctions that account for about 60% of the chain’s dessert sales in the U.S., according to a consumer survey by research firm Technomic Inc. Repeated breakdowns have led customers to draw up petitions demanding that something be done.
Owners of McDonald’s outlets have long complained the devices are overly complicated and their breakdowns hard to fix. The machines require a nightly automated heat-cleaning cycle that can last up to four hours to destroy bacteria. The cleaning cycle can fail, making the machines unusable until a repair technician can get them going again, owners say.
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McDonald’s said it understands the frustrations and has a team to work on it. The company said it is introducing a variety of solutions including new training for crew members and regular maintenance checkups.
It also has tried to add levity to the situation. "We have a joke about our soft serve machine but are worried it won’t work," McDonald’s tweeted last year.
The National Owners Association, a group of franchisees, doesn’t find it funny. "We are tired of being the butt of late-night jokes. So are our customers and crews," the group grumped in a May message to owners.