"Only at participating locations?"

Every time a fast food chain has a special going on, there is a disclaimer saying “Only at participating locations” or something to that effect. I’m just wondering what kind of location wouldn’t participate. I mean, has anyone ever seen a commercial for, say, 99 cent Big Macs/Whoppers/whatever, then gone to buy one only to be told, "Sorry, we’re not a “participating location.” The only explanation I can think of is either foreign countries with different legal restrictions on this sort of thing, or locations like inside airports or malls. Any ideas?

A lot of fast food restaurants are franchises, and I think some of the promotions don’t appeal to all franchise owners. That’s a WAG, BTW.

Go to any of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip tucked away in food courts…you won’t find any McDonalds or Burger King participating…plus they charge more than the same McDonalds or Burger King half a mile off the Strip.

Location, location, location = no need to offer deals.

And Germans, correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there are laws over there that make special price deals illegal competition…hence no coupons in the newspapers for 50 cent discount on cola, green beens, etc. I believe a case could be made there (in Germany) that if McDonalds offered a special cheeseburger deal, they would be forcing Burger King to match the deal. In the US, that’s business - over there it is unfair business practice.

It seems to me that some of the special, auxiliary establishments are the ones that don’t participate. Places like McDonald’s inside Wal*Mart, or Subway inside a convenience store, or Pizza Hut inside a church (don’t tell me your church doesn’t have one!). Maybe even mall food courts do this sometimes.

My sister has worked for Little Cesar’s for about 17 years now, and I once asked her about this very thing. It seems that all of the “participating locations” help to pay for the advertising. If you don’t kick in your fair share of the advertising bucks, then you can’t offer the advertised specials.

That’s pretty interesting, actually. It makes the word choice of “participating” make all the more sense – actively, in a campaign, and all that.

It goes to there advantage to say that because if they make more money if they dont participate, then they wont.

I have a first hand anecdote for you.

Around 25 years ago I worked at a McDonald’s in West Los Angeles. At that time they introduced a new food item, the McSteak sandwich. There was a coupon in the newspaper offering a free steak knife with the purchase of a McSteak. There were a fair amount of gang member punks who used to frequent our fair establishment so our manager, wise man that he was, decided that handing out free knives was probably not the best idea in the world. We were not a “participating location.”

One lady got really upset with me over this. I told her that we weren’t doing the knife thing. She put the coupon right in my face and said that I didn’t have a choice. I then showed her the fine print and explained that we were not a participating location. She was furious and cancelled her order promising never to return to our store. If that’s all it took to set her off, I’m glad she didn’t get an extra knife. Imagine if I had given her one and we forgot to hold the onions or something.


Usually the fast food places inside the Universities. Feh. Like students need to be gouged anymore money.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I can say that I used a coupon at the Burger King in Nuremberg in 1998 for 1DM off of a DoppelWopper (the most fun thing to ever say) combo meal. It was delicious.

The Burger King at Van Ness and Turk here usually doesn’t offer advertised specials. It is somewhat high-traffic, with a high school two blocks away, and Civic Center a few more blocks away (although there are two McD’s closer to City Hall than BK).

“Prices slightly higher in the New York Metro area, Alaska and Hawaii.” A WAG, but perhaps advertised specials aren’t offered in those areas, either. I’m also willing to bet that airport and toll road locations olf fast food restaurants don’t offer advertised special prices.

I tried to use a coupon in a yogurt chain franchise at Baltimore Harbor Place and they told me they don’t take the coupons, that they are not a participating location. The owner told me that he just didn’t think they were worth the trouble.

It’s been over 10 years and I still remember not to go back there :slight_smile:

So… by not spending extra money on advertising, they’re not allowed to lower their prices and lose even more money?

I’m surprised there aren’t more non-participating locations…

Ah, but they wouldn’t offer the deals if they were going to lose money on them. Either the item is overpriced to begin with or the sale is for a “loss-leader” item, put on sale with the expectation that someone coming in for the special is going to buy additional merchandise. DoppelWhopper for 1DM off? Sure, thing, fires and a drink with that? Same with grocery stores. Put something like oranje juice on sale and the people who otherwise might not shop there who go in for the juice will pick up milk and bread and what-not at the same time.

Er, “fries,” not fires. And “und,” not “and.”

If a franchisor forced franchisees to participate it could be found liable for an antitrust violation in the United States. It’s considered a vertical restraint of trade and is called “resale price maintenance” in the antitrust busines.

The theory is that resale price maintenance artificially sets prices. In general, the real fear is that a franchisor will say “you must not sell bugers for less than $1.00” but it still applies to potentially bar a franchisor from saying “you can’t sell the burger for more than $1.00.”

For many years it was a per se antitrust violation to set a maximum price, but the Supreme Court got rid of the per se rule and now a litigant would have to prove a restraint of trade. Still, there is potential liability, so franchisors give the franchises some latitude.

Does it strike anyone else that ‘only at participating locations’ is a redundant statement anyway.

Would I expect to buy an item, or recieve a given discount, if I shopped at a non-participating store?