From meme to FTC: Why are McDonald’s ice cream machines always broken?

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — It’s a universal joke that McDonald’s across the country have a recurring problem: a broken ice cream machine whether it’s a McFlurry or a classic cone.

The Federal Trade Commission has apparently heard enough of these complaints-made-jokes because the Wall Street Journal broke the news yesterday there is a federal probe into the matter.

The role of the FTC is to protect American consumers from fraud and unfair business practices and the commission reportedly contacted McDonald’s franchisees with some questions over the machines earlier in the Summer through a letter, including how the company reviews suppliers and equipment and how frequently the franchisees fix equipment themselves.

According to the Journal, the FTC probe into McDonald’s ice cream machines comes on the heels of another investigation by the Biden Administration encompassing multiple industries over claims that several machine manufacturers intentionally make their products difficult and expensive to repair.

The machines in question under the golden arches are reportedly similarly known for being difficult to fix and require a first-party technician to initiate any sort of repairs. The Journal spoke to the owners of Taylor, the company that manufactures the machines, and were told they require an automated heat-cleaning cycle each night to kill bacteria, a precaution that can often lead to failure until a technician can fix them.

A diagnostic tool made by an unaffiliated company named Kytch provided owners with a way to fix the machines on their own starting two years ago, but the Journal said these tools were banned by McDonald’s late last year. This decision by the parent company kicked off a lawsuit in May which is when the FTC decided to step in.

Taylor told the Journal they did not purposefully design the equipment to be difficult to fix. Taylor and Kytch told the publication they have not been contacted by the FTC and McDonald’s said it did not believe it was the focus of a FTC investigation.

The letter received by franchise owners was reviewed by the Journal and reportedly said that “the existence of a preliminary investigation does not indicate the FTC or its staff have found any wrongdoing.”

Twitter user @rashiq created a website so users can check whether their local McDonald’s ice cream machines are functional. (And he says that no ice cream is wasted in this effort.)




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