Teen goes viral for McDonald's nuggets hack – but is it stealing?

A teenage TikToker in the US is enjoying his 24 hours of fame after discovering a glitch in a McDonald's self-serve kiosk, tricking the machine into serving him four times the number of chicken nuggets he actually paid for.

TikTok has long been a popular platform for McDonald's fanatics who have come up with all sorts of hacks, from how to customise your order to keep your fries fresh and hot.

In this latest viral video, New Yorker Luke Urda hacked the McDonald's ordering machine by ordering from the $1 to $2 menu and selecting the four chicken nuggets option.

A TikToker Luke Urda shows off his McDonald's hack.
A TikToker McDonald's hack has gone viral - but not everyone thinks it's a good idea. Source: @lukeurda/TikTok

When redirected to the sauce selection, the teen clicks on the "plus" sign, adding multiple packs of $1 nuggets to his order and a total of five sauces.

At checkout, he proudly displays the 20 nuggets he’s scored for US$5.43, or approximately A$7.20.

"This is a McDonald's life hack which will change your life forever," Luke says in the video.

In Australia, 20 chicken nuggets at McDonald’s would put you back A$13.25 or A$17.25 if purchased in a large meal.

Viral McDonald's video divides opinion

Since it was posted the video has attracted 600,000 views and hundreds of comments.

The teenager's "trick" has received mixed reviews, with some congratulating his ingenuity, to others accusing him of gluttony, "vandalism" and even theft.

"Not the hero we wanted, but the hero we needed," one person wrote.

"I have worked at McDonald's — don't do this, that's how some of the machines get messed up or broken," another wrote.

"Life hack to double your weight in 2.2 days," a third wrote.

In China, a group of students are facing serious jail time after exploiting a KFC loophole that cost the company more than AU$40,000.

The group were charged with fraud which was likened in court to stealing money from a broken ATM.

Glitches and loopholes — who's to blame?

When it comes to corporate giants, such as McDonalds and KFC, many argue it’s their responsibility to fix any problems with their operating systems and that they can well afford to write off some accidental nuggets.

Others believe the people exploiting these loopholes are simply selfish and ruining it for everyone else.

A McDonald's restaurant. Source: Getty Images
Many argue that corporate giants like McDonald's are responsible for fixing glitches in their system. Source: Getty Images

Mobile payment systems encourage theft

A study conducted by the Australian National University in 2016 found mobile payment systems actually encourage theft.

Apparently, people who wouldn’t ordinarily take things without paying for them succumb to temptation when there’s no human oversight.

According to the National Retail Association, retail crime costs Australian businesses up to $9 billion each year, with every single incident eroding profitability and potentially increasing the cost of goods to consumers.

Innocently profiting — consumer versus retailer

Deliberately exploiting a glitch in an automated system is one thing, but what about situations where you unknowingly profit from a "broken" machine, such as a supermarket price scanner or an ATM?

Incorrect pricing or a glitch in an automated self-service system often happens in fast-paced environments, such as restaurants, supermarkets, as well as with online shopping.

Fortunately, as a consumer, you do have some protections.

Consumer law is mainly governed by the Australian Consumer Law Act which requires prices to be clear and correct so they don’t mislead consumers and represent the total price of the product or service.

If a retailer incorrectly prices an isolated product it’s likely to be an error. In these cases, they typically follow their individual store policy to address the mistake.

The policy is usually displayed at the register. Depending on the policy, they have the right to choose whether or not to honour an incorrectly priced item.

In the case of online businesses, the policy relating to pricing errors will generally be contained in the terms and conditions.

Some, not all supermarkets, are signatories to a code of practice for computerised checkout systems. This code sets out procedures a store must follow in cases of pricing errors.

The code states that when an item is scanned at a higher price than as advertised, you’re entitled to receive the first item free and all later items at the lower price. You can complain to a supervisor or the store manager if staff fail to comply with the code.

If money is incorrectly transferred into your bank account due to an error, by law this money does not belong to you and you’re obliged to notify the bank of its error. Failing to do so is actually a criminal offence.

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