FTC Decides Maybe It's Time To Start Asking Why McDonalds Ice Cream Machines Are Broken All The Damn Time
from the let-the-ice-cream-flow! dept
The FTC reached out to McDonald’s franchisees this summer seeking information on what, exactly, is going on with the broken ice cream machine problem, according to a letter it sent, viewed by The Wall Street Journal, and people familiar with the matter. The FTC declined to comment.
Well, it’s a start. The notoriously unreliable machines are pretty much the only option for McDonalds franchise owners, who are tied into lengthy service contracts that include immediate termination of warranties should any McDonalds employees have the gall to repair their own machines. And knowing what is in need of fixing is deliberately obscured by the manufacturer, Taylor Commercial Foodservice, which weaponizes obscure error codes and overall inscrutability to ensure a steady stream of service call revenue.
There’s another solution out there, but it doesn’t have the approval of the McDonalds corporation. And, since it could severely diminish one of Taylor’s revenue streams, attempts have been made by the company to remove the competitor from the equation.
Two years ago, a company called Kytch Inc. developed a device that attaches to Taylor’s ice cream machines and sends franchise owners messages alerting them to possible breakdowns and other problems that demand attention. It also makes sense of Taylor’s nonsensical codes, allowing owners to actually take care of the issues, rather than just tell customers the machine is down yet again and wait for a Taylor rep to arrive.
Taylor was so opposed to Kytch helping people repair the machines they had purchased that they spent months trying to trick Kytch into sending one so the company could, allegedly, reverse engineer it. That’s the accusation Kytch is making in court, where it has just secured a small win that compels Taylor to stop doing whatever it’s doing with the Kytch device it obtained and return the device to its maker.
In a recent legal victory, a judge awarded a temporary restraining order against Taylor after Kytch had alleged in a complaint that the McFlurry machine manufacturer had gotten its hands on a Kytch Solution Devices with the express intention of learning its trade secrets. The complaint also alleged that Taylor had told McDonald’s and its franchisees to stop using Kytch machines on the grounds that they were dangerous, and that the company had begun development on its own version of the Kytch system at the same time.
Now, all of this has dovetailed into the involvement of the FTC: the years of flaky performance by Taylor ice cream machines, the mostly unheeded complaints of McDonalds franchise owners, the apparent attempt to strongarm Kytch out of the repair business. But, at this point, the FTC is really only investigating the possibility of opening an investigation. This is a “preliminary investigation” which mainly involves asking for some input from Taylor machine owners and, if there’s enough alleged to move forward, the FTC will presumably do that. But it’s a start. And there will be at least one party listening to the complaints of franchise owners: the federal government.