Chinese Students Found a Way to Eat KFC for Free. It Didn’t End Well.

How far would you go for free fried chicken?
KFC loophole china prison
Several Chinese students exploited a loophole to get free meals from the fried chicken chain. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

Five students in China have been jailed for taking advantage of a loophole in KFC’s online ordering systems to get free meals and resell them for profits.

The students were recently sentenced to up to two and a half years in prison for swindling KFC out of more than $30,000 worth of food, Chinese news outlet reported on Tuesday, citing the Xuhui district court in Shanghai. 


A 23-year-old university student surnamed Xu first spotted the loophole in April 2018. He accidentally found out that he could get free food by paying for food using coupons in one KFC app and seeking a refund of the coupons immediately using another app.

Since then, Xu had been getting free food at KFC for himself and reselling the coupons online, according to the report. He also reportedly shared knowledge about the apps’ flaws with four of his schoolmates.

From April to October that year, the free food Xu ordered cost KFC about $9,000, and the other four students each caused losses ranging from $1,400 to $7,300 to the company, the court said.

The court ruled that the five had committed fraud and the crime of imparting criminal methods by taking advantage of the data mismatch in KFC’s ordering systems.

They received prison terms ranging from 15 to 30 months, and were ordered to pay fines ranging from $155 to $930. 

Responding to trending reports about the case, some internet users say the sentences levied on the students were too harsh, arguing that KFC’s online ordering gaps should be blamed.

KFC is one of the most popular fast-food chains in China. The brand has more than 7,000 stores in China, compared with about 4,000 in the United States.

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