Why Some People Think McDonald's Ice Cream Machines Are A Scam

We've all been there: driving up to a McDonald's drive-thru window while craving some soft serve or a shake, only to have that dream shattered by the telltale words: "I'm sorry, the ice cream machine is broken." It's such a common occurrence that it's spawned more than a few memes from frustrated fans (via Reddit). Well, according to Wired, there might be a conspiracy behind the faulty nature of this fickle machine that goes all the way to the top of a food equipment supplier named Taylor.

See, even after a McDonald's franchisee pays out $18,000 for an ice cream machine, they have to pay thousands more each year for maintenance contracts and technician support just to deal with the many issues (and breakdowns) that the machines throw at them. Better yet, all of the crucial information about how the machine is working is kept confidential. And here's the kicker: The maintenance contracts give Taylor a cut of the profits every time the machines are serviced. 

By keeping franchisees in the dark about how the contraption works and why exactly it malfunctions, Taylor continues to profit off of McDonald's ice cream machines for years. And even more sinister is that there's a secret passcode that quickly displays the machine's status –  from milk volume to temperature control — but franchisees aren't allowed to know it.

But wait, can franchisees do anything to prevent being scammed ... and to keep delicious ice cream treats on their menu? Well, there's a possibility they just might.

How to hack McDonald's ice cream machines

After experiencing the confusion and stress of a constantly-breaking Taylor ice cream machine, Jeremy O'Sullivan and his partner Melissa Nelson created Kytch, a device that, when installed and connected to wifi, "essentially hacks your hostile dairy extrusion appliance and offers access to its forbidden secrets" (via Wired). 

In other words, Kytch not only monitors the machine's functionality, but it provides a clear user interface with real troubleshooting solutions when the machine breaks. Unfortunately, neither Taylor nor the ever-tricky McDonalds were pleased about the innovation. Talyor has since released its own competing wifi product (rather than just fixing their terrible machines, which says something about their integrity), while McDonald's has gone so far as to email franchisees with a warning that Kytch breaches Taylors "confidential information" and could cause "serious human injury."

In response, Kytch states they're planning to file a lawsuit against both Taylor and McDonalds, meaning there's definitely more of this sweet story to come. For now, though, if you're craving a McFlurry and want to know for sure where you can get one nearby, check out mcbroken.com, a website that monitors which restaurant locations currently have working ice cream machines (or you could just make one yourself in a pinch).