If you were to go by the double-drive-thru at the Whataburger on Montgomery Street at lunchtime, you would have a hard time believing that the beloved Corpus Christi-based burger chain is in trouble. At peak times, both lanes are usually jammed.
Yet enough people bought into a prank-news site’s headline about the chain closing in 2018 that Whataburger had to eventually step up and say something on social media.
It all started with the headline “Whataburger announced they will be closing all restaurants as of February 2018 — Channel 45 News,” as it reads on Facebook — where the story has been shared, at this writing, nearly 150,000 times.
But if you actually click on the headline — which, apparently, a lot of people didn’t — and look to the side, you’ll see the words “You’ve Been Pranked! Now Create A Story & Trick Your Friends!” Below that is a button for “Create Prank.” There’s also the smirking guy at the top of the page with “You’ve Been Owned!” stamped across his head.
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That’s because Channel 45 News is a prank-generating site. As you’ll see if you go to the site, click on “home” and get the window that says “Create A Prank And Trick All Your Friends! Simply Create Your Own Prank And Then Share It On Your Social Network Pages!” complete with tips on how to write headlines and upload images.
Whoever did the Whataburger post was, um, a little more literate than some other pranksters, and cites Whataburger’s real CEO, Preston Atkinson, as the source of the info, for some extra credibility. OK, so the post says that the chain has been going downhill “do to competition,” but other parts of it are more legit-sounding.
Till you scroll down to this fine print on the site: “We do NOT support FAKE NEWS!!! This is a Prank website that is intended for Fun. Bullying, Violent Threats or posts that Violate Public Order are NOT permitted on this Website.”
On Wednesday morning, Whataburger posted on its own Facebook page: “An article is being circulated stating that Whataburger will be closing all stores. This article is a hoax, and we aren’t going anywhere.”
Curiously, according to Facebook, the article was first posted two months ago, but for some reason it started to get enough traction that Whataburger had to act.