Is McDonald’s doing comment spam now?

[Update 20 October 2009: It turns out this new purported McDonald’s memo is itself a fake. The comment spam attempt was not from McDonald’s.]

Fake McDonald's memo: click to embiggen

Well-known burger-tossers McDonald’s would be pissed off about that fake email tarnishing their reputation, and understandably so. But are they now responding with unethical tactics?

I don’t know. But here’s my little bit of evidence, and maybe The Power of Crowdsourcing [read: “expecting everyone else to do your work for you”] can fill in the gaps.

  1. A document purporting to be a leaked internal memo outlining McDonald’s response policy, and claiming they’re taking legal action against prankster David Thorne, was posted on Reddit — which happens to be where Thorne promoted the original fake memo. The account used to post this new memo, the oh-so-revealing 9911882882288, was created at that time and this is their only post. I’ve included the full text of the purported memo below.
  2. This morning someone tried to post a comment here which was merely a copy and paste of that same memo. They used a clearly false email address, which is presumably what caused their comment to be tagged as potential spam, and an Apple Mac running Safari sitting on an IP address on the Hutchison 3 mobile network.

This strikes me as rather curious.

Since McDonald’s is the big fast food chain that haters of big fast food chains love to hate, I don’t see that many anonymous bystanders rushing to its defence. Something in my waters says this is more likely to be someone acting on McDonald’s behalf — but that’s just a gut feeling.

And since McDonald’s is a big company, presumably they have a big respectable PR firm too.

So why, therefore, the anonymity?

The Public Relations Institute of Australia’s Code of Ethics talks about “dealing honestly”, which in my books means identifying yourself — although I’ll admit I’m hazy on how the PRIA itself would interpret that.

Has anyone else had someone attempt to post this memo as a comment? Is anyone seeing McDonald’s posting official comments in their own name?

And what do you make of the fact that prankster David Thorne works for a design agency which lists McDonald’s as a client?

Purported McDonald’s Memo

This is the full text of the comment which someone attempted to post on this website earlier today.

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bronwyn Stubbs
Date: 14 October 2009 11:56:45 AM
To: 372 Recipients
Subject: Fabricated letter

Hi All,

As most of you are aware, a fabricated letter (attached) appeared on a US blog about a week ago. I contacted the blog and had them post a confirmation that the letter is fabricated but despite this it went viral and is now circulating via email.

A response was provided to media and customer service and we are currently have an alert on our corporate website which can be viewed here:

Should you be contacted by any media representative in regards to the letter, the following text must be used: “The memo in circulation supposedly written by the Proprietor of Frewville McDonald’s in South Australia is a complete fabrication. ‘Robert Trugabe’ is not a McDonald’s Australia employee and never has been. The contents of the letter are also completely fabricated. McDonald’s practices the highest standards of consumer ethics and would never encourage employees to act in a way that undermines our core customer values.”

According to recent news articles and other information we have been provided, the fabricated letter was created by an Adelaide man named David Thorne. At no time should any member of McDonald’s mention the name David Thorne to any media representative. We have spoken to police and are in the process of filing charges against Thorne. We are also speaking with legal regarding a possible law suit. At no time should any member of McDonald’s contact Mr Thorne or engage in any correspondence with him. Should Mr Thorne contact you in any way please let me know immediately or forward any emails.

Please inform all those who should be made aware.



Bronwyn Stubbs
Corporate Communications Manager
McDonald’s Australia

What do you reckon? Comments please!

10 Replies to “Is McDonald’s doing comment spam now?”

  1. No way would there be 372 people authorised to speak to the media as the recipient list indicates even if it is a pre-determined statement. If they work anything like where I do, the email would have simply been along the lines of “all media enquiries should be referred to person x (or dept x)” and remind everyone that they are not authorised to comment. I doubt they would have more than a handful of people who deal with the media; any more and the message gets distorted.

  2. @George: What you say about central control of PR is likely to be true in an organisation the size of McDonald’s. But that said, many stores are owned by franchisees. They may have their own contacts with local media with whom they speak informally.

    Still, in every other way it looks a suitably corporate message. While your point does take a little shine off it, I’m still with it being a genuine memo. For now.

  3. There could quite easily be 372 McDonald’s proprietors around the country.

    I just don’t see why this would have been leaked. It’s not really positive PR for McDonald’s.

    “We have spoken to police and are in the process of filing charges against Thorne. We are also speaking with legal regarding a possible law suit.” – this just reinforces a widespread negative perception of Maccas.

  4. Whoever wrote the allegedly fake “internal memo” may have used a spellchecker before publishing it but it does say FIRES instead of FRIES.

    Are the underpaid workers now instructed to ask “Would you like fires with that ?” rather than “Would you like fries with that ?”

    BTW: “fries” is an Americanism. In British countries they are called chips.

  5. On the weekend I heard from a person whose firm does some PR for McDonald’s. They said they know of no social media campaign that would fit my speculation, and that if they were doing any blog comments for McDonald’s they’d identify themselves.

    Which is what I’d have thought from a reputable PR firm.

    @Kirk Broadhurst: What you say reinforces my comment about McDonald’s being the big fast food chain that haters of big fast food chains love to hate.

    If someone has defamed a business or caused them to lose money through malicious or reckless actions, that business is perfectly entitled to pursue legal action. The case would then be considered on its merits. But because the business in this instance is McDonald’s, they’re more likely to be seen as the corporate monsters attacking the little guy.

    Curious, eh?

    @Bob Bain: I don’t know that a typo takes away from the verisimilitude of the original fake email. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of poor writing in internal communications!

    Yes, “fries” is originally an American English word but it’s the word McDonald’s use.

    The Macquarie Dictionary glosses it as:

    fries plural noun → French fries.

    And that in turn is glossed:

    French fries plural noun thin strips of potatoes fried in deep fat; chips. Also, French fried potatoes.

    In modern linguistics practice, a dictionary reports on English usage, it doesn’t make value judgements. Here the Macquarie is noting that “fries” is considered standard Australian English usage — because it’s not marked “colloquial” or regional or in any other way which would show limited usage — but it does define it in terms of “chips”, which in turn is glossed in more detail, indicating that “chips” is the term with a longer pedigree.

    3. Also, potato chip.
    a. a deep-fried finger of potato.
    b. a thin slice of potato, fried and salted, usually eaten cold; crisp; potato crisp.

    The Macquarie does not consider that words are “better” if they first derive from British English rather than American English. Indeed, the preface goes to some pains to point out that Australian English is its own master, choosing words from many sources.

  6. Further to the chip glossing, if British English really reigned supreme in Australia, we’d be popping bags of Kettle Crisps in the pub, not Kettle Chips.

  7. @Sean Carmody: Sir, “chip glossing” is truly glorious! But… I do often ask for “crisps” at the pub, not “chips”, when I want the things in a packet as opposed to what the kitchen will quickly deep-fry for me. I often get confused looks in return. Mind you, that might be for something else.

  8. @stilgherrian on the Maccers UK site they refer to chips as fries and it’s even the case in India

    There instead of a Big Mac it’s possible to purchase a Chicken Maharaja Mac, a Fillet-O-Fish, a McChicken or a McVeggie (with fries) but there appears to be no beef based burgers.

    For those with the time it’s interesting to compare MacDonalds sites around the globe.

    I’m unable to translate the Chinese menu as it’s written in funny characters that I don’t understand (apart from Coca-Cola).

    Here’s a list of countries that MacDonald’s have franchises in and the year they commenced in each country.'s_franchises

    There’s also a list of countries where MacDonald’s don’t have a presence but they have an outlet listed for Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Not available to Cuban Residents).

    Perhaps this is a form of torture that should be investigated.

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