McDonald’s ice-cream machines are more prone to breaking down, hence routinely disappointing anyone trying to satisfy their midnight McFlurry craving.
To over come this a software engineer, Rashiq Zahid created a bot that checks ahead for users. The website, McBroken maps out all the McDonald’s near you with a simple color-coded dot system: green if the ice cream machine is working and red if it’s broken.
The bot basically works through McDonald’s mobile app, which you can use to place an order at any McDonald’s location. If you can add an ice cream order to your cart, the theory goes, the machine at that location is working. If you can’t, it’s not. So Zahid took that idea and scaled up.
“I reverse-engineered McDonald’s internal ordering API,” he explained when he launched the tool, “and I’m currently placing an order worth US$ 18,752 every minute at every McDonald’s in the US to figure out which locations have a broken ice cream machine.”
The data-picture painted by the bot is weirdly fascinating. At the time of writing this 11.76% of the ice-cream machines were broken in the United States.
In an interview to The Verge, Zahid said he started the project examining McDonald’s locations in Germany, where he lives.
He biked around Berlin, physically visiting McDonald’s locations to see if McBroken’s data was correct. After it passed that test, he expanded to the US.
He also found out shortly after launch that the one-minute time frame was too quick—the app pretty quickly pegged him as a bot and cut off access. Trying to add a McSundae to the cart every 30 minutes, however, keeps McBroken up to date and appears to meet the McDonald’s app’s human-seeking standards.
The company has long acknowledged that its ice cream machines are a weak spot in its lineup.
On Twitter, company communications and government relations executive David Tovar applauded the effort. “Only a true McDonald’s fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream!” Tovar said. “So thanks! We know we have some opportunities to consistently satisfy even more customers with sweet treats and we will.”