“I’m sorry, our ice cream machine is broken.”
This happened to software engineer Rashiq Zahid when he walked into a McDonald’s in Berlin to order a McSundae, but he turned his disappointment into something all fans of Mickey-D’s ice cream can use: A website that lets you know whether the ice cream machine at your local McDonald’s is up and running before you go.
Zahid figured out a way to build a database showing the working status of every McDonald’s ice cream machine in the U.S. You can check your local McDonald’s ice cream machine’s status at his website, McBroken.
“I love poking around in different apps and just looking at the security features and the internal APIs,” Zahid told The Verge. “I am pretty familiar with how to reverse-engineer apps. I was like ‘Okay, this should be pretty easy.’”
It wasn’t as easy as he thought, but eventually, he found the right system. He has a bot placing a sundae order every 30 minutes through the McDonald’s app at every McDonald’s store in the U.S. If the machine is broken, McBroken gets a notification that the ice cream order cannot be completed, and the store’s status is changed to a red dot on McBroken’s map. If you go to McBroken and see a green dot at a location, though, order away!
Zahid shared his process on Twitter.
“I reverse-engineered McDonald’s internal api and I’m currently placing an order worth $18,752 every minute at every McDonald’s in the US to figure out which locations have a broken ice cream machine,” he tweeted on Oct. 22.
to clarify how this works: mcdonald's keeps track which locations have a broken machine, I'm merely querying for those – no order gets executed, no ice cream is actually wasted
— rashiq (@rashiq) October 22, 2020
Zahid was quick to point out to concerned people that his orders do not actually go through to the store for completion.
“I’m merely querying for those [broken machines],” he tweeted. “No order gets executed, no ice cream is actually wasted.”
What does McDonald’s think of McBroken? Zahid’s efforts actually won some praise from the company’s VP of communications, David Tovar, who wrote on Twitter, “Only a true @McDonalds fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream! So, thanks!”
Only a true @McDonalds fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream! So, thanks! We know we have some opportunities to consistently satisfy even more customers with sweet treats and we will.
— David Tovar (@dwtovar) October 23, 2020
Zahid initially invented the program as a way to have some fun after his own disappointing McDonald’s run. So, he was pleasantly surprised at how quickly people raced to McBroken to use it.
“I just made it for fun,” Zahid told The Verge. “But people were like ‘Wow, this is the best thing I’ve seen this entire week.’”