McDonald's famous
McDonald's famous "golden arches" as seen on a store sign. Staff photo.

The franchise owner of a local McDonald’s said that he’s made changes in management following dozens of public complaints in recent weeks and a recent health inspection that has left the restaurant scrambling to keep it’s doors open.  The franchise owner is hopeful these actions will demonstrate to the public that he takes their business seriously.

Over the last two weeks, we have received over a dozen messages from individuals informing us of the poor experiences they faced, while doing business with the Milton-Freewater McDonald’s.  Given the number of people who reached out to us, we decided to conduct a straw poll.  Our poll included 3,417 individuals who identified themselves as customers of the Milton-Freewater location.

To provide an insight on the coverage of our poll, Milton-Freewater’s estimated population as of 2016 is 7,019 individuals.  Our polling represents 48.68% of that estimated population in Milton-Freewater.  We asked participants to rank the restaurant’s customer service on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 10 is the highest).  Milton-Freewater’s McDonald’s received a rating of 4.6 out of 10.

Pieces of plastic a customer says she found in her fries from McDonald’s. Customer photo.

One local mother told us that she took her family to McDonald’s for dinner.  As she was feeding her family, her son complained that the fries tasted weird.  When she looked closer, she found dozens of small pieces of melted plastic in her fries.  She called the restaurant to bring it to their attention but she says they did not seem at all concerned.  She said a manager offered her two free large fries to fix the issue. According to the restaurant, a pair of vinyl gloves had accidentally fallen into the fryer, resulting in the plastic cooking and melting around the fries.

A group of customers reached out to us about a recent experience they had encountered.  The customers tell us that they witnessed another customer come into the restaurant to place an order.  The cashier, who told customers that she was new, asked for help from a manager to complete the customer’s order.  The manager was “acting panicked and anxious,” one customer said in her email.  The customers say they heard the manager tell the cashier to “figure it out” as she walked away and gestured the cashier away with her hand.

The customers say they were left waiting, as long as 20 minutes, in the dining room for their food while the new employee tried to “figure it out.”  They say the manager was not wearing a name tag, and that they had to ask three times to get her name.  “The entire time I was in the restaurant, I heard her aggressively screaming at the other employees,” one customer wrote in her message.  When they confronted the manager about her behavior, they said Cheryl told them “you don’t understand, you have to be this way with kids.”  When they objected and asked to speak to the store manager, they said Cheryl told them “Annie is not here but she is my best friend and I assure you she will give you the same response.”

Yet in another message, a customer who identified themselves as a veteran, told us that he and a friend had recently gone for lunch.  He ordered chicken tenders with fries and a drink, and an ice cream sundae.  When their order was called, they picked it up and went back to their table.  The veteran went back to get sauce for the tenders, as none was provided.  He said that a manager told him he had to pay for sauce. He explained to her that he had ordered tenders and got no sauce.  “I even pointed to my tray, so she could see,” he told us. However the manager told him because the order was “closed out,” that he would have to pay $0.10 for each cup of sauce he wanted.  He opted for ketchup.

He said he was unable to identify the manager because she was not wearing a name tag.  He described the manager as a white female “with a snotty attitude and a sleeve tattoo on her right arm.”  He said in the forty-five minutes he dined, she “was barking orders at the kids working.”  Ironically, he tells us:  “One young woman came in to work and [the manager] sent her home to get her name tag that she forgot. This was how loud she was being with the workers. I laughed because she did not have a name tag but was punishing the kids for forgetting theirs.”

Another mother, of a former employee, told us that her child was told that “they would be written-up and terminated if they did not show up for work,” as they were scheduled to work during their high school graduation ceremony.  Since that mother has spoken out, two other former employees have come forward with a similar story.  They reported to us that a manager named Liz, who they say does scheduling, informed these students there was a zero tolerance for not coming to work.  These employees say they were told by their parents to quit their job, so that they could celebrate their high school graduation. The mother had a conversation with Liz, who she says told her the store was short staffed and they could not make exceptions for anyone. The mother says that Liz told her that people do not understand the difficulties of the job and that it was her job “to teach these kids some responsibility.”

Customer holds a McDonald's Big Mac.
Customer holds a McDonald’s Big Mac. (Photo: Cate Gillan/Getty Images)

In the conversations we have had with customers of McDonald’s in Milton-Freewater, we identified a number of repeated themes.  During breakfast hours customers complained predominately about “cold or under-cooked hash-browns,” and problems with special requests (such as adding egg or tomato).  Lunch hour complaints ranged from “long wait times” to “cold french fries.”  However, dinner complaints dominated the conversation with dozens of complaints for long wait times, incorrect or incomplete orders, and unsatisfied product quality.  Overall themes include “I feel like it’s my fault they messed up on my order” and “they act like they don’t want to work.”

We pulled the restaurant’s inspection records from the Umatilla County Health Department.  On September 28, 2017 the Milton-Freewater McDonald’s was given a health grade of 77, or in letter grades a “C.”  Among the noted infractions were observations of employees not washing their hands, potentially hazardous foods being held at dangerous temperatures, sanitizer solution mixed too weak, food surfaces not being cleaned between preparing cooked and uncooked foods, an ice cream scoop in a 77 degree water bath and cleaned only once daily, no hot water in any of the hand-washing sinks in the building and the absence of a thermometer to measure the temperatures of coolers and freezers holding food.

A re-inspection was performed on October 9, 2017 and some of the infractions still had not been corrected.  Another inspection reportedly happened on October 23, 2017 and findings are not yet available from that inspection. It was noted that the health inspector had scheduled the inspections and dealt with junior management rather than the restaurant manager.

We reached out to Adams Enterprises, the owner of the a number of McDonald’s franchises in the region, for their comment on these developments.  Scott Adams, the franchise owner, reached out to us by phone.  He told us, “we have been in business in Milton-Freewater for twenty-two years.  We have identified opportunities [to improve] in Milton-Freewater.  As of yesterday, we have made changes starting with replacing the store manager.”

“It is paramount for us that our customers walk out of our restaurants satisfied each time they do business with us. We look at ourselves as a community partner.  Over the years we have supported the annual Muddy Frogwater Festival and provided a number of other sponsorships.  It is our expectation that our staff provide our customers with good service, all the time,” Adams continued.

Adams told us that his company takes customer complaints seriously.  He encourages customers who have unsatisfactory experiences to reach out to him using the information found at the bottom of their receipt.  That information reads:

“We hope your visit was positive.  If a mistake was made, please allow us to fix it.  Call the restaurant at 541-938-4305 or our office at 509-735-9311 or email [email protected].  PLEASE REFERENCE STORE 13319.”

More importantly, Adams wants his customers to know that he appreciates their business.  He is hopeful that the changes in management, that are ongoing, will be sufficient to convince customers to give them a second chance.  In the meantime, we can expect a number of changes as a new management team takes over the restaurant.


ON YOUR SIDE:  If you need help getting answers to problems with local businesses, government agencies or other service providers, contact us!  We will be glad to use our resources to help you!


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