Anyone who has ever tried to get an ice cream dessert with their order from McDonald’s knows that there’s a surprisingly high chance that they’ll be told the ice cream machine is mysteriously out of order. Now, the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly on the case.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the federal agency has spent the summer contacting various franchises throughout the country to gather information on why customers are told so often that the McDonald’s ice cream machines are broken down. Although the Federal Trade Commission declined to comment to the outlet for its report, some McDonald’s franchise owners explained that the issue lies in the hardware of the ice cream machines that the company dolls out to its restaurants. Essentially, the machine responsible for making ice cream cups, milkshakes, soft cones, and the highly coveted McFlurry must be cleaned every night.
While that’s true of almost all food-making products in the restaurant, the McDonald’s ice cream machine reportedly employs an automated heat-cleaning cycle that gets the job done in roughly four hours. Often, that amount of time can bump with hours of operation. Furthermore, the ice cream machine’s cleaning cycle breaks quite frequently. Franchise owners are reportedly not able to fix the problem themselves and are instead told to reach out to corporate so that a technician can come and repair the issues. So, if you’ve ever been told that the ice cream machine is broken when you’re trying to order your McFlurry (M&M or else, what are you doing?) it’s likely you’ve come in between the machine’s automated cleaning cycle breaking and a technician being able to come on the scene.
The McDonald’s ice cream problem is not a small one. While franchise owners begin to take matters into their own hands, customers are doing the same when it comes to getting a delicious ice cream treat to wash down their Big Mac (or nuggets, no wrong answers).
The Verge reports that a young software engineer named Rashiq Zahid got so fed up with hearing that the ice cream machine was broken at his various local McDonald’s chains that he decided to create a program that drew a live map of every location in the country that was currently experiencing an ice cream machine breakdown. The site, cleverly and appropriately titled McBroken, uses red and green dots to tell users whether a given McDonald’s restaurant can offer you ice cream or not.
His method is actually pretty clever. Essentially, he realized that when a McDonald’s ice cream machine is down, the mobile app will not allow you to add those items to your cart. His program basically reverse engineers the app and tries to put an ice cream item in the cart every 30 minutes or so. If he’s able to, the dot at that location is green. If not, users will see the big, disappointing red dot.
As of this writing, roughly 11 percent of the ice cream machines are down at McDonald’s throughout the nation. The highest concentration, as you may have guessed, is in major cities where there are many more locations. New York, Philadelphia, and Houston currently have the most downed machines, but the number ebbs and flows every day.