Today's offer of free breakfast at McDonald's was a free hash brown. To see just how much you can get from the deal, I visited six Melbourne CBD McDonald's over the course of an hour, tried to score a free hash brown at each one, and tested the speed of the free Wi-Fi as well. How did I fare? How was the free Wi-Fi? And will my waistline ever recover?
Yes, I'm an idiot, but science must be respected. It seems all too likely that eating six hash browns will make you ill, but I want to know just how ill. As well, I'm curious about whether McDonald's locations vary much in the quality of their free Wi-Fi.
When Chris investigated last week's free breakfast deal, he found that there wasn't much in the way of demand. I wanted to know if the same would be true if I visited half-a-dozen busy city locations in Melbourne. So I set off, armed with a cast-iron stomach, a list of locations, and a copy of Speedtest.net set up on my mobile ready to measure the performance in each venue. We often recommend McDonald's as an obvious failover when you urgently need free Wi-Fi in Australia, but in these 4G-happy times I haven't tested it for a while, and I wanted to see how it would stack up.
Free hash brown? No problem
I visited six Melbourne CBD stores, and had no problem scoring a free hash brown at any of them. The first two I visited (around 0730) already had hash browns to spare, and simply handed one over, no questions asked. They didn't even ring them up on the register, which makes me think the "limit of 1000" is more a marketing gimmick: how on earth are they going to know otherwise?
Life became a little busier at my next two stops, both of which were near Flinders Street station. At the Elizabeth Street/Flinders Street store, I encountered the only evidence of anything resembling a rush, when a panicked staffer yelled out "We've only got one bag of hash browns left!" However, that apparently wasn't a major crisis; someone was quickly dispatched to the cold store to grab more bags.
Some other random observations:
- Only one staffer tried to upsell me to buy something else (though I'd already elected to buy a coffee at the last destination, needing something to cut through the layers of grease forming in my throat). I'm grateful, but it seems like an opportunity missed.
- Only two of the stores displayed posters promoting the offer.
- Only two stores offered me a napkin with my hash brown.
The speed verdict
While queuing or while eating my hash brown, I checked out the speed on the free Wi-Fi. This was a straightforward process, save for the Swanston Street/Flinders Street store, where the Wi-Fi was inaccessible when I first visited the store, and at Melbourne Central, where the Wi-Fi was that offered by the centre rather than McDonald's.
Here is the performance I saw. Ping time is measured in milliseconds, the lower the better; download and upload speeds are in Kbps, the higher the better. I averaged three tests in each location and retested if there were strange outlier figures.
|Location||Ping (ms)||Download (Kbps)||Upload (Kbps)|
|Bourke St Mall||61||418||1148|
These speeds are OK for basic browsing, but certainly not earth-shattering, and a lot slower than ADSL or (much of the time) 3G. Oddly, in several locations upload speeds were better than download speeds (though still nothing to brag about). The key lesson here is that the Melbourne Central Wi-Fi was dramatically better than anywhere else, which proves regular free Wi-Fi leechers shouldn't just settle for the first network they see. That centre wasn't crowded, but I don't think that's the key factor; several of the McDonald's outlets were all but deserted as well.
The nutritional impact
Here are the key nutritional facts about the hash brown, including the percentage daily intake each one includes:
Having eaten six hash browns, I have consumed 42 per cent of my daily energy needs, 84 per cent of my fat requirements, and 90 per cent of my sodium. Strict diet of vegetables for me for the rest of the day.
I consider myself to be capable of eating ludicrous amounts of fast food, but I can't recommend this volume of oil-soaked potato goodness. I really had to force myself to eat the last two, and it was only my insane sense of cheapness that got me through it.
Our key lessons
- If you want free breakfast at McDonald's over the next two Mondays, scoring it shouldn't be a challenge, even close to 10am. Next week's free orange juice barely seems worth the effort, but the Sausage McMuffin is a reasonable meal in a hurry.
- Wi-Fi performance in CBD McDonald's in Melbourne is fairly uniform, but there is variation. If speed is an issue, check out shopping centre food courts instead.
- Gorging on free hash browns is a bad idea.