Two Carvel Locations in NYC Say "No Free Ice Cream Drinks For You"

Free drink giveaways are supposed to be a joyous occasion. Sadly, at least one customer lured to Carvel in the hopes of trying one of their new ice cream drinks was cruelly rebuked. This poor guy went to two different Carvel locations trying to get the free drink they’ve been advertising. As a great man once said: Hell hath no fury like a customer who is denied free ice cream. Or something.

From Midtown Lunch:

I’m a regular reader of Midtown Lunch and I wanted to let you know that Carvel’s promotion today for free arctic and coffee blenders was a complete scam. I went to the only 2 Carvel stores in Midtown and was told at both locations that they were not giving away anything today. Actually, the douchebag working in Times Square didn’t even have the decency to say anything to me. When I asked him about the promotion he wagged his finger at me and then moved on to the next customer with no further acknowledgment or apology. The two bumbling idiots working in Penn Station claimed that they were not giving away any of the frozen drinks because they didn’t have any of the ingredients for them. I don’t know what’s going over there at Carvel but they better get their act straight or they’ll be a relic of the good ol’ days in the not too distant future. Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins pulled off their promotions without a hitch and probably won a lot of customers in the process.

Carvel’s antics will only drive more customers to their clearly more competent (and honest) competitors. Sorry for the rant. I just wanted to let you know so that perhaps you could inform our fellow Midtown Lunchers of Carvel’s deceitful sales tactics.

Damn, it’s like there’s an epidemic of stingy ice cream managers going on in New York City. First Ben & Jerry’s shuts down “Free Cone Day” early and now this?

Did anyone else have problems getting their free drink at Carvel yesterday?

Airing of Grievances: Carvel is no Ben & Jerry’s
[Midtown Lunch]


Edit Your Comment

  1. goodywitch says:

    Was this one of the “only at participating locations” things?

  2. Megatenist says:


  3. dragonfire81 says:

    It seems like Corporate decides to launch these freebie promotions with really bothering to tell their franchises how to handle them.

    Also some promotions are “At select locations only”. Perhaps the two you went to weren’t participating?

  4. GoSpursGo says:

    I’m sure there was a disclaimer on the commercial for only participating locations, and these two might not have been participating.

  5. B says:

    It’s quite astounding how excited people get over the idea of free ice cream.

  6. laserjobs says:


  7. RandomHookup says:

    @mfn0426: Still, that’s not very customer friendly. If you aren’t participating, still a big sign up on the door (or even better, note it on the web site).

  8. BlondeGrlz says:

    @B: It’s ice cream. That’s free. Free ice cream.

  9. catskyfire says:

    Let’s say it was a ‘participating location’ deal. Then the staff could say, “I’m sorry, that’s only at the ABC and XYZ locations.”

    Wagging your finger in, what, disapproval, and then moving on, or saying ‘we don’t have the ingredients’ just sounds odd and rude. Don’t have the ingredients? So if I’d ordered it with intent to pay, you couldn’t give it to me?

  10. richcreamerybutter says:

    I’d always assumed Manhattan locations of every chain made themselves exempt to the special offers advertised by corporate (the only redeeming quality of any chain).

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Is there some sort of rule about this “participating location” disclaimer? What if McDonald’s said, “Come in tomorrow for a free Big Mac, at participating locations” and there was only one participating location?

  12. mike13241 says:

    Upon hearing about the promotion I looked at their website. Luckily out of the three location around Los Angeles one happened to be somewhat near me so I stopped by. I called first to make sure they were participating.

    The night before I was at a Baskin Robbins and the place was a mob scene. At Carvel I think I saw a tumbleweed blow by.

    When I asked the one worker about the promotion he looked confused. Like a, “how the hell did you know about the promotion when we have nothing around the store advertising it?” At first I thought he was going to give us the brush off, but I persisted and he begrudgingly got to work giving me and my girlfriend a child size cup of our flavors.

  13. eelmonger says:

    @AlteredBeast: As I understand it, corporate owned stores have to participate, but franchise owners can decided if they want to or not. I refer you to Mitch Hedberg for further clarification: []

  14. We, at Carvel have created a wonderful, new line of blender creations! So, we would like to thank our loyal customers* with a FREE** blender drink of your choice! Come on and all***, load up your vista cruiser and head on down for the taste sensation**** your taste buds have been CRAVING!

    *Limited to U.S. citizens. Please bring social security card for verification purposes.

    **Participating locations may vary. Not available outside of the continental US. NY state residents add 25% sales tax on manufacturer’s retail value. Please contact your local Carvel for full details.

    ***No, not you.

    ****Individual results may vary.

  15. courtarro says:

    The whole “only at participating locations” thing seems like a huge scam when it’s abused (as it seems in this case). All the company has to do is advertise with that disclaimer, offer the deal at some tiny location in Bumpkinville, and the advertisement is technically correct, albeit terribly misleading.

    I say it’s false advertising. The corporation (Carvel, in this case) acts on behalf of the franchises, and they in its behalf. Since franchises in generally are often independently owned and operated, I’m not sure how much the corporation is allowed to force on its franchises. However, I think advertisements should only be allowed to claim facts that can be legally enforced at the franchises. People should not be expected to distinguish between “Carvel, Inc.” and “the Carvel down the street”. Otherwise it’s like me, Joe Schmoe, placing an ad in the paper saying that McDonald’s will be giving away cars (only at participating locations, of which there are none). If I, as Joe Schmoe, don’t have any jurisdiction over McDonald’s, how can I make that claim?

  16. BSheepster says:

    There were numerous customers at the Penn Station location and at least 2 or 3 other customers at the Times Square location (which I should also mention is a complete dump) who stopped by for the promotion and were turned away. The Carvel webpage announcing the promotion (which I noticed was conveniently removed) stated that the promotion would be available at ALL locations. Carvel blew it big time.

  17. serreca says:

    I would have been unbelievably pissed if a worker at any store wagged his or her finger at me without saying a word. That is really crappy.

  18. Machete_Bear says:

    All I hear is “WAAAAHHHHHH”

  19. *oops, I meant ONE and all LOL

  20. tempest says:

    @Megatenist: …you scream, we all scream….[]

  21. P_Smith says:

    @B: It’s quite astounding how excited people get over the idea of free ice cream.

    It’s quite astounding how excited people will get to spew their ideas and then completely miss the point.

    Dishonest advertising may have brought people in, but they didn’t have to buy, and in the original poster’s case, he walked out with a bad taste in his mouth.

    As Peters and Waterman noted in their book, “In Pursuit Of Excellence”, one satisfied customer will tell one person; one dissatisfied customer will tell ten.

  22. MMD says:

    Isn’t uniformity of products and services the whole point of franchising?

    If franchise owners can’t be bothered to participate in the brand’s activities, they shouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of the familiarity of the brand name.

  23. socritic says:

    thx for the heads up. no more carvel for me.

  24. FLEB says:

    @courtarro: All the company has to do is advertise with that disclaimer, offer the deal at some tiny location in Bumpkinville, and the advertisement is technically correct, albeit terribly misleading.

    True, but that’s really not a feasible advertising method. All you’d end up with are a bunch of angry customers spreading the word that the chain pulls bait-and-switch. The number of “Oh well, I’ll buy…” folks would hardly make up for it.

  25. snoop-blog says:

    Looks like midtown never got the memo. Where was the advertising for this free drink anyways? I bet you could call corporate hq and get plenty of free drink vouchers!

  26. proudamerican2008 says:

    Come on people, let’s get real! Do you really think a company the size of Carvel would spend all that time and effort and advertising dollars to limit participation to a few locations just to make their consumers angry? Yes, unfortunately there are those who won’t participate — I’m sure it happens in every franchise company.

  27. bdgbill says:

    I wonder how many miles the OP traveled trying to get his free small drink?

    If any locations are not going to participate in a giveaway promotion, they will be in Manhattan.

    Giving away anyting for free in NYC is asking for a riot. At best you’re going to get a bunch of people who spend their days trying to score free stuff instead of potential customers.

  28. Difdi says:

    Here’s a thought: Suppose you’re dealing with a wholly corporate chain – no franchises. You go into one of their restaurants pursuing such a free giveaway offer. You order the exact item that is offered free. Then the counter guy (an employee of the corporation, not a franchise owner) decides he doesn’t like giving stuff away free, totals up the bill and asks for your money, despite the fact that he’s violating the free giveaway. Is it dining and dashing to refuse to pay for a free item?

  29. Blue says:

    I wont miss it. Not interested in Ice cream with so much filler in it that i can separate the gum out of the ice cream…………..literally!!

  30. elephantattack says:


    I wanna own a McDonalds and not participate in SH!T!

    hahahaha! That was the first thing I thought of when I saw the not participating things.

    NOPE! We got spaghetti… And blankets.

  31. humphrmi says:

    @dragonfire81: As a former mucky-muck at a franchise operation (Domino’s) I can say that this happens all the time. Corporate always kicks off what they think are great promotions, and if the franchisees hear about it before the first customer comes asking, they’re lucky.

    That said, the A#1, first-and-last-rule which is never to be violated it, give the customer what they want. If corporate says the customer gets a free blowjob, then franchisees better start looking for knee pads.

    Oh and BTW If an employee of mine ever wagged a finger at a customer and ignored him and moved on to the next customer just because the first customer was trying to take advantage of a promotion, he or she would get to find out how much that finger wagging helps them in the unemployment line.

    It may suck, but them’s the breaks. The soup nazi got killed by the same problem, and now he’s broke. Boo hoo.

  32. factotum says:

    So, for my score sheet, that’s no for Ben & Jerry’s, no for Carvel, yes for Baskin Robbins. Where’s DQ, again?

    Thank Jeebus for the Consumerist! What would I do without thee?

  33. @factotum: Keep on preachin’ brotha!

  34. Kounji says:

    This is why I hate Franchises. My dad used to be a merchandiser for a convenience store chain. Frequently he would have to argue with franchisees over running promotions with corporate. They can be fickle or very uppity about promotions but it hurts the brand and them in the long run when they don’t. They shouldn’t complain though, they should of known what they gotten into.

    I actually ran into this issue with the 5 dollar foot long promotion with subway, its not said anywhere that its on select sandwiches but it seems to be different at like every location what sandwiches they over and which ones they don’t. Its very annoying as a consumer. That’s my two cents

  35. RvLeshrac says:


    I was snagged in the Subway “$5 Foot long” scam a few weeks back. I didn’t have much choice BUT to pay, however, since my lunch was running late and it was either pay-too-much or don’t-eat-anything-at-all.

    The end result is that I’ll never set foot in a Subway again, and that I tell as many people as I can about the shoddy, if not illegal, practice.