Dude, this is just not cool
Want to go viral? Put up a fake sign saying In-N-Out Burger is coming to, say, NYC.
There are some truly evil people in this world.
We hear about crime, terrorism, and greed. And then there's an even more cruel category.
I'm talking of course about people who put up fake, professional-looking "In-N-Out Burger Coming Soon!" banners at construction sites around the country, in an effort to get people's hopes up that the iconic California-born burger chain will be opening up in their location.
It's not happening of course. Almost never is. In-N-Out is privately owned, and the company is adamant that it's not expanding past California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Oregon anytime soon.
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“I don't see us stretched across the whole U.S. I don't see us in every state," billionaire owner, Lynsi Snyder, told Forbes earlier this year. In fact, she said she doesn't see the company expanding east of Texas in her lifetime.
(She's 36, in case you read that "not in her lifetime" quote and were hoping to learn that she's as old as Colonel Sanders.)
That said, people keep falling for it. Here's a partial list of pranks I can find, starting with the most recent:
Days ago: a banner popped up somehow on the chain link fence around an empty lot in midtown Tulsa, proclaiming: "In-N-Out Burger: Here Soon!" Alas, no.
September: Pranksters posted "In-N-Out: Here Soon!" signs in Porterville, California, at a site where construction was going on for a new Aldi's supermarket. Apparently the same group had struck before, at an old Starbuck's location. But Porterville ain't getting one.
October 2017: A Facebook event post goes viral in New York City, proclaiming that In-N-Out plans a pop-up store in Lower Manhattan. Sadly, hopes were dashed.
We could keep going. The earliest example I can find online is also from New York, and dates all the way back to 2010.
That's when two horrible people posted a pro-looking "Coming Summer 2010 In-N-Out Burger" sign outside a vacant storefront on busy Manhattan street. They also added key details, like a sign inviting "Exceptional Associates" to apply. They even stood on the sidewalk wearing In-N-Out hats and aprons, handing out flyers to passers-by.
Granted, this was April Fool's Day 2010, but still. And we can perhaps add to this the story of Down-N-Out, which is the Australian burger restaurant that In-N-Out sued for trademark infringement.
So why do it? And how many other fake examples have resulted in a flood of calls and emails to In-N-Out HQ in California?
I asked the company for comment, but never heard back. But we live in the age of trolling and pranks, so why not? And besides, In-N-Out has a stellar reputation, even as other much-loved burger places have developed and expanded. So its fans are an easy mark.
But unless you live in a few select places in the country, it's probably not coming to you anytime soon.
As for me, living in In-N-Out-less New Jersey, I choose to look on the bright side. As long as In-N-Out doesn't come here, at least I have something to look forward to every time I fly into LAX.
A version of this article previously appeared in my column on Inc.com.