This e-mail came through from a ValueIreland.com reader who was frustrated with the activities of McDonalds and Burger King when it came to some of their special offers. I’m afraid that I couldn’t provide the kind of answer I guess the reader was looking for. Here’s the original e-mail:
Every single morning I get on the dart and I see the same ad for Burger King’s €3.50 meal deal. I go home that evening and as soon as I turn on the tv I see an ad for McDonald’s Eurosaver. These advertisments have the desired effects, when I walk by one of these fast food outlets I think to myself that in these recessionary times they provide good value.
However when I enter the premises I can never remember exactly what the billboard and television advertisements had been offering, and the corporations do not provide any reminder to their good offers within their menus. McDonalds litter their tills and walls with posters with the newest salad but there is no mention of the €1 hamburger or €2 twisty fries I went in to order in the first place!!
One my way home one night I remembered the giant posters saying “Hey Mr Cowen, how’s this for a recession buster?!”. The offer was for a double cheeseburger, soft drink and small fries for the low price of €3.50. However when I approached the counter and asked for the “Recession Buster Meal” I was told it was not available after 10pm. I was taken aback, does the recession end after 10pm every night?
I have since checked the posters advertising the “Recession Buster Meal” and there is no small print to inform me that our economy suddenly takes a sharp rise after 10pm.
Am I not within my rights to get my meal deal whatever time of day it is?
And my response:
With regards to your first point regarding the McDonalds shops not reflecting their billboard and TV advertising, I can only say that there’s nothing wrong or illegal about what they’re doing. In fact, many would say that it’s actually good marketing practice by McDonalds. They’re successfully advertising to customers such as yourself and then hoping to extract as much money from you as they can when you’re actually in the outlet.
Essentially in this particular situation, it’s a case of buyer beware. To be fair to McDonalds, I have seen their menu in outlets that includes the items that you’re referring to. If you’re in the outlet and don’t see the items that you saw in the advertising, then it’s really down to yourself to ask if the items are available. McDonalds would obviously hope that you’d buy something else if you don’t see these items on the menu – but it’s your choice to ask for the other items, buy something else, or just walk out without ordering anything.
As far as the Burger King meal offers, its down the them as to when they make those offers available. There’s no obligation on Burger King to provide special offers at any time. Special offers are normally offered at times when people would not normally be in the outlet in order to boost business – it wouldn’t make business sense to provide a special offer at a time when people are likely to be in the outlet spending money anyway.
The only thing that you could possibly have grounds to complain about here is that the advertising that you saw isn’t sufficiently clear about when the special offer is available. Much as I have no time for self-regulating authorities, the people to make a complaint to would be the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI). If you’re lucky, you might get a free voucher from Burger King just to shut you up and make the complaint go away – a standard ASAI tactic to placate complainants.
I appreciate that these responses are not really what you might want to have heard, but given the scenarios described, the businesses are doing nothing wrong in trying to boost their income and it’s really down to us consumers to look after ourselves.