McDonalds and Burger King – show me the special offers

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.

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6 Responses to McDonalds and Burger King – show me the special offers

  1. paddy19 July 6, 2009 at 10:58 #

    Ah VI, here we go again. Are you rep for the industry or someone representing consumers. They are doing nothing illegal. The law is an ass, generally written after much lobbying by industry reps to make sure they can still ripoff the consumer with sneaky tactics. This is the old bait and switch tacit from McDonalds and Burger King. It is the stuff of used car salesmen. This is not good marketing, bringing in customers with one offer and then making it difficult to get it once inside the shop.

    If it doesn’t say it on the poster then the customer should ask the manager to show him where this condition is documented. I ask for a free deal every night until they update the poster. Then take a before and after photo and put up on the VI website.

    VI should be telling it’s readers to go to the nearest Burgering and demand a free burger for false advertising.

    Now that would be getting value for the consumer.

    VI should be condemning this sort of underhand tactics not praising it as good marketing. Shame on you!

  2. valueireland July 6, 2009 at 12:50 #

    Hi paddy19 – Many thanks for your comments and constructive criticism.

    Lets step back here and bring a bit of realism into the conversation.

    First of all, I don’t claim to represent consumers – I tried to do that within the Consumers Association of Ireland before I realised that they don’t represent consumers either.

    All I try to do here is highlight what consumers can do to look after themselves.

    If consumers did this first and foremost, instead of going “waaa waaa waaa, the law’s not fair”, then it wouldn’t matter what businesses did, because consumers would be looking after themselves.

    Businesses such as those highlighted here thrive on doing what they do because consumers, in the most, are ignorant of what their right are, and aren’t, in many given situations.

    Changing the law won’t address this ignorance – it might solve individual minor irritants, but there’ll always be something else the businesses can try to catch out consumers.

    If the law is an ass, then so be it. I can’t change it. I could vote for a government that might change it, but then we’re stuck with the situation that the law isn’t actually enforced by those with the power – a frequently highlighted item here.

    Given your frequent pronouncements on such issues, maybe you would do well to join a pressure group such as the Consumers Association of Ireland to try to get the law changed. Instead of just harping on here anonymously.

    I don’t agree that laws need to be changed in all the circumstances that you do – we’ll end up in an even more nanny-like state than we do.

    Constantly harping on about how the law isn’t fair is not going to fix things for consumers as much as consumers knowing where they do, or don’t have rights, and then acting in a smart way in order to look after their own interests rather than constantly looking to be helped by the law – which is never likely to be enforced even if it is enacted.

    I can’t argue with your sentiments, however, on a day to day life in Ireland (not Utopia) basis, consumers have to know where they stand now, and how to look after themselves.

    Realism!

  3. Lynn July 9, 2009 at 10:12 #

    I work on tills at McDonalds. My usual till is right in front of the Eurosaver poster. I’ve never seen a McDonalds without that poster (I rarely go into McDonalds to get food, mind you).

    It does become slightly annoying when people ask you for a ‘Eurosaver meal’. We don’t do Eurosaver meals, we do separate items for 1 or 2 euro as part of the Eurosaver promotions.

    I don’t think I understand the complaint here. If the customer doesn’t want to look up and see the poster, or see the full list of prices (which is always up there beside the posters) that’s his own problem not the restaurant’s. To be fair, most customers know the prices better than we do, and they’ll ask for “a euro hamburger” or a “two euro hamburger” (a double cheeseburger actually, but that’s what customers normally call it). When customers ask for nuggets, and I ask how many pieces they’d like, more often than not their reply will be something along the lines of “the two euro one” (that’s 6 pieces). Obviously they know the products and prices better than us crew! How did the other customers get to know our range so well, and the OP is still stuck trying to find the ads in store?

    I can’t comment on the Burger King deals – whose poster I see every day on the bus as well 🙂 – because I haven’t been to burger king in more than a decade.

  4. paddy19 July 12, 2009 at 15:14 #

    Hi VI- Many thanks for your comments and constructive criticism.

    1. “First of all, I don’t claim to represent consumers -”

    The header on the blog is “Ireland’s Only Truly Independent Consumer Watchdog”.
    That sounds like a claim to represent the interests of consumer.

    2. “All I try to do here is highlight what consumers can do to look after themselves.”

    I respectfully disagree, you tend to justify any business action which is on the right side of the law. Take a look at your responses, you constantly go to Terms and Conditions. Tell consumers that if the T & C’s say it’s OK then tough.

    3.”If consumers did this first and foremost, instead of going “waaa waaa waaa, the law’s not fair”, then it wouldn’t matter what businesses did, because consumers would be looking after themselves.”

    This ignores the fact that in many cases in Ireland consumers have limited choice. They are not in position to renegotiate your beloved T & C’s.

    4. “Given your frequent pronouncements on such issues”

    Interesting change of tone. My comments have switched from constructive to pronouncements!
    “maybe you would do well to join a pressure group such as the Consumers Association of Ireland to try to get the law changed.” I’m already a member. As I’m sure you’ll agree, a waste of space.

    “Instead of just harping on here anonymously.”

    Seems to be a classic Irish response. Worry about whose conplaining rather than the substanse of the complaint.

    “Constantly harping on about how the law isn’t fair”.

    Definately gone down hill from “constructive” to ” harping”.

    I think I’m being realistic that the law is written to protect vested interests not the consumer.

    ” not going to fix things for consumers as much as consumers knowing where they do, or don’t have rights, and then acting in a smart way in order to look after their own interests rather than constantly looking to be helped by the law – which is never likely to be enforced even if it is enacted.”

    I agree, but you constantly use the law to defend sneaky actions by suppliers. I don’t want to change the law but I think a consumer watchdog should be helping people get what suppliers should be giving.

    I can’t argue with your sentiments, however, on a day to day life in Ireland (not Utopia) basis, consumers have to know where they stand now, and how to look after themselves.

    Realism!

    I think realism is where active consumers use all the tools that are available to get suppliers to treat them properly. Just think what, solicitors clients achieved, with Joe Duffy. We had the gorgeous sight of legal eagles running back to their clients reimburwith checks in the sweaty fists

  5. paddy19 July 12, 2009 at 15:29 #

    Sorry I got cut off in mid stride.

    To finish, this is a great site.
    It provides a free service that the NCA, or CAI are paid to provide.

    I just think, and it’s obviously just one view, that we should hold suppliers to higher standard than the law.

    One simple example, a friend bought an Apple Mac, 2,500 worth.. Died after 15 months. Shop said greater 12 months it will cost you, minimum 150.

    Friend thought, screw this, a mac should last more than 15 months. He emailed stevejobs@apple.com. Got a note that problem would be fixed. Mac repaired, no charge.

    There are tools consumers can use to get what consumers should get.

    I just hoped that VI could be a great place that consumers could get that support

  6. paddy19 July 13, 2009 at 17:19 #

    Hi VI,
    The new tobacco bill is great example of how laws get watered down by industry lobbyists in Ireland.

    Original bill out for 6 months,had a mandatory 3,000 fine for any shop selling tobacco to under 18s. A few days before it gets rushed through the Dail the bill gets watered down. No more mandatory fine.

    Thats how it’s done in good old Ireland. Deals done in smokeless (hopefully) rooms between politicians and industry lobbyists out of the eye of the public.

    Just add the two little words,”up to” and implementation dies.

    See Irish Times story attached:

    New tobacco penalties ‘watered down’
    JASON MICHAEL

    Under the new provisions of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002 and 2004, shops will have to store cigarettes in closed containers out of sight of customers.

    The new regulations will enforced by environmental health officers working for the HSE. Anyone found displaying cigarettes or advertising them in-store will now be liable for a fine OF UP TO €3,000 or up to six months in prison or both.

    However, the ICS has expressed disappointment at the intention of the Department of Health and Children to amend the measures “only a week after they have been introduced, and in the last hours of the current Dáil session”.

    “This will significantly water down the penalties for retailers who break the new rules as the proposal is now to leave the penalty to the discretion of the judge, with no minimum penalty for a breach of the rules,” a statement from the organisation said.

    Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications with the Irish Cancer Society said: “We are therefore disturbed by the decision of the Department of Health and Children to water down that deterrent by removing the automatic penalty in the new legislation and also to rush this legislation through the Oireachtas in the last hours before the summer recess.

    “This means that there with be very little deterrent in the new regime and no automatic loss of the licence to sell tobacco,” she said.

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