It all happened so fast plenty of self-anointed Twitter comedians probably didn’t have time to fire off their best snark. Yesterday, just as word was spreading that McDonald’s had taken the unprecedented step of replacing Happy Meal toys with “fitness trackers,” the fast food chain released a statement stating that these wearable devices for kids were being immediately removed due to complaints – not complaints, as you might have guessed, of parents being unable to handle the irony, but instead because of claims the gadgets had been burning kids.
McDonald’s “Step It! Activity Bands” – essentially very basic pedometers worn on the wrist – were intended to be a limited time giveaway at McDonald’s in the US and Canada to help portray the company as being more fitness conscious. “Physical activity is important to everyone of all ages,” McDonald’s Canada senior marketing manager Michelle McIlmoyle was quoted as saying at the time. “We very much support children’s well-being.”
However, what’s not so good for a child’s well-being is a boo-boo on his wrist – which is what at least one mother claimed happened to her kid in a Facebook post that has since been shared over 100,000 times. “If your kids have this happy meal toy do not let them play with it,” wrote Casey Collyar on the social media site. “Cason has a burn after playing with the toy for about 8 minutes. The toy has a red light in it that is powered by the battery on the back that possibly is the cause of the burn.”
Shortly after this complaint McDonald’s decided to immediately pull the fitness tracker promotion – though the brand stopped short of calling any injuries they’ve heard of from the device a “burn.” Company spokeswoman Terri Hickey explained the decision in a statement. “We have taken this swift and voluntary step after receiving limited reports of potential skin irritations that may be associated from wearing the band," she was quoted as saying. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and we are fully investigating this issue.”
As of now, it’s unclear whether the Facebook complaint was the only complaint. At this point there don’t seem to be more pictures of similar issues surfacing and McDonald’s specific use of “limited reports” means the burger chain doesn’t see this as an epidemic. Still, 100,000 shares is a lot of bad social media publicity.