Some days — the kind that starts with spilled coffee and devolves from there — all you want is to huddle by yourself in a corner booth with a bowl of soft serve and chunks of candy. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, because McDonald's ice cream machines tend to be out of order on a regular basis. Then you're left even crankier than before, holding up the line as you scrutinize the menu for anything that approaches the emotional comfort of a McFlurry at the end of a bad day. (Spoiler alert: nothing does.) Sure, you could just go get ice cream from the supermarket, but when a girl wants a soft serve milkshake, she deserves a soft serve milkshake.
Luckily for McFlurry lovers across the nation, one enterprising woman who was turned away from the soft serve machine too many times took matters into her own hands. D.C.-based writer Raina McLeod recently made a video dreaming of a world in which an app could report on the status of your local McDonald's ice cream machine before you schlep your way to the actual restaurant. It was meant as a joke, but people responded so well online that McLeod decided to make the app a reality despite her lack of tech experience.
"Why should this big company not give us what we want when we want it?" McLeod said, speaking to DC Inno in April. "I feel like an activist — and that’s a weird thing to say. I really do think that people should have what they want."
And so Ice Check was born.
Using your phone's GPS and input from other users, the app allows you to locate a nearby McDonald's and reveals whether their ice cream machine is ON or OFF. If the machine is in service, the location shows up pink in the app; if it is down, it shows up grey. You can also bookmark your favorite locations and snag coupons from participating locations when their machines are down.
So far, while McLeod has been trying to entice franchises to work with the app, its information is largely crowdsourced. When an Ice Check user walks into a McDonald's, they can pull up the app to let other users know whether the ice cream machine is working. While this allows the app to give real-time updates, the nature of crowdsourcing means it also might be less than accurate sometimes, depending on how often people update the app. On the other hand, this means you can do some good in the world by letting other people know when an ice cream machine is down, so they don't go through the same cycle of anticipation and disappointment you just experienced. In my totally professional opinion, that's worth all kinds of good karma.
Broken soft serve machines, which often happen at night, are a common complaint among McDonald's customers. In fact, people grumble about it so much that the Wall Street Journal once conducted an investigation into interruptions in McFlurry service. (The conclusion was that the machines are heat-cleaned for four hours every day, often during peak hours, making it feel like the machines are always down.) In March, McDonald's even rolled out revamped machines with fewer parts and shorter cleaning periods to stores across the United States. More than half a year later, though, little seems to have changed.
Forget baseball. Judging from Twitter, complaining about broken McFlurry machines is the true national pastime.
If you're interested, which every soft serve lover should be, Ice Check is available for iOS through the App Store. Android users, now is the time to make friends with people who own an Apple device, so you never have to miss a McFlurry again.