This article originally appeared on VICE US in March 2018
If we were to unwrap a Quarter Pounder at McDonald’s and discover that it’s covered with two slices of cheese that we didn’t want, most of us would probably shrug and eat it anyway. Some of us would try to peel it off before it melted completely, and a few others might re-wrap the burger, take it to the counter and ask if we could swap it for a cheeseless version. Or, you could handle the situation the way that Cynthia Kissner and Leonard Werner did.
The two Florida residents recently filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, alleging that the fast food giant has forced them to accept—and to pay for —countless pieces of cheese that they didn’t ask for. The lawsuit claims that McDonald’s used to advertise and sell Quarter Pounders without cheese but, at some point, it quietly removed those varieties from its menus. Now, customers are forced to accept either a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and, even if they ask for a Q-P without cheese, they’re still charged the same price.
Werner told the Sun Sentinel that he stopped getting cheese on his Quarter Pounders in order to cut down on the amount of dairy in his diet (because the cheese is clearly the problematic part of that meal). But even after dropping the dairy, he realized that he was still paying the same amount. “I started talking with some lawyer friends, saying, ‘What’s the deal? They can charge for something I didn’t get?’ It’s not right,” he said.
Andrew Lavin, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Werner and Kissner, did some pay-me-by-the-hour sleuthing, discovering that McDonald’s charges between .20 and .40 cents extra to add cheese to a cheese-less item, and that on the McDonald’s app or when ordering through third-party apps, customers can buy Quarter Pounders without cheese, at a savings of .30 to .90 cents per burger. (So why don’t these people just use the app? Let’s just say that Werner wishes other people a Happy Birthday by writing on his own Facebook wall.)
“Notwithstanding the availability of Quarter Pounders and Double Quarter Pounders, customers have been forced, and continue to be overcharged for these products, by being forced to pay for two slices of cheese, which they do not want, order, or receive, to be able to purchase their desired product,” Lavin wrote in the lawsuit. (Personally, I like that he suggests that his poor clients are forced to eat Quarter Pounders all the time).
According to the 32-page lawsuit, McDonald’s willingness to make “With Cheese” its default Quarter Pounder option is a deceptive trade practice, is in violation of this country’s anti-trust laws, and is “unfair and misleading to the public.” It also says that the two plaintiffs “suffered injury as a result of their purchases because they were overcharged, and were required to pay for cheese [...] that they did not want and did not receive.” THEY. SUFFERED. INJURY.
In a statement, a McDonald’s spokesperson pretty much shrugged and said, ‘Nah.’
“We do not believe the claims in this lawsuit have legal merit,” the company said. “The advertised Quarter Pounder Burger comes with cheese. We try to accommodate our customers’ requests by allowing them to customize their orders such as a Quarter Pounder with no cheese. Additionally, McDonald’s owners and operators determine menu pricing to be competitive in their market.”
McDonald’s has 21 days to respond to the lawsuit. Please send your thoughts and prayers to Leonard and Cynthia, who might blow an additional $2 on cheese during that time.