The "Play Smoothies" poster displayed at McDonald's Restaurants to promote their Monopoly game shows a photograph of a small smoothie but no Monopoly game pieces are given if a small smoothie is ordered.
On October 5, I went to the nearby McDonald's restaurant, primarily for the purpose of checking my email, expecting to be there just 20 minutes or so. I originally intended to order a $1 soda, but when I saw the "Play Smoothies" poster prominently displayed in the front window, I decided to try a smoothie. The poster did not specify a specific size of smoothie, but the picture clearly appeared to be a small smoothie.
I ordered a small berry smoothie and when it was given to me I sat down to check my email. The fact that there were no game pieces on the smoothie cup didn't initially bother me, because I didn't know that the game pieces should have been attached to the cup. As my primary reason for the visit was to check my email, I just sat down to check my email without thinking at first about the Monopoly game.
I could not get the computer to connect to the wireless network, so I went up to the cashier to ask if there was something wrong with the network, and she said that it was working fine. By this time I had realized that I had not received the game pieces I should have received, so I asked "wasn't I supposed to receive game pieces with the smoothie?"
"No," the employee replied, "the game pieces only come with medium or large smoothies."
At first I thought that I had made a stupid mistake, so I asked "where does it say that the game pieces only come on the medium or large smoothies?" I wanted to understand what I had missed so that I wouldn't be so stupid next time.
"It says that on the game board," the employee replied, pointing me to the stack of game boards near the soda machines.
I went over to pick up a game board, and after reading all of it carefully, I found no mention of the requirement of buying medium or large smoothies. But I did find the words "no purchase necessary" prominently displayed.
So I went back to the cashier and pointed out that the game board did not say that medium or large smoothies are required, and that the game board said "no purchase necessary." I said to her, "please give me a game piece, or give me my money back."
She refused to give me my money back and also refused to give me a game piece, instead calling her supervisor.
The supervisor told me that I could get a game piece if I mailed an envelope to the address specified on the game board. "But then I would need to spend more money for a stamp," I said, "and I already bought the smoothie for the game piece."
The supervisor also gave me a printed advertisement card which she claimed indicated that a medium or large smoothie is required to receive a game card. I read the advertisement carefully and saw that it referred to specific sizes of chicken nuggets, etc., but it made no mention whatsoever of smoothies.
The supervisor said "we want you to be satisfied with your experience," but even while she said this she treated me rudely and said that there was nothing they would do for me. So I told her that I would contact the McDonald's corporate office.
I called the McDonald's corporate office and spoke to a representative who took down my information. It was clear in my conversation with the representative that the false advertising inherent in the "Play Smoothies" promotion is a corporate-wide issue. In fact, the representative at the corporate office initially was not even going to send the issue to the local representative, because he said it was an issue relating to the entire corporation's Monopoly promotion. But I emphasized to him that it was not just the false advertising which offended me, but the rude treatment by the McDonald's supervisor, so he complied with my request to send the complaint to the local representative.
About a week later I received an email form letter from the McDonald's area supervisor. The form letter made no mention of the issue relating to the smoothies or the Monopoly game, and in fact had no information related to my specific visit (other than the address of the store). Instead the form letter said "I hope you will accept my apology for your unsatisfactory visit." No offer of a game piece, no offer of anything tangible, just a worthless apology.
This particular McDonald's restaurant did later take down their "Play Smoothies" poster, but the smoothies are still being promoted in conjunction with the Monopoly game on other signs at that restaurant (with no mention being made of the hidden requirement to buy medium or large smoothies). Other McDonald's restaurants continue to display the "Play Smoothies" poster, and I am aware of other incidents where people experienced the same problem I had (ordering a small smoothie and having the restaurant refuse to provide a game piece and refuse to give money back).
If this sounds like a great deal of trouble for a stupid game piece, the thing that makes this really ironic is that I don't really care that much about the Monopoly game. I just wanted to give it a try, but it's no big deal to me. But false advertising is a big deal to me, and I can't help but wonder how many thousands of small smoothies have been sold to McDonald's customers who thought that they were going to receive game pieces.
Another ironic thing is that immediately after my unsatisfactory McDonald's visit, I went to Costco, where I could have bought a berry smoothie which is much better quality at less cost.
Oh, well, I have learned my lesson. They may have taken me for two dollars and change but I am not going to trouble that McDonald's with my money any longer if they can claim that their goal is "100-percent customer satisfaction" and then provide meaningless apologies without addressing the issue which caused the problem.