Times that fast food restaurants cheated customers
There are only a few things you really expect when you visit any one of the fast food restaurants across the world. You want a fast, filling meal at a decent price, and… that’s about it. You’re not looking for something super-healthy, and you’re not even looking for choices your mother would necessarily approve of. That’s not asking much, right? It turns out, you should also ask for fair service and treatment from the establishment you’re visiting, so let’s take a look at times customers say that didn’t happen.
Burger King's Croissan'wich price hike
Burger King ended 2017 by settling a class action lawsuit claiming Maryland customers had been cheated for almost two years. According to Fox News, the lawsuit was filed by Koleta Anderson of Maryland, and she claimed customers who used a Buy One, Get One coupon for BK’s Croissan’wich were paying an inflated price. Anderson says when she used the coupon, she was charged for a single sandwich at $3.19. Without the coupon, she was charged $2.16 for the same sandwich.
Anderson says she tried it at a few different Burger King locations, and her lawyer’s investigator did, too. They said they got the same result, and claimed BK was hiking the price for coupon-using customers. BK denied there was any funny business going on, but they still settled the matter and agreed to hand out some $2 and $5 gift cards.
McDonald's expensive Extra Value Meals
The whole point of ordering an Extra Value Meal is that it’s convenient and it’s cheaper than ordering the components individually. But a lawsuit filed in Illinois in 2016 alleges that’s not always the case.
The Cook County Record says James Gertie filed the complaint when he realized he was paying more for his Extra Value Meal than the components would cost individually. The meal was $5.90, he said, while ordering two cheeseburgers, a medium fry, and a medium soft drink came to $5.49. Gertie later spoke to the Daily Herald about exactly why he was pursuing the case, and said it wasn’t just about a few pennies. “It’s because of the principle,” he said. “That’s the whole point of a ‘value’ meal. I believe in the principle of true advertising. If a company advertises something to be a value, then it should be.”
And that’s a legitimate complaint. We all want to be able to trust what’s advertised, right? As of January 2018, no verdict has been reached.
Chipotle's questionable calorie interpretation
Chipotle’s claim to fame is fresh ingredients and the fact that it’s a healthier alternative than some competitors, but their eagerness to share just how healthy they are didn’t sit well with diners from Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, Chipotle was the target of a class action lawsuit when diners finished their meal and felt much fuller than the advertised 300-calorie burrito should have made them.
The confusion came in when diners looked at a menu board that showed a picture of the chorizo burrito, a summary of ingredients, and a note that claimed simply, “300 calories.” Fortune says Chipotle’s nutrition calculator gives you a grand total of 930 calories for just a chorizo burrito with white rice and black beans (much less than the advertised burrito was filled with). Turns out, the chorizo alone was the 300 calories referred to on the signage. While it might seem obvious that all those ingredients will add up to more than 300 calories, everyone from customers to registered dietitians chimed in to say the advertising is incredibly deceiving — and therein lies the problem. Since California law requires restaurants to make complete nutritional information available to customers, it was a double whammy that (as of January 2018) is still waiting for a resolution.
Dunkin' Donuts look-alike ingredients
It was a rough 2017 for Dunkin’ Donuts. They made headlines a few times when they were accused of using ingredients that weren’t exactly what they advertised, and it started in April. That’s when The Boston Globe says a Massachusetts customer got a settlement out of a lawsuit filed against the coffee and donut chain claiming customers at a group of 20 locations were being served margarine or butter substitute, even if they asked for butter. The suit had been in the works for a few years after it came to light franchisees almost always used butter substitute, saying it was easier to spread. It’s also worth noting that the ten plaintiffs were awarded $500 each, while the attorneys took home a whopping $500,000.
In June, The Boston Globe reported on another lawsuit, this one filed in New York. This time, they were being accused of using ground beef in their steak-and-egg sandwiches. The ingredients list officially says “Angus Beef,” which the plaintiffs say isn’t actually the “steak” advertisements describe. And in August, yet another class action lawsuit was filed. Today Food says this one claimed products labeled as “blueberry” didn’t contain any actual blueberries, and instead used sugary “flavored crystals.” To be fair, that’s not exactly an unheard of practice, but this customer says he wouldn’t have paid as much knowing the fruit was artificial. Both recent cases are still awaiting a verdict.
Starbucks' questionable lattes
Next time you get a latte from Starbucks, pop the top. What do you see? According to a 2016 lawsuit (via The Guardian), you’d see 25 percent less coffee than you might expect.
Plaintiffs claimed that Starbucks lattes were carefully constructed to save the company money and short-change the customer. It even went as far as alleging that the pitchers Starbucks employees were instructed to use to make their coffees weren’t the proper measurements, and when the case made it to court, it was found the case hinged on an idea that could be interpreted a few different ways.
Lattes need foam, that’s what makes them a latte. The question is, do you expect foamed milk to take up room in your cup, or do you expect your 16-ounce latte to contain 16 ounces of liquid? According to the reporter sent out by the Today Show, his 16-ounce lattes only contained 12 ounces of actual liquid. What gives? It wasn’t until January 2018 that Reuters reported the lawsuit was dismissed because the foam was considered part of the drink, and Starbucks’ measuring system was completely acceptable — even though many customers don’t agree.
The great Jimmy John's sprout fiasco
In 2014, the StarTribune reported on a class action lawsuit one disgruntled customer brought against Jimmy John’s. She claimed she didn’t get alfalfa sprouts on her sandwiches when they were very clearly listed on the menu, so she sued for a whole list of offenses like negligent misrepresentation and fraud. Clearly, she takes her sprouts seriously, and here’s where the story gets odd.
After an outbreak of E. coli in 2012, Jimmy John’s was one of the restaurants named as a source of illness. The culprit? Raw sprouts. Jimmy John’s promised to get rid of the ingredient completely, and while they did, they didn’t change their menus.
They denied wrongdoing, but still settled and agreed to give unhappy customers a voucher for $1.40, that could be redeemed for any side item or soft drink… but not a side of sprouts.
McDonald's fry cheat
We’ve all been there. We go through the drive-thru at McD’s, but when we open our bags, there’s a suspicious amount of fries that seem missing.
According to the Reddit thread “What did your job want you to hide from customers?” one McDonald’s employee claims they were told to pinch the bottom of the fry container when they filled it, so it looked like it was full… but really wasn’t. Other employees confirmed the practice — and that customers occasionally called them out on it — but when a McDonald’s representative reached out to the Huffington Post they wholeheartedly denied that was ever a practice put in place in any of their locations. This may be a case of a few isolated locations — or a really good cover up. We may never know.
Subway's great "footlong" debate
We’re sure you remember hearing about this one, and it went on for so long you’ve probably forgotten some of the details. With the help of Forbes, let’s recap. In 2013, a customer at a Subway in Australia posted a photo of his footlong sub next to a tape measure that showed it was only 11 inches long. The internet was not about to stand for that sort of thing, and a group filed a class action lawsuit against Subway.
It was found the length difference was down to the way bread baked, and since all loaves start from the same amount of dough, you’re guaranteed to get a particular amount of bread. In spite of that, the case was settled for $525,000 and that should have ended it. One plaintiff refused to settle, though, and kept the case going.
And going. And going. It wasn’t until August 2017 that Reuters reported the entire case was thrown out of a court that condemned not Subway, but the attorneys for trying to milk it for all it was worth. So, while you might not be getting exactly 12 inches of bread, the courts say you’re getting your money’s worth.
Burger King's timer shenanigans
Here’s one that hasn’t resulted in a court case, but it’s something that everyone should be aware of — especially because it can happen at any fast food place, not just Burger King. If you regularly go through the drive-thru, you may have been asked to pull up and wait for your food so customers after you can be served. That’s completely legitimate, especially if it’s a large order. But when blogger Amy Oztan of Amy Ever After was asked to pull forward then back again (along with several other customers), she asked what was going on.
She says they were straight with her: they were resetting the timer that keeps track of how long it takes drive-thru customers to be served. The employee told her they had specific criteria they needed to meet, and since they weren’t, they were asking for a little help from their customers when it came to cheating the system.
The point of fast food is to be fast, right? The only way that happens is if everyone is on the up-and-up, so keep that one in mind if anyone ever asks you to pull up or aside for no apparent reason.