No Coupons, No Games At Our Super Sad Neighborhood Burger King

Fast-food restaurant promotions exist to get customers in the door and to keep them coming back. When Steve and his wife showed up at their regular Burger King for a tasty dinner of Whoppers, they brought along a coupon they had printed from Burger King’s website. It turned out that their local franchise couldn’t accept that coupon. Okay. They could deal with that. It was when the cashier talked up a different promotion, then explained that the restaurant was actually out of game pieces for that promotion, that Steve became annoyed enough to write to Burger King corporate.

Here is a copy of my email correspondence to Burger King after a nonsense dining experience. It took a bit of effort to find a contact email address, as they really don’t want to get their Customers’ comments:

Dear Burger King,

My wife and I have enjoyed going to our local Burger King store in [redacted] about once a week for years [redacted]. We usually order the Whopper meals – best hamburger out there.

Last night I thought about looking at the Burger King web site to see whats new, and I found a 2-fer Whopper meal coupon! Just what we usually order! So we went to our BK store and stepped up to order:

Me: “I’d like to use this coupon to order”

BK Staff person: ” We can’t accept that, its not valid yet”

Me: I didn’t notice a limiting start date on the web site

BK: it doesn’t start until it’s programmed into our cash register

ME: So, when is that?

BK: Don’t know, maybe never

Me: Never? …

BK: Ya, we’re a franchise and we don’t always honor the company’s coupons. The only thing we have right now is the ‘Family Food’ game pieces.

Me: OK, so do the game pieces come with the Whopper meals?

BK: Yup

Me: So, how will I know which stores are a franchise?

BK: You won’t.

Me: OK, let’s have two Whopper meals please.

So my wife and I enjoy our Whopper meals, as usual. When we finished eating, I read the Food game booklet, then looked for the game pieces on our tray. I could not find any, so I went to the counter and asked to have two game pieces, as I didn’t find any on our tray.

Same BK Staff person: Oh, we’re out of those.

Well, to say the least, this became an unpleasant dining experience. It seems reasonable that promotions and coupons should be offered in a way that your Customers can determine if they are valid and really are going to be honored.

Sincerely, Steve

If customers understood that not all promotions are valid at all restaurants, they might not come in at all!

Franchisees are free to take part in promos, or not take part, as they see fit. Even if it’s not under the control of anyone in the restaurant at that very moment, though, why get regular, steady customers’ hopes up that something special might be on offer?


Edit Your Comment

  1. humphrmi says:

    Frankly, this whole “We’re a franchise, we don’t have to take that coupon” is a cop-out. The franchise agreements almost universally require franchisees to accept corporate promotions. That’s what drove most Quiznos franchisees out of business.

    Lazy franchisees, with lazy employees, don’t deserve your business.

    • bluline says:

      On the contrary, I think the problem with Quiznos is that they are/were hugely overpriced compared to their competition.

      • winnabago says:

        There are many stories online about the Quiznos franchising process. Corporate didn’t care whether the franchisees were successful, they only cared about selling more franchises. Also they would create ridiculous promotions, fix the prices that could be charged, and then require the stores to buy ingredients from the parent company at inflated price. They also would change exclusivity boundaries and add new stores practically everywhere.

        Most of these later locations have now closed, for a variety of these reasons. Declining popularity was only a contributing factor to their fall.

    • Tim says:

      Look at the bottom of the coupon: “This offer may not be available in all Burger King restaurants, and participation may vary by restaurant.”

      Obviously, coupon acceptance is NOT part of the franchise agreement. Otherwise, it’d be accepted at every restaurant.

      • humphrmi says:

        Just because they print a legal disclaimer at the bottom of a coupon doesn’t mean that universal acceptance isn’t part of their franchise agreement.

        • JollySith says:

          actually it does.
          Since corporate printed the coupon they put the disclaimer on it knowing that the franchise contracts allow them to opt out of promotions.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Franchises actually need to be careful about forcing franchisees to participate in coupon programs, mandatory pricing, promotions, since they can run into anti-competative pricing laws, since the franchises are made up of many seperate companies, by forcing them to have the same price it can be considered collusion and price fixing.

      • Applekid says:

        It’s a dick move anyway, why release coupons if you already know any store can refuse on a whim?

        Since the franchises enjoy the increased foot traffic from the national advertisement, the answer, if they refuse to honor a promotion, is to simply leave.

        • Jawaka says:

          They release the coupons because many stores are corporate owned and not franchise stores.

          • RandomHookup says:

            Not many (I think someone in this thread said about 10%), but most of the franchised stores will accept them. You get this population of certain franchisees who think everyone is trying to rip them off and won’t accept them.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              There was a KFC in OKC that would advertise the promotions using the promotional materials from corporate (window coverings, signs, etc.). When you walked in with a coupon for said promo, or asked for the promo, the answer was, “our franchise doesn’t honor that coupon/promo. When you asked them why they were advertising the promo in their stores, they would say, “Corporate tells us what to display, but we don’t have to honor the promotions.” Um, okay.

      • dpeters11 says:

        And franchisees need to be careful about not honoring promotions and coupons, because to not participate can really annoy your customers.

    • Gehasst says:

      In the case of Burger King, not true. Franchises don’t do most of the nationwide Corp anythings. I used to work at a horrible BK Franchise and we had the above almost daily. It did take that Franchise about 3 full years to tank though.

  2. kranky says:

    Having run into that situation a couple times, my impression is that franchises which won’t honor all promotions are not really concerned whether the customer is unhappy. They are just fanatical about not losing money. Look around, you’ll see that the place is not in great repair, they might be understaffed, it’s not that clean.

    My guess is that the place isn’t making much (if any) money as it is, and the decision was made to not participate in promos where they will lose money on the sale.

    The game piece thing makes no sense.

    “The only thing we have right now is the ‘Family Food’ game pieces.”
    Later: “Oh, we’re out of those.”

    How do you have them “right now” if you are out? Is this the Monty Python Cheese Shop?

    • Razor512 says:

      those issues happen when a business enters the stupidity spiral. Basically what happens is they see that they are not making enough money from current customers so they increase the price. This causes them to lose even more customers which causes them to compensate by further doing crap to ruin the value of the products they sell.

      I have worked in fast food before and trust me, a whopper equivalent cost less than $1 in ingredients.
      other than that, there are certain fixed cost, that do not change, you still have to pay the staff the full amount even if they only get 1 customer that day, and usually you will have to run the cookers and other appliances all day too, and the proper way to price the items is picking a price that will still be profitable but will have the product being pushed out at nearly full capacity. suppose you sell whoppers and the ingredients cost 40 cents (yes fast food burgers are really that low) and about 60 cents are eaten up by the fixed cost of having to run the equipment too prepare the food as well as pay the workers.
      you will often enter a situation where probably the first 100 meals nets you a small profit but after you sell those to overcome the fixed cost, the rest that are sold that day will have around twice the profit.

      They can make more money by reducing prices and pushing more volume (eg look at stores like walmart and costco) their business model involves selling items at a lower profit margin but they constantly have people buying stuff.

      It is more profitable to sell 10,000 items at $1 profit, than it is to sell 1000 items at $2 profit

      near where I live there used to be a dunkin donuts but they went out of business in a little under 2 years.

      They had a really good location but they never honored any coupons and had higher prices so very few people went there, and because of that, they increased their prices further

      also the cost of soda is negligible if toy spilt it do to single cups. when you divide the cost wen to single servings, you are looking at fractions of a penny

      at the independent fast food place that I worked at, they offered free drinks with any food item (cheapest item was $1) and that allowed you to get free soda and unlimited free refills.

      it kept many people coming in because it was cheaper to eat there than burgerking or mcdonalds which charged $1+ for a soda so in their mind they had fixed the value of a cup of soda being $1, and when you offer it for free they believe they are saving $1 with their mean and each time they refill.

      (only stupid part was they sold frech fries for $1 even though they were almost as cheap as the soda. (potatoes are one of the cheapest foods on the planet (ever wonder why they are so popular during during the great depression and also in various prison camps through out history?, they are dirt cheap and you should not spend $1 for them.

      • bbb111 says:

        Another example of fast food done right is a local Nations Burgers. The manager or owner is good at picking and keeping employees – they are all sharp, attentive, and helpful. [They cook each burger to order, so this is even more important if you want your onions grilled and no mustard. Once they asked me if I wanted to wait an extra two minutes for the fresh batch of french fries. I also witnessed a customer drop his food just outside the door…the “order assembler” ran over, helped clean it up and insisted on replacing the order for free even though it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault.]

  3. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    I want to go to Mitch Hedberg’s McDonalds, a definitely varied participation franchise.

    They have spaghetti and blankets.

  4. kanenas says:

    The coupon clearly says “This offer may not be available in all BURGER KING restaurants and participation may vary by restaurant.”

    The OP found one such restaurant. If this one won’t take your coupon, and if it is that important, don’t order anything, leave, and find one that does.

    • RynanEmery says:

      “The OP found one such restaurant. If this one won’t take your coupon, and if it is that important, don’t order anything, leave, and find one that does.”

      Right on. The coupon clearly states the conditions. The OP wasn’t pissed enough to NOT place his order like he did every other week for years. So yup, I blame the OP.

      Oh, BK corporate doesn’t care.

      • druidicawen says:

        BK Corporate really doesn’t care. I went into the restaurant by my apartment one night and they were cleaning the hood above the fry station with chemicals and a wire brush WHILE they were serving food out of it! I called and emailed and filled out there “Contact Us” form on their website and heard naught from them. I called the Health Department as well and have not been back there since. It’s still open, so if the HD did anything they fixed it, but I’m not going back there.

        • Applekid says:

          It’s no secret BK has been sliding down the tubes fast for the past 10 years, when clever commercials became more important than food quality, staff training, and cleanliness.

          They’re the Sears of fast food.

    • fsnuffer says:

      Maybe the OP does not want to drive the 100 yards to the next Burger King?

      • AstroPig7 says:

        Where do you live that Burger Kings exist every 100 yards? Here in Dallas we’re lucky to see one every 10 miles.

        • shepd says:

          It ain’t BK, but weird crap like two of the same restaurant beside each other does happen. In my city Tim Horton’s (a major coffee shop which now mostly consists of lunch/breakfast products) did this, only 10 foot walk between them, and a third Tim Horton’s only 500 feet away. In the city beside mine, same thing (but separated by a stub street that only served those two Tim Horton’s).

          /me doesn’t get it… I guess it works for certain restaurants in certain places, though, because most of those locations are still in business.

          • RandomHookup says:

            Just this weekend, I noticed Dunkin’ Donuts directly across the street (albeit a busy one) from each other.

        • scoosdad says:

          Ditto. I sometimes ask people, ‘have you ever seen a McDonald’s close, just go out of business, and not reopen in a better location’? Answer is usually no.

          ‘Have you ever seen a Burger King close and not reopen somewhere else?’ Answer is usually accompanied by about 3 or 4 examples in the local area alone. I pass two of them on my way to work every day on a 40 mile commute. Applekid has it right– they are the Sears of the burger world.

          • HomerSimpson says:

            Actually I’ve seen it (McD’s close and NOT relocate). I think they (owner) just didn’t want to remodel the restaurant so they closed it and demolished it (there’s an auto parts store in the spot now).

            Can also say the same for some of the Walmart (McD’s) locations but they probably had a contract that just wasn’t renewed.

          • RandomHookup says:

            For years, a McD had never closed without relocating nearby. Now, I can think of at least 2 that have shut down cold within a few miles of my house.

          • shepd says:

            Weirdly enough, even though BK is the Sears of the burger world, the only example that comes to mind is a MAJOR McDonald’s on the busiest street in the city closing up shop, only to be replaced with a miniature “express” McDonald’s a couple of miles away about 10 years later.

            I can’t think of a single BK that has closed, but I know enough of them that are so desolate it surprises me they don’t. Perhaps if you don’t make sales BK takes pity and doesn’t charge any franchise fees anymore?

    • jeb says:

      However, I would argue that that’s usually there so that airport locations (or other locations whe

    • jeb says:

      However, I would argue that that’s usually there so that airport locations (or other locations where they charge a premium due to a captive market) don’t have to honor the specials. Not so that any restaurant I pass on the street can randomly decide whether it wants to honor the promo or not.

  5. akronharry says:

    We have a similar issue at a Subway in Richfield. They won’t take internet coupons that are sent in emails to us from Subway. The person on duty was rude about it so we never have gone back. We do have a Penn Station five minutes further from us then Subway that we now enjoy regularly.

    • George4478 says:

      I stopped going to my local Subway franchise when they first started the $5 foot-long (years ago) when almost every sandwich was $5.

      They insisted the $5 footlong price was a “coupon”.
      They insisted the ‘Add chips and a drink to any sandwich for $1.50’ menu item was a “coupon”.
      And you could only use one coupon per order.

      We had a discussion about this policy when they rang up my tab. I left my order next to the register and walked out.

      I can get sandwiches at a lot of places. They lost a once-a-week customer over ~$1.

  6. scoosdad says:

    Me: So, how will I know which stores are a franchise?

    BK: You won’t.

    So are any BK stores NOT a franchise? Are any of them purely company-owned and operated?

    • RynanEmery says:

      So are any BK stores NOT a franchise? Are any of them purely company-owned and operated?

      No, they’ve all been franchised out. Carrolls Corp is the biggest franchise owner, but there are quite a few smaller franchises out there.

    • George4478 says:

      According to, around ~90% of the 12,300 stores are franchises. The rest are corporate owned.

  7. Damage Incorporated says:

    “We usually order the Whopper meals – best hamburger out there.”

    Sorry, I stopped reading after seeing that…

    • MathMan aka Random Talker says:

      I’m with you, Homer. I think he was just trying to curry favor and get on BK’s good size but if I HAD to eat a fast food hamburger, I’d go Wendy’s.

    • NotEd says:

      Maybe he doesn’t have a Culvers nearby?

  8. IraAntelope says:

    our local BK has been boarded up for 5-6 years now…I guess this explains why.

  9. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Jeepers! This is terrible!

    But, apparently the OP didn’t read the coupon. Franchisees are not always required to participate in corporate promotions.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Everyone pretty much knows that, but it does irritate folks when they aren’t consistent (“we don’t know if we will honor that one for some reason we haven’t yet defined”).

      Failure of franchises to all play by the same rules hurts the consistency that is part of the reason everyone is operating under one brand name.

    • hymie! says:

      Franchisees are not always required to participate in corporate promotions.

      This is true … but the ones I’ve seen will typically have signs at the cash registers that say “Sorry, but we are not accepting the XXX coupon.”

  10. George4478 says:

    What’s ironic is that BK will probably mail him some coupons for his trouble.

  11. Caddyshack says:

    I’ve never gone to such an effort because of a coupon. Maybe Steve has an underlying issue not understanding how to deal with failure in life more effectively.

  12. balthisar says:

    It’s quite a shame — BK has the obvious superior products compared to McDonald’s (I’m not comparing Wendy’s here). Real shakes (not those newer crappy pseudo-coffee-house shakes), better burgers, better morning hash browns, better breakfast sandwiches. Okay, worse coffee, worse fries (haven’t tried the current ones in a year, though), and worse marketing.

    Really, their own marketing kills them. Everything truly important about BK vs McD’s leans in BK’s favor.

    Oh, wait — consistency! If I go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac, it will — without fail — be a good Big Mac. An old Big Mac is just as good as a fresh Big Mac (really!). But BK doesn’t handle their quality and consistency as well as McDonald’s. So although fresh BK is vastly superior to McD, it’s not always fresh, not always consistent, and so often — when given the choice — I will choose McD.

    All bets are off if there’s a A&W nearby, though!

  13. doctorc4 says:

    Many years back, a Quizno’s opened near us. I got to know the owner pretty well over the short time that it was open (We had similar tech backgrounds). When the promotions for buy one/get one started coming from corporate, he had to put up a sign stating the reason he could not accept the coupons: Quizno’s did not reimburse. That’s right, Quizno’s was handing out BOGO coupons, but when the owner turned them over to Quizno’s they did not pay him for the materials. After talking to him about it, it turned out that they were supposed to under the franchise agreement. That space is now a Hertz rent a car.

  14. Biblio Fiend says:

    This reminds me of a text message promotion Arbys did a few years back. Send them a message, get one in response, and then show that message at an Arbys restaurant for a pretty nice discount on whatever sandwich they were pushing at the time. Since Arbys is my husband’s guilty pleasure he followed the instructions and got his text message. Went to Arbys for lunch one day, they refused to accept it because they chose not to honor coupons. Tried it the next day at a different Arbys, same story. Over the course of the promotion he continued to try it at every Arbys in our area and near where he worked – we’re talking at least 7 or 8 (it became the principle of the thing to see if they would take it – when they refused it he moved on and got lunch elsewhere). Not a single one would honor the promotion, they all cited their right to not honor coupons. None of them said specifically that they were franchises but I suspect this was the case.

    • cactus jack says:

      When I worked for Subway, the franchise owners in the surrounding area would hold meetings throughout the year to go over pricing, promotions, and other store policies that they had control over.

      I’m not completely sure, but I would assume arbys may have had something similar in place to be consistent?

  15. gigglesisclowny says:

    Almost all Burger Kings are now franchises since the new CEO decided that by selling most if not all corporate stores would take out most of the overhead and then they could just rake in money hand over fist through the franchises. (Note this is supposedly the same CEO that almost ruined Wendys) But there are a few franchises that honor any Burger King coupon as long as it hasn’t actually expired.

  16. gigglesisclowny says:

    Almost all Burger Kings are now franchises since the new CEO decided that by selling most if not all corporate stores would take out most of the overhead and then they could just rake in money hand over fist through the franchises. (Note this is supposedly the same CEO that almost ruined Wendys) But there are a few franchises that honor any Burger King coupon as long as it hasn’t actually expired.

  17. El_Fez says:

    We usually order the Whopper meals – best hamburger out there.

    Okay. I’m not usually in the Blame the Original Post game, but I cant let this stand: are you out of your damn mind?!? I can think of a dozen local mom-n-pop burgers that run rings around Burger King. If you cant find a local burger stand that’s better than a stamped from the mold chain, you aren’t trying hard enough (or you’re shamelessly kissing The King’s ass to get a free burger from them).

  18. dietrichmd says:

    I’m actually looking for BK corporate contact info. had a few bad experiences lately (as in 3 the same week…don’t ask why i was there 3x the last week) and can’t seem to find it. I found the franchise’s website, but they still haven’t replied to the first email last monday.

    If anyone has, can they please send it to consumerist at dietrichduke [dot] com


  19. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Personallyu, I would have been quite satisfied had they passed out pints of Bell’s 20 instead of candy.

  20. shepd says:

    Ahh, non-participating restaurants. Didn’t bring any coupons with me, but when I was on my way down I-90 I went to a road-side McDonald’s. Had a laugh at the sheer number of signs that said “Non-participating McDonald’s do not accept coupons or special promotions. PLEASE NOTE WE ARE A NON-PARTICIPATING McDonald’s.”

    If you have to put a dozen signs up saying that it’s because you’re pissing off your customers by not doing something they expect. :D

  21. lvdave says:

    Were that to happen to me, and it has, but not at BK.. but thats another story for another time.. I would have walked out beside writing a letter to BK corporate.. They pull a sleezy trick like that and you reward them with your business anyway… woohooo!! thats REALLY gonna teach em….

  22. shea6408 says:

    I once had a bad experience at McDonald’s with one of those “instant win” coupons from a Monopoly game. I had an instant win game piece for “any breakfast sandwich,” and when I tried to redeem it for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit they said I could only get an Egg McMuffin because that was what was pictured on the game piece. I told them the game piece said “ANY breakfast sandwich” but they still insisted I had to get an Egg McMuffin because of the picture. I asked them “what part of ‘any’ do you not understand,’ took back my game piece, and went to another location.

  23. crummybum11 says:

    Selling food below cost is just more proof we’re still in a recession.

    Burger King franchisees sue over $1 promotion

    • shepd says:

      Saying they lose money selling a $0.55 burger for $1 because of “expenses such as rent, royalties and worker wages” is fair but problematic.

      Few stores expect to make a major profit on every item. Many, many, many successful stores operate on the Gillette model. I am more than willing to bet corporate has done studies and found that selling items at “only” twice the material cost brings in enough other business to compensate.

      I say this as someone who operated a computer (and other items) store. An 80% markup on anything other than cables and accessories would have been amazing. Most businesses aren’t getting that kind of margin, at least at the retail side.

      I guess what I’m saying is, franchisees, suck it up, buttercup.

  24. PLATTWORX says:

    This is why I can’t stand franchise owners who think it’s good business to NOT honor ALL corporate promotions. ALL of our local Quiznos shut down partly because of big signs on their doors saying “We do not honor any Quiznos Coupons” which caused the stores to turn into ghost towns.

    It does say on the coupon “participation may vary by restaurant” so they covered themselves but what Burger King wants to upset customers by not honoring a coupon and saying something stupid like “not until it’s loaded into our register, which may be never” REALLY?!?

  25. icerabbit says:

    I hate the inconsistency and we’re just a franchise card.

    We’ve had issues our local Mc Donalds. (most prevalent around our neck of the woods) Three different outfits with different prices, specials and coupon acceptance rules.

    One pretty much lost us because they insisted the 20c increase on a McFlurry was a corporate decision. It wasn’t. One still sells if for the long standing price and another went up 10c. And on top of that they fill ice creams pretty much 2/3rd of the way. Greed, that’s all it is.

  26. Jerem43 says:

    90-95% of all Burger Kings are franchises. Franchises have limited say in what promotions they participate, BKC needs 51% of national franchises to approve the promotion before they go ahead and run it. Even then, the franchisees can opt out to a degree. Coupons are on such thing.

    Read the coupon, it says right on it at participating BKs only, acceptance not guaranteed.

    If you claim costs of products are low, nope. 72-84¢ on every dollar is straight costs for food. Soda and fries, not so much – about 5-7¢ on every dollar is food cost.

  27. jp7570-1 says:

    Listen closely to the commercials or read the fine print. There’s usually a clause that says something like “good at participating stores”, or something similar to that. We almost don’t hear or read it. Well, in this case, Steve found out exactly what it means.

    It’s a nasty little clause that sometimes bites the consumer in the butt.

  28. Overheal says:

    I’m perfectly aware that there’s always the “at participating locations” jibe, but that was just handled poorly by the staff there. I probably would’ve asked to speak with a manager: you can’t tell me they can’t override things in their register to help satisfy their customers. If they can’t, or they pretend they can’t (I’m a lowly Part Timer in an electronics retailer and even I can discount things if theres a valid reason to), then they’re not worth revisiting.

    I know KFC restaurants got in trouble big time honoring the no-limit Oprah coupon for the grilled chicken and I would UNDERSTAND if that’s what was going on, but if you’re talking about maybe getting a handful of people in for one coupon, the hell is the harm?

  29. dush says:

    So they won’t honor it, you leave. Simple.

  30. LBD_Nytetrayn says:

    I’d be more bothered by the whole “oh, we have these game pieces instead/sorry, I liked about that” bit than the coupon. That would qualify as a bait-and-switch, would it not?

  31. carterpeartford says:

    are there any fast food establishments that aren’t franchises?