The West Coast burger chain In-N-Out enjoys a rabid following for its almost mythically good “double doubles” and fries. (They just opened one near BRI headquarters and Uncle John has moved his office to a booth in the back.) People want an In-N-Out near them so badly they’ll believe anyone who tells them there’s one coming…even if there isn’t.
In spring 2015, In-N-Out announced that it would expand into Oregon for the first time, opening a location in Medford, Oregon, just a few miles from the California border. Rumors about more expansion flew around social media, to the point where an unidentified student in Eugene, Oregon—150 miles north of Medford—exploited the frenzy for a prank. The unidentified prankster went to a shuttered Wendy’s across the street from the University of Oregon and placed multiple signs on the building and electrical poles around the property reading “Here Soon: In-N-Out Burger.” The signs were made with the official company logos and typefaces. Eugene newspapers and TV stations covered the news as legitimate, until somebody called In-N-Out headquarters, where an employee stated that the company had no plans to open in Eugene. It was all a prank. One clue to the hoax: the name of the construction company was listed on the “here soon” signs: Astley Construction…as in Rick Astley, the basis of an Internet prank called the Rick Roll. A prankster would send a friend a link to a promised article, but which was really a link to Astley’s video for his cheesy 1988 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
One of the reasons why there are only a few dozen In-N-Out locations and not hundreds (like other fast food chains) is because the company is owned by a family, not stockholders or a parent company that would encourage rapid expansion. Nobody told that to the investors who were duped out of millions by a California man who sold them fraudulent shares in new In-N-Out locations. In early 2014, a man named Craig Stevens sought out investors to help him open a series of In-N-Outs in the Middle East. About 10 people gave him a $150,000 franchise fee and an additional “royalty payment” of $250,000. All told, Stevens bilked his investors for $4.2 million for restaurants that didn’t exist and never would. In November 2015, Stevens was sentenced to two years in prison on fraud charges.