Already under pressure from growing concerns about obesity and "mad cow" disease, plus the antics of anti-globalisation protesters, the McDonald's hamburger chain now has another problem: customers turning away in droves because they do not like the way they are treated.
According to a survey picked up by the Dow Jones news service on an in-house McDonald's website, as many as 11 per cent of the company's customers worldwide are dissatisfied enough to complain each day. Of these, some 70 per cent are unhappy with the way their complaint is handled, leading to a sharp drop-off in custom and uncomplimentary comments to friends. And they are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
"Most customers who have complaints do not share it with the restaurants – they just don't come back," the website said.Rude service was the number one complaint worldwide, running out of "Happy Meals" was the second. In Britain, slow service was identified as the main source of frustration.
The issue – almost certainly the result of hiring young and inexperienced workers on low wages – was the subject of a conference at the McDonald's "Hamburger University" near Chicago last month. Delegates were told the problem could be costing the company $750m a year in lost sales.
The figures indicated that 1 per cent of all complaints were from "scammers" looking for a free lunch.