Should your Family Bother with McDonalds Wifi?

I visited our local McDonalds today with my wife and grandson, to try out their much-talked-about free wifi service which launched this week. We chose the newest McDonalds of the six or so in our immediate area, at 3010 Alma Hwy in Van Buren. This one was very nicely laid out. It even had a seating area with comfortable chairs and a large screen TV on the wall.

However, the problems began when we tried to find a spot to use the Internet. I searched through the entire restaurant and found only one booth that had a plug-in, and in fact only one plug-in in the entire restaurant. I asked the counter attendant where I could hook up our computers and she didn’t know what I was talking about. I assumed she didn’t know about the computer policy, not what a computer was.

When the single computer user-friendly booth came free, we grabbed it and went on-line. Maneuvering through their sign-in screen was fairly easy, but it seemed to take a long time for the system to clear us to go on-line. When we did, the first thing I did – as always – was to check the speed of the link. I always use the same service so results are the comparable. I use Speakeasy Speed Test at The speed of the link at this McDonalds was fair, but not as fast as most other retail outlets (coffeeshops, bookstores, etc) in our area: 1044 kbps download speed; 296 kbps upload speed.

I believe in being fair, so rather than just report on their service here, I also took time to leave a comment at the McDonalds web site. I wrote:

“11,000 free wifi locations, 7 wall sockets to plug in the computers.” You have a very nice restaurant here, but you have ONE plug in at ONE booth. How much money was spent publicizing your free wifi service, which will be wasted because many first-time visitors (like my family) will not return since we can’t get to a plug in for our computers.

Randal, the restaurant assistant manager, said that he thinks the restaurant owner, Jim Hadley, may be thinking of adding some plug-ins at some point in the future. We’ll see.

Anyway, bottom line is our family probably won’t bother with McDonalds again. Panera Bread or Books-A-Million (or even Taco Bell for that matter) are much more conducive to an hour or two noshing and surfing with family or friends or by myself. Not that McDonalds will mind though. I expect they are much more interested in presenting the appearance of being the place you can gather than actually having people cluttering up the place. McDonalds has, after all built their empire on fast food and quick turnover.


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