If you’re like most Americans, then chances are you’ve stopped by McDonald’s hoping to beat the heat with a McFlurry only to be told that the machine is broken. It’s an infamous trait of McDonald’s franchises around the country, but hopefully that might change soon. After years of complaints from everyday consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has started an investigation into the fast-food chain’s perpetually broken ice cream machines.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC has been mailing letters to McDonald’s locations around the US inquiring why the ice cream machines that make milkshakes, soft-serve cones, and the coveted McFlurry are constantly out of order. While it’s tempting to imagine federal employees are doing this because they want a classic sweet treat like the rest of us — and, really, who could blame them — the real reason is because they’re hoping to answer a bigger question: If these machines break as often as they seem to, then who is tasked with fixing them? And more importantly, why are those people doing such a bad job?
Before the FTC can solve the cursed malfunctions of McDonald’s ice cream machines, they must first determine how the fact-food chain reviews its suppliers and equipment, why they still work with a faulty supplier, and how frequently owners work on their own machines themselves. As Business Insider points out, McDonald’s gets its frozen treat machines from a brand called Taylor and they’re notoriously very difficult to fix, nevermind to maintain, due to special cleaning cycles that often lead to failure.
Two years ago, a company called Kytch designed a tool that helps McDonald’s franchise owners fix their own ice cream machines without having to call in a special Taylor repair technician. Soon, McDonald’s owners in over 30 states were using Kytch’s breakdown spotter. However, McDonald’s ordered franchisees to stop using the devices last year because they’re unsanctioned. Kytch fought back by suing Taylor, accusing them of infringing on franchisees’ rights to fix their own machines and stealing intellectual property. Alas, that’s when the FTC stepped in.
So where are we in the process now? The FTC is currently engaging in a “preliminary investigation” to figure out if manufacturers are blocking consumers from fixing the machines themselves. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee the FTC’s involvement will solve this lawsuit or result in McDonald’s finally purchasing more reliable ice cream machines. At the very least, though, it does mean a non-consumer, non-business organization is finally applying pressure to the years-long problem, which is certainly overdue.
While you wait for the FTC to solve this long-running McDonald’s issue, figure out where to get your next McFlurry with ease by using McBroken, a website that tracks which McDonald’s locations have broken machines that was created by someone who was fed up and good at coding. Don’t forget you can get your ice cream fix at any of the local parlors or independent ice cream stands in your local neighborhood, too.