A NASA software engineer thinks that McDonald’s is trying to swindle people into picking medium fries over large ones. Doty (@nldoty) uploaded his rant against the globally popular burger chain on his TikTok account where it has accrued over 211,000 views as of Friday.
He attributes these shenanigans to an odd menu structure that breaks the typical “small, medium, large” menu progression.
“Take a look at this photo. Does anything seem off, like not wrong, but does anything make you go, wait?” he asks.
He shows a screenshot from a McDonald’s online ordering application which depicts three sizes of french fries: small, medium, and large, with varying calorie counts for each.
Doty explains what he thought was so strange with the McDonald’s ordering setup by sharing how he went to pick up a cheeseburger with fries for his wife.
“So I get to the McDonald’s parking and I open up the app…So I look to see on the app if there are any deals and there’s a deal for any size fry for a $1.19 that I can use any day,” he says. “So I go great I’ll get a quarter pounder with cheese, extra pickles, and I’ll get my wife a large fry and she’ll be a happy camper. So I say I want this deal and they go what size fry do you want? And that’s when I get this screen.”
He cuts back to the screenshot again which shows the order of fries: First is the small, then large, and finally the medium, which seems to be the source of his gripe with the way McDonald’s structured it.
“So there’s nothing inherently wrong with this screen but it’s incredibly un-intuitive from a user standpoint to have it ordered small, large, medium,” he says. “And on top of that, there’s a very visual distinction between small and medium and large.
He shows how while the small fry is in a white box, the medium and large are visually similar, donning a red box.
“So it makes me wonder, is this done on purpose?” he asks his viewers. “To make people order the medium when they think they’re ordering the large? Because when I went to place the order I immediately just tapped where I thought the large would be, intuitively, and then I went wait, did that say large? Cause I think that said medium? And I rolled back and I looked I said no I just selected medium.”
“McDonald’s, I’d love to know the reason for why you’re doing this because I’m pretty sure it’s so you think that people are gonna select medium when they think they’re selecting large,” he concludes.
While some may accuse Doty of being pedantic about the sizing and reasoning behind the McDonald’s app’s fries-selling structure, it seems that there may be some fuel to fire his conspiracy.
According to Taste of Home, the most economical size of french fries to buy at the chain are large fries: this ultimately gives folks the most bang for their buck when considering cost-to-fries ratios. By sandwiching the “Large” option in the middle of the selections, and putting “Small” up top (its highest profit margin selection for fries), it seems McDonald’s is hoping folks will either tap a small and give them the highest possible margin, or shoppers who want a large are going to mistake the medium selection, and thus earning the chain a bit more money in the process.
There’s also the nature of how the McDonald’s application works itself: users have a time limit on how many deals they can use on the app, so if they do mess up and want to use another promotion, they’ll have to camp out at the store or bring the issue up with a member of the staff.
It seems like other commenters have had gripes with the McDonald’s app themselves, like one person who believes that they’re being upcharged on certain items.
“Anyone else’s MCD app adding 20 cents to a value meal for a medium drink?” they asked.
One person said that this same fry size setup exists even outside of ordering fries with the app deal Doty was referring to. “I want to say yes, but I just ordered off of the app without said deal, and in the fries section they are also that way,” they said.
Another echoed this sentiment, writing, “Even without the coupon the medium is the last option.”
But there was one TikTok user who speculated that this same phenomenon is intentionally played out in other businesses as well.
“Also I think gas stations do this too cause the regular and premium gas are in different spots at each gas stations,” they wrote.
Doty’s gripe is one of the many issues customers have taken up with the app. In his clip, Doty’s reference to the terms and conditions that come with McDonald’s app has been a hot point of contention on social media. Some complained about being double charged for certain items and stated that due to the new terms and conditions that purportedly prevent diners from suing McDonald’s are designed to protect the burger chain.
The Daily Dot has reached out to McDonald’s via email and Doty via TikTok comment for further information.