McDonald’s Hoax Hoaxer Revealed

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief

Prankster David Thorne behind McDonald’s hoax
by Andrew Ramadge
October 14, 2009

0,,7063996,00-200A FAKE memo claiming McDonald’s stores deliberately rip off customers has been revealed to be the work of the same prankster behind an infamous email about a seven-legged spider.

The document, mocked-up with an official McDonald’s Australia letterhead and signed by fictitious managing director “Robert Trugabe”, outlines a secret plan to save money by leaving items out of drive-through orders.

“If the girls leave one item out of every second or third order, this adds up to several thousand dollars per week revenue,” it says.

“We need to work out if there is a way of making this a procedure without making it documented.”

The memo became a viral hit, making its way to email boxes and consumer blogs around the world and prompting an official response from the fast food company.

The front page of McDonald’s Australia’s website currently features a customer alert denouncing the fake memo as an “email scam”.

“Robert Trugabe is not, and has never been, a McDonald’s Australia employee. The contents of the letter are also completely fabricated,” it says.

“McDonald’s practices the highest standards of consumer ethics and would never encourage employees to act in a way that undermines our core customer values.”

Now South Australian prankster David Thorne, famous for an email exchange in which he attempted to pay a bill with a drawing of a spider, has admitted to the hoax.

“It took me five minutes in Photoshop,” he told this week.

Something smells Filet-O-Fishy…

Rumour-busting websites including Hoax Slayer had already cottoned on to the prank after becoming suspicious of “Robert Trugabe” – a play on the name of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

In fact the signature at the bottom of the memo is actually a scan of Mr Mugabe’s, taken from Wikipedia.

Of creating the hoax, Mr Thorne said: “Paper background and logo courtesy of Google Images. Signature courtesy of the Robert Mugabe page on Wikipedia. Address courtesy of Google Maps. Content courtesy of being ripped off by McDonald’s several times.”

The memo had appeared on Mr Thorne’s website earlier in the year as part of a prank email exchange about test-riding a motorcycle.

See the memo in its original context

Two weeks ago Mr Thorne altered the image by adding a circle around the drive-through comments and the words “I knew it!” before posting it to social network Reddit.

“The fastest and easiest way to feed anything, true or stupid, to the internet machine is through Reddit,” he said.

“I posted it on there under a constructed name and within the day it went viral.”

Mr Thorne, who has previously told he believes the internet should be a playground, said he was surprised by the reaction.

“People who have seen the original on my website knew and emailed me that it had been posted on several websites as evidence that McDonald’s commits fraud,” he said.

“I would have thought that the thinly disguised signature and name gave away the fact that it was a joke, but I guess it was a vague context.”

Read our earlier interview with David Thorne

Internet pranks have been a thorny subject for journalists in recent years, with several high-profile publications falling prey to elaborate hoaxes.

Last month an Australian TV program fooled several outlets into publishing the results of a fictitious study that found Sydneysiders were the nation’s “most gullible” residents.

More recently, published an article about a controversial performance art installation that was revealed to be a fake.