Report: #655022

Complaint Review: McDonald's Restaurants

  • Submitted: Mon, October 25, 2010
  • Updated: Wed, November 10, 2010
  • Reported By: Tim — Bakersfield California United States of America
  • McDonald's Restaurants
    2310 F St.
    Bakersfield, California
    United States of America

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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.
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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/25/2010 02:46 PM and is a permanent record located here: The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: visualcon - (United States of America)

I'm all against false advertising but you just sound like a pain in the a*s. Why should you receive anything more than an apology? I honestly don't believe they even owe you that. You went to a McDonald's employee to inquire about wireless network issues, give me a break. You didn't get the answer you wanted so you continued to move on to something else, in this case it was a free game piece. You are the one who is not accepting their policies. Most people with sense know that fast food establishments do not include game pieces on small drinks or smoothies, it defeats the whole purpose of the promotion. If you want to play dumb that's fine but in the end you just look like an individual with too much time on their hands and a bruised ego. You took time away from other paying customers to rant and cry about a game piece you supposedly don't even care about. The only mistake they made was not refunding you, they should have just given you the cash back so you could be on your way to harass someone else.
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#2 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: Ronny g - (USA)

If I was the owner of a business that offered free wifi, and someone came in and took up a seat and a parking space and did not order anything, I would not consider it anything less then ripping me off, and I would ask you to order something or leave..nicely of course..the first time.

I mean in all logic, anyone would understand that the "free" wifi is to be used by paying customers and no freeloaders. It is a BENEFIT, not a right.

I am not accusing you of being a freeloader and I stated that I did see where you state you intended to order a $1 soda. But you are accusing me of something after I clearly posted was an oversight on my part.

If you really want the stupid game piece that badly mail for it like it states in the rules.
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#3 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

Great you have a photo of the poster.  I guess we will just have to defer to you as being the Smoothie Cup expert.  Because you might be the only McDonalds customer who knows that they are showing a "small" cup.

I also really don't understand why you appear to be trying to "bait" people.  After all why not just post the fine print?  Do you really want someone to "challenge" you on it, just so you can come back here and say "I told you so"?

I previously said that it was bad planning to not specifically include the size.  If you want to call that ambiguous I won't disagree with you.  But there is a huge difference between being ambiguous and intentionally mis-leading someone by false advertising.

It is not as simple as just "giving" you a game piece.  There are VERY specific rules and that must be followed.  These rules are put in place because they have to run the "game" fairly and equally.  I doubt that individual McDonalds has any "loose" pieces lying around.  They would have to give you one of the cups/wrappers from an item that does have the piece on it. The problem there is that you did not "buy" that item so technically it is going against the rules.  If another customer saw an employee just giving you a cup, they could raise a complaint about "fairness" and cause a huge issue as well.  The same goes for McDonalds Corporate, they don't have loose pieces lying around.  That is why you must write that specific address.  I believe that that is actually to a totally different company that "oversees" the game.  It could actually be seen as a confict if McDonalds started requesting pices being sent outside of the established "rules".

You can disagree all you want.  But I just think you are trying to make this a bigger issue than it actually is.  For what purpose..only time will tell.

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#4 Consumer Comment

I don't see it...

AUTHOR: Edgeman - (U.S.A.)

I'm looking at that photo and I just don't see how it is "clearly" a small smoothie. I've had large smoothies from McDonald's and they come in clear plastic cups just like the small ones. What is the detail in that poster that implies the image in the poster is a small smoothie?

By the way, I went to McDonald's tonight for a tea and salad and I made a point of asking for a Monopoly board. The employee was indeed incorrect about sizes being listed there but there is no mention of receiving game pieces on a small smoothie. It is also very clear that you have to send in for a free game piece. If you read the rules as carefully as you claim then you would have known not to go to the counter for one of those "no purchase" game pieces. Grousing over the price of a stamp in lieu of a $3+ purchase is just childish.
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#5 Author of original report

Photo of poster showing small smoothie

AUTHOR: Owen - (United States of America)

The accompanying photo shows the "Play Smoothies" poster which displays a small smoothie (the medium and large cups look different, but I am not going to buy one to show you here).  The fine print at the bottom of the poster does not say anything about the size of the smoothie.  (I also have a picture of the fine print if anyone wants to challenge me on that.)

To "Ronny G", your blatant accusation that I was "intending on ripping them off" was not just an "oversight" as you claim but clearly shows that you are not viewing my case objectively.  Even if you were guilty of a simple "oversight" and didn't notice that I stated from the beginning that I intended to buy something, I would not have been "ripping them off" even if I had used their network without intending to buy anything.  When a business offers something free, people who take advantage of the free offer are not "ripping them off."  Furthermore, I am a customer of AT&T wireless, and AT&T advertises hotspots which are available to their customers.  This McDonald's location is one such AT&T hotspot, advertised as such by AT&T, and as an AT&T customer I have the right to (try to) use it.  But, again, even if I weren't an AT&T customer, there is nowhere (at least not that I have seen) which requires someone to purchase something at McDonald's if they intend to use their network (though I would agree that it is common courtesy to purchase something, as I did).

Regarding the claim that it doesn't make sense for McDonald's to try to rip me off by selling me a small smoothie without giving me a game piece, it wouldn't make sense to me either were it not for the simple fact that it happened.  If they didn't intend to rip me off, it would have been a very simple matter to simply give me a game piece or give me my money back.  If McDonald's Corporate didn't intend to rip me off they could have sent me a game piece from the corporate office.  They chose not to do so, and their repeated bogus arguments (pointing to printed materials and claiming "the rules here say that it has to be medium" etc. when the printed materials made no mention of the size of the smoothies) shows them to be inept at best, and deceptive at worst. 

This ripoff report is petty to be sure, but it is petty because McDonald's was being petty in not honoring the clear impression resulting from their own advertising (which, even if you don't see it as deceptive, I hope you can agree was at best ambiguous).

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#6 Consumer Comment

This "Monopoly" promo was run 40 Years ago when I was a child, you Can't win

AUTHOR: Jim - (U.S.A.)

They give out one half of a "Property", But NOT the other half.
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#7 Consumer Comment

I am honest as well..

AUTHOR: Ronny g - (USA)

..and I admit I found the rules online. It does state these are the official rules for in store so I can only assume this is an exact copy of what is stated in the printed version. But since I do not have a printed version before me, I will give you the benefit of a doubt on that call. It just would seem rather odd that they would use any intent to encourage the sale of a small smoothie when it stands to reason they charge more and hence profit more from medium and large smoothies. It is not likely a company such as McDonalds does not understand how to profit.

It also does not make sense that they would fight you on this in the store and through contacting corporate if the rules in print failed to mention what size smoothie qualifies for a game piece...but unless I go into a McDonalds to read it myself, I can not argue this fact here with any merit granted. Chances are good i will not be going into a McDonalds anytime soon, I work close to an In and Out Burger and there is no comparison as far as quality for the once in a while when I indulge in fast food burgers.

As far as me being "pretty blatantly spurious" for stating what I did about the wifi use...I can only go by what you posted and here is a direct quote verbatim..."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."

However I notice you do state afterward that you intended to order a $1 soda in exchange for the 20 minutes of free wifi that didn't work anyhow. It was an oversight on my part, just like I believe you missing the info in the rules was an oversight. I don't think that qualifies as blatantly spurious, it was an oversight or mistake..those happen, we admit it , we get over it and we move on with life. I imagine we are both pretty fortunate to have the spare time to spar here about something this irrelevant in the scheme of life.
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#8 Consumer Comment


AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

The poster did not specify a specific size of smoothie, but the picture clearly appeared to be a small smoothie.

- Really?  It "clearly" appeared to be a small smoothie.  Just how did you determine that?

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.

- Do you have ONE piece of proof that McDonalds at any time specifically stated that you could get a game piece if you buy a Small Smoothie?  If so then yes you have a very valid claim for "false advertising".  But just showing a picture of a smoothie at worst would be bad planning in not putting the paragraphs of fine-print that they would have to do to cover every single possibility.  McDonalds is not going to intentionally mis-lead customers to get them to buy a small when they can make more money on the larger sizes. 

This is the first I have heard this complaint, and couldn't find any others in searching.  So since the game has been going on for almost a month and there are millions of game pieces, I doubt that "thousands" of people have had this happen.  I would even have doubts if "hundreds" had this happen.

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#9 Author of original report

I am an honest customer

AUTHOR: Owen - (United States of America)

I was not in any way cheating McDonald's by seeking to use their wireless Internet network (which didn't work).  I was planning all along to buy something, and I did.  So that charge against me seems to be pretty blatantly spurious.

Regarding the "rules" you found which mention the smoothie sizes, may I ask where you found them?  Were they in printed form or on the Internet?  I still to this day have not found anything in printed form which explains the necessity of ordering a medium or large smoothie.  (I haven't found anything on the Internet either, but even if such rules exist on the Internet I don't think that such online rules are sufficient to inform in-store customers of the parameters of their immediate purchase decisions.)

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#10 Consumer Comment

This does seem like a lot of trouble to go through...

AUTHOR: Ronny g - (USA)

...just for a tiny monopoly game piece. I am no fan of Mcdonalds and have lodged complaints myself on this site against them for other reasons...generally principle as you are implying.

Granted your initial intent was just to use their wifi to check your email..I am sure they pay for that and it would have cost you nothing. So this makes it seem by your admission you were intending on ripping them off.

But here is what I do not understand. Why Mcdonalds would hide the fact that you need to order a medium or large smoothie in order to get a game piece. I would imagine in an attempt for them to make more profit, they would want to advertise a game piece is only included with a medium or large so they can make more money then they do from the sale of a small smoothie. The game pieces are basically worthless unless you get a winning one. It would make sense from an advertising standpoint to encourage the sale of larger smoothies then to deceive people into buying a small one. So if anything, it was most likely a misunderstanding on your part, a mistake or accidental omission rather then a false advertising attempt.

Make sense?

Also I found a copy of the rules...unless something changed after your experience it seems they do state in writing the smoothie must be medium or large..

With Purchase: Get a Game Piece (consisting of two (2) MONOPOLY Game Stamps [each a "Game Stamp"]) by visiting a participating McDonald's restaurant in the Domestic Territory and purchasing one of the following food items (where available) contained in specially-marked packaging: Medium Fountain Drinks; Medium and Large Hot McCaf beverages; Medium and Large Cold McCaf beverages including Smoothies and Frapps (excludes McCaf Shakes); Hash Browns; Big Mac; 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, McGriddles, and Filet-O-Fish. Individuals who purchase 20-piece Chicken McNuggets or Large Fries specially-marked packaging will receive two (2) Game Pieces. As the Game progresses, some participating McDonald's restaurants may run out of Game Pieces before others. Similarly, some forms of specially-marked packaging may run out before others; when a McDonalds restaurant runs out of Game Pieces or specially marked packaging, those Game Pieces and specially marked packaging may not be resupplied.

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