McDonald's over the weekend brought back a rare condiment from the 1990s, but the promotion ended in protests and sky-high secondary markets.
The fast food chain's latest stunt was bringing back its "Szechuan" sauce for a day, but restaurants across the United States quickly ran out of supply. The condiment — first created as part of a 1998 promotion for Disney film "Mulan" — became a topic of breathless discussion online after featuring in an episode of popular animated science fiction comedy "Rick and Morty" earlier this year.
In the episode, one of the protagonists — a dimension-hopping scientist with a god complex — retraces his own memories so as to re-experience the dipping sauce. In July, the show's co-creator, Justin Roiland, tweeted that McDonald's had sent him an entire bottle of the condiment.
Jumping on the sauce's sudden popularity among the show's fans, McDonald's announced it was bringing back the dipping sauce in extremely limited quantities on Saturday, Oct. 7, across participating outlets in the United States.
McDonald's: Oh...did-did you guys want this? Szechuan Sauce ... on a poster & maybe your taste buds: only on 10/7. Full deets at buttermilkcrispytenders.com
But on Saturday, it appeared McDonald's had underestimated just how popular the dipping sauce had become. As outlets quickly ran out of supply, many were not pleased. In some cases, cops were called to deal with irate customers.
One Twitter user posted a video of an angry crowd chanting "We want sauce."
Tweet: Angry crowd chants "We want sauce" as police force them back. 1000+ people camped out to get #szechuansauce but McDonalds had 70 sauces....
Others criticized McDonald's for its extremely limited supply.
At least one user claimed to have driven from Canada — only to find disappointment.
Tweet: @McDonalds drove 4 hours at 6am from Canada for that #szechuansauce - no sauce, wouldn't even give us a poster :( #iwantmymcnuggetsauce
Some disappointed fans searched online sites like eBay where the condiment was selling for exorbitant sums. An offer for three sealed packs of the sauce sold for $848.88 ($282.96 each), while a single packet was bidding for $995. Most listings for the condiment were above $100.
McDonald's eventually addressed the horde of irate customers on Twitter.
The company acknowledged its "super-limited batch" was not enough to meet the demand, and promised to "make this right." McDonald's said the Szechuan sauce will come back to its restaurants in winter and it will be more widely available than Saturday's promotion.