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June 23, 2010


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Its stealing if it violates MCD rules. If MCD says its acceptable, its acceptable. Since I expect its against their policy, its stealing. Furthermore, most MCD are franchises so you paid one owner for the drink and then stole the next drink from a different franchise owner. Why even venture into this territory to save a measly $100 over your lifetime?

Well I can see how he would think it would be alright to do so, and I might agree to do the same. But than I remember most mcdonalds are franchises, and have small business owners. So while he paid for the drink at one to use the fountain, and that store earned a profit. He goes into another location and uses the fountain, the store didn't earn money, in fact it lost money. That's my take.


Criminey! Someone's always got an angle, eh?

Well, if many people pull this stunt, we can all say goodbye to free refills at chain restaurants. He's ripping off the owner of the second restaurant (third? fourth? fifth? how much of the gunk does he drink, anyway?).

How hard IS it to bring an ice chest and a couple of bottles of flavored sugar water along on a road trip?


I never heard of such a thing. How many trips does the guy take to make this worth the savings?

There are a lot of ways to save money, stealing a coke here and there is just odd.

or you could save money and drink water, which is free at nearly every rest area in the theft, no thirst

Unethical. He's ripping off the other franchise owners.

I 100% agree with Tyler ...

What's wrong with going into a place of business and politely asking "Could you refill my soda?" What's the difference between that and asking for a discount or haggling?

Nowhere does it say he's lying or implying he bought the drink at that restaurant. So it's the restaurant's discretion whether they want to offer him the drink. I bet if they said 'no' he would take it in stride and move on.

There is just no way to justify this.

If they just claim "free refills" then I say go for it and refill away! If they have a sign that specifies that free refills are limited to while you stay in the restaurant, then follow what the sign says.

The question to ask yourself is, if an employee at one of the MCDs down the road asks you what you are doing would you honestly explain to them what you are doing? If you would lie then you are stealing. If you would tell the truth ("I'm refilling the cup I bought four hours ago in Clevland") then you are pushing the limits of their policy. I do not think that many who would do this would tell the truth. If you have to lie about it you know you are wrong. Do the smart thing and but a cooler and then a six pack from the grocery store.

Over the long run this would probably save you more and you would be doing it legally!

I think that he crossed the line on this one. Sounds like a pretty sad individual.

JK, I think it depends on how you present yourself in the situation. If he said nothing about where he first bought the drink (and therefore, deliberately withheld key information), and in the process, misrepresented himself as the second franchise's original customer to get the free refill, then that's unethical.

If he asked openly without misrepresentation, and they agreed that it was OK, then that would be fine.

Lying by omission is one of the worst kind of lies, because it can be just as as negative and profound as a full-face lie, and yet is much more subtle and easier to rationalize. The same thing goes for half-truths. But mix the two together, and it's one of the deadliest poisons to course through the human soul.

Yeah, it's only over a drink, but chances are good it's still unethical.

Not to mention what that concentrated sugar-water is doing to his body.

"If they just claim "free refills" then I say go for it and refill away! If they have a sign that specifies that free refills are limited to while you stay in the restaurant, then follow what the sign says."

This is why we have so many stupid signs in the US. Could I bring in a coke can and "re-fill" it at McDonalds because technically they just said "free refills?

Interesting solution, but there are definitely better ways to save money. Just buying a case of soda and a cooler would be cost efficient and definitely NOT stealing.


Well, I wouldn't do it, but this is one of those situations where it depends to some extent on the conscience of the person getting the drinks and the policy of the restaurant owner. Perhaps McDonalds thinks soda is so cheap that if they lure people into the place with free refills, eventually they're bound to buy something profitable enough to cover the soda and still make money.

I'm never sure about that free refill thing, so if there's nothing stating "FREE REFILLS" I don't do it. Plus, who wants a full bladder on a road trip?

I discussed this issue with a friend once at a Burger King. I said I didn't think they were free because nothing patently stated they were. He said the fact that it was "self serve" meant they were, and it they weren't the fountain wouldn't be in the dining room.

I conceded his potentially valid point, but suggested that if correct he was a fool. Why? Because if refills are free, why would anyone eating in the dining room pay twice as much for the big cup instead of just buying the cheap/small cup and refilling it one more time?

He, of course, had the largest/costliest cup.

The discussion ended abruptly and without concensus at that point.

Easy, it is stealing.

Also most restaurants with refill policy limit it to 1.

Refill where he paid for it. Ask or get cup-covering cap first. Take refilled and covered cup to car, store in cup holder. Drink when thirsty, in car or anywhere public can sit free (shopping mall/park etc.) Otherwise bad form!

Our McDonald's restaurants have signs up prohibiting this very thing.
Even if other restaurants don't, it's unethical and theft.

Did you really have to ask...I'll echo the sentiments of most everyone else here. It is unethical. Does he really drink that much pop and really need to save that $1-$2?

I agree with Tyler's first reply. Unless McD policy or individual store owners say its OK then its theft. I'd assume most stores won't allow it, but wouldn't be too surprised if some don't care.

FMF, why even post this?
Anyone who bothers to respond to it, doesn't have enough to do.

Hey! What the... I guess that would mean me too!

Just joking everyone. ;->

The best answers here so far, are the one word ones:


Restaurants like McDonald's are owned by individuals that he is stealing from. It's theft, plain and simple.

Sometimes, there's a fine line between frugal and cheap. This guy found an area where the border has developed into a 50' cliff and jumped headfirst off it.

That's just wrong . . .

Where does it end? Why is the specific trip a limiting factor? Why not just carry around a McD cup and always drink for free? The trip factor is just an ex-post facto rationalization of theft. Commentator above had it right - if you wouldn't be comfortable announcing your act to the store manager, then that's a good indication something is wrong.

Who would have any qualms about announcing the refil if during the same visit? Probably no one. See the difference.

McDonald's destroys the rainforest every day, they get what they deserve!

Thief, obviously.

And also obvious--the guy's a loser of the last degree!

1) Because he compromises his morals to save... such a tiny amount.

2) Because he compromises his morals and goes to such lengths to get.....not anything he even needs, just crap to make him fatter.

3) It's not even worth much to McD's--so even if he thinks McD's is the awful-est company on earth and he hopes they go down in flames, he's not striking much of a blow. That sugar water costs them a big $0.02 / cup (and most of the cost is the paper cup).

4) Because he must be proud of his lame scam---he told someone, right?

Oh man, this guy must be absolutely a pleasure to know!

Wow, loser.

Seems like your friend's brother could avoid this ethical dilemma altogether by asking permission. Go into McDonalds #2, say "I bought this at another McDonalds this morning, can I refill it here?" If they say no, then don't; it's stealing. If they say yes, then do.

Just a thought Lotharbot;
The friend sounds like an adult (at least over 21). he goes into a 2nd Mickey Dee's and approaches the counter person most likely a teen--but I don't think it matters. The chances of them saying "No" are pretty low. Put your self in their place, they don't want to make a scene, cause a problem. So they say okay, he leaves with a 'clean' conscious. Then ask yourself,is it fair/right/equitable for him to shift the ethical dilema on to them? I say that because it is not likely they are the owner. He would be asking them to steal from the boss.

I find it interesting that the friend has not asked as you and a few others have suggested. He merely brazenly walks in, walks up to the fountain a takes the freebie. Classic, ask for forgivenss, rather than permission.

It is theft to walk in and take it. It is unethical for him to shift the decision. In my humble opinion.

The person that is doing this practice thinks that he is clever and probably brags about how smart his is.

But most of us thought this before too, but we have ethics that prevent us from ripping off the small franchise owner...

It's stealing, and just plain wrong!

I hope this guy realizes that if everybody starts doing this, eventually refill will be a practice of the past.

But perhaps this person doesn't care, He's getting his... pretty sad, actually...

It's a very obvious case of stealing.

On a happier note, a lady in my hiking group lost her wallet in a busy part of San Francisco.
She passed a nice letter around our bus on Monday that she had received a few days after the loss. It was written with poor grammar and poor spelling by a lady with an hispanic name that had found it, and telling her that it was being returned exactly as it was found, including the $55 in cash that it contained.

My friend was so happy to get her credit cards and driver's license back that wrote a very nice letter back to express her gratitude, and included the $55 in cash plus the cost of the mailing. It's nice to know that there are still many honest people around.

funny how these kinds of posts generate the most interest and participation. had a guy down the dorm hall from me in college who had cups from wendys, subway and arbys in his room on display. the student union, which was connected to the dorm had all these restaurants. yup - refreshments at arm's length within a minute's walking distance. you can guess why he had them.

the same guy used the same parking pass (he bought it once and kept recycling it) to every michigan football game. cars were required to hang the pass to the rear view mirror. since the passes each weekend looked the same, and the date was in very fine print, it was never an issue for him. the parking police would see it from a distance, and since it looked like every other one, would simply move on.

FMF, really why did you ask this? You knew the response, you said so? Just curious.

BillV --

I said I thought I knew how most people would respond, but I never know for sure until I ask...

It crosses the line.

It's funny though, I got a laugh out of it.

But, it's not ethical in my opinion. I wouldn't do that, and it seems like most people responding here see it that way too.

It's amazing how people can rationalize things. He's using the literal letter of the sign rather than the spirit. It's a first but this time I have something good to say about MCD. They are trusting people not to do such things so they don't have to put a legal contract on everything in sight. He's actually tending to make life harder for all of us, especially if he follows this same philosophy in other areas of his life. Does he buy stuff to use at a party or on vacation and then return it?

If the guy is unhampered by ripping off sodas, he's probably open to other theft of a larger nature- I wouldn't want him in my employ lest all my staplers, paper clips, felt tipped pens, etc become in short supply.

As other commenters have said, since most McDonald's are franchises, he is stealing. Granted, it is probably only costing them a few cents, but nevertheless.

Now, if there was a way to know that a McDonalds was owned by corporate and not a franchise, and he only stopped at those specific McDonalds, then it would probably be fine. But that is most likely not the case.

I'm so glad to see the responses calling him a THIEF! I believe in humanity again. Off topic but similar situations.

A group of my friends ranging from 40-55, different backgrounds, different jobs, middle class to upper middle class...sometimes let it slip the ways they try to "SAVE MONEY" by basically stealing from companies---and I'm just stunned by what they tell me. I sometimes think I'm the only one with a bit of's bizarre.

One friend who is very thrifty in general, financial planner and mortgage broker, shared with me how she tricks Wal-Mart. If she purchases something like a $5.00 pair of sunglasses and they break, she will purchase another pair just to get the receipt THEN bring back the broken pair. She does this on larger items too. I just looked at her with my jaw dropping..her response---"everybody does it and they should not sell crappy products". *You know like a toaster for $10 bucks.* URM, what?

Another one while working a very well paid government job was getting DSL and TV for $20 a month from a telecom tech who set her up---basically rewiring our condo building and stealing from his telecom employer. She justified it by saying it is possible that he is a sub contractor of said telecom and was approved to resale their services?

Is it actually saving money or the rush that their screwing the system? I feel when the middle class starts scamming companies with the justification of saving money---something is very very WRONG.

I would go with the cooler full of drinks, too. Not only would it feel uncomfortable to go into a restaurant and "steal" the pop, but it would increase stress and take time out from my driving and cost me more in fuel to get off the freeway and back on again. Also, good points about all the pop... pack a variety of drinks (juice, water!) and you won't get bored with what you're drinking. With all the time and effort it would take to get this "money-saving" measure in place, drinking must be very important to this person while on road trips!

I do something similar which in my opinion is NOT stealing.

I work next door to CiCi's, and every day my coworker and I would walk over during our lunch break and buy a drink ($1.61-2.17, depending). One day I drained it and went over and asked if I could have a refill-- no problem.

This went on for several months. Eventually many of the workers there (manager included) would have drinks ready for us and hand them to us, no charge. I'm not much of an environmental person, but I got to thinking about the impact of a new styrofoam cup every day, so I started keeping my cup for more than one day.

The difference? I have a relationship with the people in this resturant, I say hi and make eye contact, and I walk in expecting to have to pay for my refill even though I have a cup. I guess they figure after months of us paying 100x their cost they could afford to keep their most loyal customers happy!

As a side note to any resurant owners/fanchisers out there, there is another resurant on the other side of us who will not let us refill our to-go drinks, even the same day. We pretty much avoid them, considering them too cheap to do business with (their food is over-priced and we can't have a $.02 tea refill?). It pays to keep the ones who will come back consistently happy.

BTW, this shows why you have a blog and I don't. Who'd of thought this would have generated this much commentary. I'll just go back to my room. ;->)

On my last road trip, I bought a soda the first time I filled up for gas. For the rest of the 7-hour trip, I stopped at each rest area and filled the same cup with water. Then I saved the cup and filled it with rest-stop water all the way home, five days later.

I should have brought my own cup, but in my rush to get on the road I didn't think of that.

My approach is much healthier, saves the same amount of money, and doesn't hurt anyone.

Packing a cooler would have saved time, but I found those stops really helped me stay alert and awake.

I'm sure Jim Skinner (CEO McDonald's) wouldn't care about occasional person doing this, as long as it didn't become a major trend.

Suffice to say, with the level of ethics of most people out there, it's safe to declare this will not become an epidemic.


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