Friday, June 18, 2021

If You Can't Perfect Your App - Perfect Your Autogrooming!


Why bother making something nice, in this world of fake news and online shilling?   Just spoof the system so people think it's nice!  A short video of the app developers for McDonald's.

I recently updated my posting about the McDonald's online ordering app.  I downloaded it in December, but I didn't use it very much over the last few months - maybe six times.  At first, it worked great, and the "deals" were pretty decent.  But over time, as the pandemic waned, the deals got less and less attractive, to the point where free medium fries was about it.  No more buy-one-get-one-free, which worked great with two people.

But the final straw was when the app stopped working properly.  You would place an order, go to the "store" and wait.  And wait. And wait.  The people behind the counter would claim they never received the order.  In one instance, they were apologetic and filled the order, but not until after I had to "speak to the manager" and of course, the other customers staring at me like I was a trouble-maker.   It wasn't very fun and it took four times as long.

The second time, no food and no offer to even make it - after waiting a half-hour (!!).  So much for "fast food" - they don't even call it that anymore.  The "manager" said the hold on my credit card would come off, as I was never served.  But three days later, they charged my card, and I ended up disputing it with the bank.  The bank processed a refund right away.  But what a waste of time!

So I uninstalled the "app" and decided that we didn't really need to go there anyway.  The last time we went, well, I could have made a ham sandwich at home for less money.  I should follow my own advice!

I was curious about the reviews of the app, though, and as you might guess there were a plethora of (fake) five-star, one-word reviews, and an awful lot of one- and two-star reviews with detailed comments (I added one of my own).  There seemed to be a pattern, too.  Many complained of never receiving their food and being charged anyway (and most seemed to take this on the chin rather than contest it!)  Others complained that the new versions of the app froze their phone.  Still others complained that their "bonus" points were erased and the free coffee drinks they were promised were scotched.

I digress, but I never investigated the "bonus points" thing as it applied to "McCafe" drinks only, and paying huge amounts of money for something as cheap as coffee is stupid.  I make a big pot of coffee every morning (or tea) in our $9.48 Wal-mart coffee maker.  In the afternoon, after the coffee goes cold in the carafe, I fill a glass with ice, add the cold coffee and a little cream and - voila! - an iced coffee drink.  Why bother going to a store for such a thing, when you can have it for pennies at home?   But an entire generation has been trained that coffee is something that you buy at Starbucks, prepared for you by an expert.

But getting back to the review site, it was clear that Micky-D's has a lot of problems with their app.  And the big problem, as I see it, is that the app says your order has been transmitted to the store, but in no way actually confirms this (by receiving a message back from the store that the order was received) and then sending you a confirmation of this.  If they could put in this feedback-loop, you wouldn't sit there for a half-hour waiting for the order.  Of course, that would be hard to do, and require a lot of coding and reprogramming of the store computers and whatnot.   It is just easier to put up a lot of fake five-star reviews and pretend it isn't happening.   Sort of the Captain-of-the-Titanic approach.

But what about those one-star reviews that populate the app store?  How do you deal with that? Well, that's easy.  You program a "bot" to post kicky, casual messages that sound like someone actually wrote them, but are just selected from a template of a half-dozen canned responses.  Each message encourages the user to visit a URL to express their dissatisfaction.  But as I learned, filling out that form only generates two automated e-mails, one which tells you they received your message and another - pages long - telling you to call an 1-800 number.   Both messages are from do-not-reply mailboxes.  You call the 1-800  number and the person on the other end isn't authorized to do anything or even look up the transaction.  The only thing they do is act concerned and tell you there is nothing they can do.

Pretty slick, eh?  Why provide customer service when you can just provide the appearance of customer service?  Contrast this with GEICO, where even the "chat box" connects to a real person who is authorized to actually do things and can provide real help.

And of course, the reason for all of this is that McDonald's doesn't need or want the app anymore.  They make their money from hungry people going through the drive-through, ordering the same five $12 meals.  When a basic sandwich is $4.95, well, fast-food isn't fast or cheap anymore.  They don't need or want someone ordering from the dollar menu or using a coupon on the app.  They don't need or want to sell a McSalad, or an ice cream either - which is why they stopped selling McSalads and why the ice cream machine is always broken.  Why bother screwing around with that shit when shoveling french fries and burgers and high-fructose soft drinks makes you so much money?

The whole thing is creepy, but what was really creepy was these messages, which were responses to the one-star app reviews, that usually say things like "Yo!" or "ya" or whatever, trying to be hip with the kids.  Here is a sampling:

McDonalds USA, LLCApril 27, 2021

Let's get that looked into, Patriece. Please provide our Mobile App team with more info at:

McDonalds USA, LLCNovember 10, 2018

We're sorry to hear about this, Judy! We’d love to help you with a solution. Please give our McDonald's Mobile App team a call at 877-334-4332, so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCDecember 31, 2019

We're sorry to hear about this, Joel. Try uninstalling and reinstalling the app. If that doesn't help, please reach out to our Mobile App team, so we can assist you further at 1-877-334-4332.

McDonalds USA, LLCJuly 24, 2019

We're really sorry you were disappointed, Tyler! Can you provide some more info in this link so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCMay 11, 2018

Hi there, Donald! While we understand your experience should be a flawless one, we appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We will make sure to forward your feedback on to the appropriate team. Thanks!

McDonalds USA, LLCSeptember 4, 2019

We're sorry to hear about this! We’d love to help you with a solution. Please give our McDonald's Mobile App team a call at 877-334-4332, so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCJune 16, 2021

That's no good, Jacob. Try uninstalling and reinstalling the app. If that doesn't help, please provide our Mobile App team with more info at, so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCDecember 21, 2018

Oh no, friend! We suggest clearing your phone's cache. Head to the Settings menu of your device. Find Apps in the menu and then the McDonald’s App. Tap Storage and the buttons for clearing the cache should become available. If that doesn’t resolve your issue, give us a call at 1-877-334-4332, so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCDecember 31, 2020

We always want your Mobile Ordering to be awesome, Chris. Please provide our Mobile App team with more info at

McDonalds USA, LLCMay 30, 2021

That doesn't sound too good, David. Please contact our Mobile App team at, so they can help you solve any issues you're having with the McDonald's Global Mobile App.

McDonalds USA, LLCApril 11, 2021

That's not too great, Dan. Try uninstalling and reinstalling the app. If that doesn't help, please provide our Mobile App team with more info at, so we can look into this further.

McDonalds USA, LLCNovember 24, 2020

Sounds frustrating, Linda! Please contact our Mobile App team at

McDonalds USA, LLCJanuary 23, 2021

Sounds like you've had some difficulties with your payment, Patrick. Please provide our Mobile App team with more info at, so we can get this looked into for ya.

What is creepy about the messages, is that they are always dated months or even years before the complaint in question.  The messages above were posted in response to reviews from 2021, yet many are dated as early as 2018 - before the present version of the app even existed! Why is this?  Also, they don't respond to every low rating, just every fifth one or something.

Sometimes, the messages clearly are robotic and not a response from a real human.  Consider this exchange;

Jeff Fulcher
June 17, 2021

Was terrible and now works great. Now it's back to terrible. No access to daily deals or my rewards. Going on day 3.
McDonalds USA, LLCOctober 30, 2018
We're happy to hear that, Jeff! Swing by for your faves anytime the craving hits!

We're so glad to hear that the app sucks, Jeff!  WTF?  Clearly some bot is being used, or a person from a third-world country is selecting from a menu of canned responses.  But what is interesting is that they have this auto-grooming machine working flawlessly, but for some reason can't get the app to work right.  Maybe the guy in charge of auto-grooming should be put in charge of the app itself.

But that isn't the answer.  Now, more than ever, it pays to consume less, and yet people are running around trying to consume as much as possible.  There are no deals to be had in today's labor-shortage, material-shortage, and inflationary economy.  I drove by the Ford dealer the other day and the lot was empty.  Oh sure, they had a few oddball cars there, but very few pickups and SUVs.   Do you think the dealer is going to sell you one at a discount right now?  Of course not.

And so on down the line.   Maybe a year or two ago, the merchants were interested in selling to every customer, as they had product to sell and if a coupon, sale, or discount got you in the door, so be it. But today, with five buyers for every one product on the shelf (or so it seems) it is sold to the highest bidder.

So McDonald's perhaps, is sabotaging the app, or more precisely, some of the franchisees are sabotaging it.  With the line at the drive-through a mile long, they don't need Joe Cheapskate and his coupons or apps, screwing up the flow and demanding a discount.  So they claim they never received the order or whatever.  It is like the ice cream machine - they just give up and say it is broken, because they are in the business of selling greasy burgers and fries, and ice cream is just a distraction.

I would have a lot more respect if they just stopped selling the ice cream, but again, I suspect there is a tension between the franchisees and corporate.  Corporate says to sell ice cream, the franchisees find it easier to say the machine is broken, particularly when the service calls are so expensive.

And the same is true, I think, for the "app".   Maybe at the height of the pandemic, they were willing to walk out to your car and deliver food "curbside" or work with Uber Eats to deliver product.  But Uber Eats wants a cut, so today they say they aren't doing delivery anymore (which is a good thing - who wants cold fries delivered to their house for $20?)  And discounts and BoGos are not profitable for the franchisees, either.  With the labor shortage, the best thing for them is to pump out the same three meals through the drive-through window and leave the front doors locked.

The good news is, this is (or should be) a transitory situation.   Shortages usually resolve themselves, unless the government tries to help by rationing.   Once the supply chain is re-started and pandemic panic dies down, things should return to normal or at least a new normal.

(Or maybe not.  As I noted in a very early posting, demographics may be driving the present labor shortage.  That and restrictive immigration policies.  The latter we can fix, the former is systemic).

But in the meantime, it is not a very good time to visit a restaurant or buy a car or even purchase lumber.   It pays to wait for these shortages to abate, rather than panic-buy.

UPDATE: I received an email this morning from McDonald's informing me that they are basically turning the app into a frequent flyer program where you can accumulate points based on how often you visit the store. Since I don't go there very often this is of no interest to me. But it explains why they sort of sabotage their old version of the app, is part of a transition to the new rewards model.