Customers Suing McDonald’s Over Cheese Slices
Two Florida customers are suing McDonald’s over the cost of cheese slices on a quarter pounder that they say they’re forced to pay whether they like it or not.
How much are two slices of cheese worth? According to customers who are suing McDonald’s, those slices are worth $5 million!
A class-action lawsuit filed earlier in May claims McDonald’s used to list these four separate items on its menu: the Quarter Pounder, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Double Quarter Pounder and the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Each had a separate price, and the “with cheese” options were slightly more expensive than the “without cheese” options.
According to the actual lawsuit, the Quarter Pounder “is priced between 30¢ and 90¢ less than the price of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese.” It also states the Double Quarter Pounder “can be purchased for at least 80¢ less” than a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
At some point, those separate menu listings were edited to remove the “without-cheese” versions, which means that customers have to order the cheese versions specifically without cheese. But it’s more than that.
The attorney who filed the suit told The Miami Herald that the restaurant’s mobile app still includes the no-cheese option. That means customers who use the app can get the no-cheese burgers at the no-cheese price. But if, he said, you go inside the restaurant, you’re only given the option to buy the cheese version at the with-cheese price.
“McDonald’s is being unjustly enriched by these practices, because it receives payment for cheese it does not deliver to its customers,” the suit states.
The lawsuit includes actual receipts from restaurants that show that someone who orders either the single or double burger without cheese pays the with cheese price.
This, the lawsuit states, is a violation of the Sherman Act because the sale of the without-cheese version at the with-cheese price illegally ties cheese, “a separate and distinct product” to the burgers, whose official ingredient lists don’t include cheese.
The McDonald’s website doesn’t list a without cheese version.
McDonald’s told USA Today it does not feel the claims in the lawsuit have merit.
The first time I heard about this, I laughed. It seems, on the surface, so outrageously petty. No one forced anyone to go to McDonald’s, and no one forced a McDonald’s customer to order a cheeseburger with or without cheese.
But let’s look at it this way.
I’ve written before about a mild food sensitivity I have to raw tomatoes. I can only assume it has something to do with some sort of acid that’s found in raw tomatoes but that must cook away when the tomatoes are incorporated into a sauce or stew. I always order burgers — no matter where I have them — without tomatoes. Tomatoes are listed as official ingredients of some burgers. When I ask for the burger to be made without one of those “official” ingredients, I understand that I’m still going to be charged the full price of the burger even though I’ve asked them to not include the tomato.
But there’s no separate price listed for a burger that doesn’t include those tomato slices. There’s no “discount” if I ask that the tomatoes be left off.
I do remember years ago there was a particularly poor tomato crop forced some fast food restaurants to actually charge more for tomatoes since the price they paid had gone up. I chuckled to myself then because I didn’t have to pay the extra 15¢ or whatever it was. But the signage at the restaurants during those “tomato shortages” was quite clear about the reason for the temporary price hike. You only paid for the tomato if you asked for it; otherwise, it was being left off and you were being charged the normal price.
In other instances, you weren’t charged more for the tomato, but you only got it if you specifically requested it.
But in the case of cheese, the lawsuit claims you’re charged whether you want it or not and even if you specifically ask that it be left off your sandwich.
For me, I wouldn’t think of having a cheeseburger without cheese, so I have no dog in this particular hunt. Still, it seems to me that they may actually have a case as long as the restaurant chain lists the different pricing structure on its app and website.
If they’re going to offer a no-cheese option on the app, it seems like it should be available inside. And if cheese is that expensive, they need to charge based on whether it’s actually requested.