The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly investigating the McDonald's Corporation
No, really. At least, that's what we've been led to believe by the Commission's efforts to contact McDonalds franchisees about the issue, as reported by the Wall Street Journal last week. On the surface, an FTC investigation into a trending and memeable phenomenon is quite the comedic headline. Yet, below the gifs, TikTok memes, and litany of hashtags is an intriguing tale of public relations spectacle and corporate-franchisee head-butting.
First, the obvious; yes, there is no conspiracy, the machines really are broken. The ice cream machines are infamous among McDonald's franchisees over questions of reliability and difficulty of maintenance. From cleaning cycles that don't run at night--which require service calls to rectify, and leave the machines in their well-known state of breakdown--to incomprehensible error messages that either require a service manual or third-party device to decode, the machines have given many a McDonald's hourly worker ample reason to stress, and customers plenty of fodder for venting frustrations online.
Despite being well aware of the problem to the point of joking about it on Twitter
Sharing in the laughter and enjoying a bit of self-derision as a major corporation definitely softens one's image, but as Forbes pointed out, that doesn't solve the issue that so many franchisees face. The issue is far from funny for franchisees, who bear the burden of machine downtime in lost sales and expenditures on maintenance.
It seems fairly likely that the FTC's alleged probe stems from complaints filed by current and former franchisees, though the media attention that the phenomenon has received is also likely as responsible to some degree. Regardless, however, the perception of McDonald's as seeing the issue as trivial as most casual observers won't do anything for the firm's reputation, especially among its frustrated franchisees.