The worst McDonald's in the world

A while back, I mentioned buying McChicken sandwiches at the worst McDonald's in the world, and my buddy Captain Hampockets nominated several awful McD's that could vie for that title.

Just another day
at 3rd & Pine

Most McDonald's suck, of course, but it's too late for nominations — the one at 3rd Avenue & Pine Street in downtown Seattle is the World's Worst. Lemme 'splain why.

For a few years, I lived within walking distance of that McD, ate there too often. The food and staff were often frustrating, but you expect that at McDonald's. The difference is that the dickery at 3rd & Pine isn't one employee being a dick; the dickery is policy, direct from don't-give-a-damn management. 

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My first memory of the place was the night I finished moving into a shitty apartment a few blocks away. To celebrate, I wanted two Filet and a big fries. I walked to the place, queued and ordered and paid, and when my number was up the employee handed me my milk shake but someone else's food, in a to-go sack. When I opened the sack at a table and saw other stuff but no Filets, I came back to the counter, and tried to get a manager's attention. It took a long time, but finally a man wearing a McDonald's necktie said "What?" to me, so brusquely I can still hear it today.

"This isn't my order," I said, and he shrugged and walked away. He didn't give a damn and wouldn't pretend to, so neither did I. The sack I'd been given had more food than I'd paid for, so I ate someone else's meal — two Big Macs, two large fries, and two pies — the old-style deep-fried pies McDonald's had back then, which were much greasier and better than the baked pies they sell now.

Funny what you remember, after so many years. I remember the pies, one apple and one cherry, and the McManager's unspoken fuck you.

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That McD has (or at least had) a very large lobby, with an upstairs section. On days off from my job, my habit was to order breakfast on styrofoam, and work on my zine in an upstairs booth. This was the pre-computer era, so "work on my zine" means scribbling in a spiral notebook.

One morning I made myself comfortable for the rewrites, putting my feet on the bench opposite me. It's McDonald's, not a church, and customers do sometimes put their feet on the seats, but soon a teenage boy in the McD uniform came over and told me to put my feet down. He didn't ask, he told me, and being an arrogant prick I didn't like being told what to do by a teenager. My answer was, "Have a manager tell me that." 

Took another bite of my McMuffin and thought that was the end of it, but a minute later a young man in a McDonald's shirt and tie appeared at my table, and said, "When a worker tells you to put your feet down, you put your feet down." There was no 'excuse me', and certainly no 'sir' or even 'mister' was included.

I wasn't sure what to say so I didn't immediately say anything, and the manager-guy used his hand to push my feet off the chair.

"That's assault" I said, arrogant and pricky. 

"Keep your feet off the seats, or get out of here," he said. 

"I'll get out of here," I said, gathered my food and backpack, and then swept my hand across the table, knocking all the rubbish to the floor. (Oh, to be young and a jerk again.)

"Get the fuck out!" the manager-guy screamed with a voice that shook the building, so I sauntered in slow-motion toward the door, and waved at him as I left.

Sure, I was out of line, but also, screw that manager-guy. Screw him then, and screw him now, 40 years later. I've mellowed but I'll bet he's still an asshole.

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Nobody'd told me I was banned, but that manager-guy would've been eager to boot me out again, so it was at least months before I came back. Instead I savored the fine cuisine at the downtown Jack-in-the-Crack and Burger King. Eventually I did return to the 3rd & Pine McD, but never saw that particular zitty necktied kid again. There were other events there, though.

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It's a scummy neighborhood, and not once but twice when I was eating at the 3rd & Pine McD, fist-fights broke out in the lobby, bum against bum. Customers huddled against the wall at a hopefully-safe distance, while managers watched from behind the counter.

There's no knowing what a McDonald's manager is supposed to do when there's a fist-fight in the lobby. Certainly, it's not reasonable to expect them to be heroic, physically insert themselves into the brawl. But a shout of "Hey, stop that" seems like a minimum, don't you think?

On both brawling occasions, we didn't get that. The restaurant's managers simply watched, saying nothing, doing nothing, looking bemused. Which is what I did, too, but I didn't work there.

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One afternoon while I was eating at the 3rd & Pine McD, a bum came in and stood in line to place his order. Dude probably had an odor about him, but he wasn't making trouble until a buffalo-shaped woman in a McDonald's management uniform came out from the counter, confronted him in line, and told him to leave. It felt mean and unnecessary, and the bum thought so too. He argued loudly for a long time before leaving.

Would that disruptive ruckus have happened if the manager hadn't gotten all into his face? Maybe. Maybe the bum would've made trouble, no matter what. Maybe he had a history at that place, who knows? All I know is, a manager picked a fight with a customer. 

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If you've ever worked at any McDonald's, you can get quickly hired at any other McDonald's, and when I eventually found myself between office jobs, I went to work at a different McDonald's (the one in the shadow of the Space Needle, across the street from the Seattle Center).

Sometimes, a McDonald's that's short-staffed borrows employees from a nearby McDonald's, so one weekday, for only one lunch shift, I worked at the 3rd & Pine location. 

I wish I had horror stories to tell of the place — rats or roaches would make this a better article, but there were none. Everything I remember from that day is unpleasant, though.

Every low-class customer that came in was treated crappy, and at 3rd and Pine that's a lot of the customers. The staff barely tolerated the unkempt, and the managers made jokes about them.

It's downtown, so the lunch rush was a stampede of hungry downtown workers. They left a ruin of trash, which is to be expected, but the lobby, tables, and floor were disasters even an hour after the rush was over. The manager never sent anyone to clean the mess.

The kitchen was not a health hazard, but like the lobby, there was no interest in cleaning it after the rush. The store was generally sloppy, and the manager wasn't at all bothered by it.

You don't expect sparkling cleanliness at McDonald's, of course, but I'd been a shift manager at several McD's, and what I saw at 3rd & Pine that afternoon would've gotten me seriously chewed out at any other McD where I'd worked.

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I was gone from Seattle for 30+ years, but that McDonald's is still there. As described in my earlier report, it's now a plywood counter at the corner. People queue on the sidewalk, mingling with bums and panhandlers and smelling the urine. There are no tables or benches outside, and inside is boarded up, so after ordering you stand around waiting for your food, and unless you have someplace to escape to, you eat on the sidewalk.

A playland for the kiddies? No.

Restrooms? No.

A place to wash your hands before eating? No.

It's so much the opposite of a McDonald's commercial, it's surprising that the corporation allows it. 

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A few days after the McChickens mentioned in the link above, I tried to be a customer again, but there were twenty people lined up along the sidewalk, only one guy taking orders at the plywood counter, and my bus home was due in ten minutes, so it couldn't be done.

It wasn't hyperbole, then, to declare it the Worst McDonald's in the World, because it's certainly the worst McDonald's I've been a customer at. It's not merely a McDonald's having a bad day. It's a McDonald's that's usually having a bad day, and it's usually the managers' fault. 



  1. It was nearly as decrepit and apocalyptic as you describe it when I lived there 20 years ago.

    Have you seen The Founder?

    1. Saw THE FOUNDER and enjoyed it, but thought it was too kind to Mr Krok. The movie did a good job of capturing most of the McDonald's vibe, I think, speaking as a five-year veteran who joined the company about twenty years later.

      Knowing you've eaten at the same shitty McD somehow feels like a cosmic connection, man... And the place has gotten much worse, almost unbelievably so.

  2. Tough to argue with this - I almost wish I spent MORE time at the GG Park / Haight Street McD's so I'd have better stories.

    1. All I remember is hippies and stoners and dollar double-cheeseburgers.


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