Hacking McDonalds' ice cream machines to figure out why they're always broken

Originally published at: Hacking McDonalds' ice cream machines to figure out why they're always broken | Boing Boing


A bit of hyperbole: “almost never work” conflict with “10% at any given time are out of service”, since it means that 90% of the time, they work.

Anyway the efficient market gives us unreliable machines because is more profitable.

I’m quite sure that if those pesky consumer protection laws weren’t in the way, also cars and other consumer devices would be much more unreliable.


Not a ReBoing, but RelatedBoing:


That’s not what that means. It means that 10% of the machines nationwide are out of service at any time. That does not mean that they work 90% of the time, nor does it mean that any one machine is out of service 10% of the time. What it does mean is that it is extremely common for all of these ice cream machines to be out of service at some point. Yes, the “almost never work” is a bit of hyperbole, but it’s also not entirely wrong. Almost every machine likely stops working at some point ever month. It is a failure rate that would be unacceptable in most other contexts.

More profitable for whom? Not McDonald’s franchisees, that’s for sure. More profitable for Taylor? Absolutely. More profitable for McDonald’s corporate? Probably not, but they’re also insulated from the problem, so it’s arguably not costing them money.

Are you saying the DMCA is a consumer protection law? Because it isn’t. It’s a corporation protection law.


I believe this is the opposite of an efficient market, though. The current state of laws allows Taylor to lock out any competition, preventing a free market for parts and services. Ironically (or not) regulations need to be imposed on the marketplace that prevent anticompetitive behavior.


another option, given what we all have read and heard about mcdonald’s ice cream machines, just go get ice cream somewhere else.


McDonalds drops this turd on the franchises, so they’re not going to spend on lawyers to hold Taylor to account under the contract, but the C-boys making the number go up really should consider the over-all reputation damage to the chain.

(“Wait, you mean that the MCD stock has something to do with the McDonalds chain? Wow!”)


That sounds like something from that socialist Adam Smith! :rofl:

McDonalds to franchises: “Aww, your machine is always broke and service calls are costing you a fortune? Fuck you, pay us your money!”


I’m betting that the problem isn’t just that they are insulated, but have a sweetheart deal with Taylor. One that makes them more money that happy franchisees would.


Never once have I thought of ordering ice cream at a McDonalds. We probably visit Dairy Queen at least once a week and in-season we stop in to the local ice cream or frozen custard shops.


Get your ice cream where the business is making ice cream!


The only caveat I have with McD employees fixing the machine is what is the problem?

More specifically are they doing all the steps or what is necessary to fix and sanitize the machine after they “fix” it? I mean maybe it’s something simple like check and drain the overflow or maybe you to drain and take apart half the machine to fix it… I’d rather not have a listeria outbreak because someone didn’t want to take the time to run a rinse cycle on the fixed machine.

-I don’t work for Taylor or have any idea how their machines work.
-I also have only a tiny bit more confidence a Taylor service tech is actually following all the directions compared to the McD employee.

Oh yeah, where did I read about that happening…

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I am surprised that a disgruntled Taylor service technician hasn’t copied the service manuals and put them on Piratebay.


I saw a video on this. It’s all a scam. A captive market. Franchise owners are force to only use like 2 different models from the same company, and the company has gamed those machines to be finicky, impossible to trouble shoot, and rake in millions a year in having someone come out and fix it.

They even had a company make a device to help diagnose issues, and they got sued.

The company makes machines for other franchises, like Wendys, but they are allowed to go to more than one company, so those machines work better.


It seems like they hide some of the information of the machine’s current state from operators. So…

  • Keep careful notes, checklists, and do a knowledge hand-off between shifts to deduce the hidden variables. (i.e. not most fast food joints.)
  • Do lengthy extra cleaning cycles to bring it into a known safe state.
  • Bork it, running into one of the cryptic error messages, and an expensive service call.
  • Have an Ice Cream Machine Priest and servitors in constant attendance.



This isn’t the first time someone tried to attempt to go around Taylor. Kytch is a company that made a device to translate the error codes to what they actually mean, which then the operators of the machine can properly address the issues.

CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on June 5th, 2022:


This is silly. Mcdonald’s has a vested interest in not being known as the chain where people get terrible gut bugs and diseases. In fact, in many parts of the world, westerners are so afraid to eat “local” that they go to the US chains instead for this very reason (sadly, this includes members of my own family despite trying to teach them otherwise.) - McDonalds employees successfully sanitize and clean all the other equipment, tools, and surfaces they work on without this happening. Proper training works for McD; they just legally aren’t allowed to fix the damned things.


It doesn’t sound like the DMCA is the problem. It sounds like it’s the deal McDonald’s made with Taylor. "Currently, Taylor has service contracts with McDonald’s franchises that allow them to exclusively service the ice cream machines. " [emphasis added]

If McDonald’s were not prevented by the DMCA, they’d still be violating their contract with Taylor.

That would just prevent them from hiring another 3rd party to service the devices though, it wouldn’t prevent them from servicing them themselves, as they own them.

The DMCA prevents the latter.


You’re saying that even though Taylor has contracted exclusive rights to repair the machines, that McDonald’s could still work on them anyway? I guess that would depend on the agreement, wouldn’t it? Is there some right that ownership entails that overrides the agreement? IANAL