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McDonald's Doesn't Open As Planned, But Camped Out Customers Still Want Giveaway

More than 100 people were camped out when employees posted sign saying the store wouldn't re-open at 5 a.m.,crowd says

Tyler Bradley had been waiting for Wednesday night.

He and his friends began planning their stakeout of the Maple Avenue McDonald's since they received a flyer in the mail earlier this month announcing the store, , would give away free food for a year to the first 100 customers at its grand re-opening,

At 7 p.m. Wednesday night, Bradley came to 544 Maple Ave W. in a rush after a friend called to say the line had started. The friend was lying, Bradley said, but it paid off: He was the first in line.

Bradley waited as a crowd started forming behind him – young kids straight from a football game, teenagers in pickup trucks, families with camping chairs and some with rugs and blankets, stretching around and beyond the front of the brick facade. An hour or so later, a group of employees entered the store, Bradley said.

He waited some more.

About four hours after he first arrived, an employee appeared at the door to post a sign: "Due to construction, we are unable to open tomorrow," it said. "We might open on Monday or Tuesday. We let you know by radio or online. Sorry."

The crowd tried to ask the employees what would happen to their status in line, even flagging down a driver making a delivery to the restaurant, who said he wasn't employed by McDonald's.

Some people packed up their chairs and left. But resident Jim Briody decided to take action.

Briody, who had brought his kids straight from a football game and the local pool to wait in line around 8:30 p.m., began collecting the names of people waiting on a few stray sheets of paper. He and his sons were among the first 30 customers - and he wasn't going to walk away without at least an attempt to document who was there at the advertised time, he said.

Martin Cooley, another father whose SUV was loaded with kids, teens and blankets, began to help him.

"The news didn't seem to come from an authoritative source -- it left us hanging," cooley said. "What we tried to do is capture the people here ... free food for a year is no small award, it's a significant thing people are waiting for. We're hoping [McDonald's] will provide them that, or, some kind of freebie."

Around 12:30 a.m., Briody and Cooley counted 85 names on their list, though many in line said the crowd easily numbered more than 100 at 11 p.m., when the sign was posted. By the time the list was started, a good part of the crowd left.

Employees did not return to the front of the store after posting the sign; McDonald's was not able to be reached at the time of this story's publication.

Bradley doesn't know why the employees didn't tell him they weren't opening when they arrived – or as more and more people started lining up outside the door in the hours that followed. Customers in line who spoke to Patch said they heard about the opening from a mailed flyer announcing the re-opening and giveaway. A large red banner hung across the front of the building for the past week, counting down the days until the opening.

Michael Frye, a 2011 James Madison graduate, said what's known as the "Madison McDonald's" is "how I gain my football weight" – it's a constant stop for him and his friends during quick lunch breaks or late snacks, he said.

He leaves to start his freshman year at William and Mary at 6 a.m. Thursday; waiting for his free year of food was his last Vienna stop.

"This is crazy," he said, standing with his arms on his head, his back against the window glass. "You have no idea how much I gave up for this."

While several people decided to leave, many were still camped out at 12:45 a.m. Thursday. Charissa Youngblood had walked past the store with her son almost every day this spring and summer as walls were torn down, concrete was poured and bricks were put back up. He was counting down the days until it reopened, she said.

"I would tell him, 'I'm gonna get you a ticket so you can have a happy meal every day,'" she said. "He's expecting that to come home with me. I have to try."

Tiphanie Lumry, who had walked with her grandparents to the store for many years, waited with her.

On an oriental rug with tasseled pillows behind her, Haz-Sun Jin waited with two other women to get the golden ticket for her husband, who leaves at 4:30 a.m. every day to open their store in Washington, D.C. He usually stops at McDonald's on the way, as it's usually the only restaurant open in the area that can give him breakfast for the road.

"We've lived here for 18 years. For 18 years we've been customers," she said. "I've lost time, I've lost sleep. I'm waiting."

Hany Herakly, who lives in an apartment across the street, stood under the neon store lights unsure what he would do. He comes to McDonald's nearly every day with his daughters, and for more than just the good food, he said – it's for a neighborhood gathering place where he gets good service, fast.

"It's the best restaurant in America – without any exaggeration," he said.

"We'll see what happens," Briody said.

Vienna Patch will update this story as more information becomes available.

Stephanie Cohen August 25, 2011 at 10:07 AM
Sarz, you are missing the point. The issue is not the McDonald's food, it is the issue of integrity. If you mail an offer out to people, you should take the responsibility to honor it or correctly message why you are not. What is wrong with our society today that people don't stand behind their word.
Wien August 25, 2011 at 12:45 PM
I understand the customers are upset with the mailed date not matching the actual opening date. I wish I had no other priorities except to wait in line overnight for free fast food...although I don't head to McD's but a few times year, and even then I found the Madison McD's to be fairly slow and less friendly than the article's quotes. But....not getting free food for a year is probably best for some of these people...no mother should aspire to give their kid a "happy meal every day."
Katherine H. August 25, 2011 at 01:00 PM
This is a good example of bad PR. Give-away promotions always end up disappointing more people than they please, even when all goes well. The McDonald's franchise owner should have posted a big sign the minute he knew that construction would delay the opening. At the very least, they should have handed out some coupons to people who had already wasted time waiting in line. But the others who commented are right: it's McDonald's food; no one should be eating it that often. Eating it every day? Gross!
djc August 25, 2011 at 02:32 PM
I agree with Katherine. You would think that management would have known about the set back early on Wednesday and posted a sign in the window. Set backs are understandable, but leaving all these folks hanging is not. As for the comment by Wein, yes the Madison McDonalds is very slow and not always accurate. Who would think that you could screw up a single order of oatmeal with an Egg McMuffin? Actually a good percentage of orders I have ever gotten from there as been wrong. As for the kids hanging out to get free food? Its not really even about the free food for a year, its about the experience of camping out in a parking lot all night with your buddies. When I drove by at 9, i saw mostly kids. Its all good fun.
L August 25, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Sarz, Calling someone an "idiot" and a "disgrace to humanity" is incredibly rude, especially without fully knowing the individual. For all you know, some of these people could be unemployed, hovering at the poverty line, with this being an opportunity to provide for their family for a year, even if it is "just McDonalds." Sure, McDonalds isn't the healthiest of choices and may seem unrefined to you, but to some, it's all they've got. While people in Africa are starving and we're fussing about this, you are fussing about us fussing about this. Clearly you're the one that needs to "grow up" and "get a life."
Jimbo August 25, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Hey SARZ. I bet you're doing a lot for those people in Africa... You seem to express a lot of concern... You just called me and my dad an idiot and that is not okay. You were not there so you don't understand that we weren't complaining or whining. We just were told we could have free food for a year and why pass that up? We simply wanted to get together the first 100 customers and give them a fair shot. It's people like you who decide they can judge everyone that are jokes, insults, and disgraces to humanity.
The King August 25, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Burger King is better.
Kevin G. August 25, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Sarz, you are a sad case and appear very frustrated with your life. To get so worked up over something this menial is hilarious. What a pity for you. Perhaps you should redirect your energy into educating those folks in hunger stricken areas that they live in a sand pit and little grows there. Then buy them all airline tickets to your home for pheasant under glass. The others posting here get it; it was a fun goofy experience at McyD's. The Vienna McDonald's is a part of most of our childhood's and is a fun place to gather. Relax and laugh a little, pal.
Kevin G. August 25, 2011 at 03:07 PM
It appears that Sarz's comments were removed by Patch for their inappropriateness. So for those reading subsequent posts, he (or she) ranted about the folks gathering at McDonald's for the free meals for a year and grand re-opening. He invoked Africa and starvation and called them mean names and totally missed the point. They were there for the fun.
liz difrancisco August 25, 2011 at 05:24 PM
My son wanted to go and camp out, not for the food, but for the fun of it. He was VERY disappointed and hopes that McDonalds will still honor the first 100 people in line.
Terra Cooke August 25, 2011 at 07:25 PM
My son and his friends were there as well - for the fun and the excitement of winning a years worth of free food. They were all really disappointed when the sign went up and more than a few were pretty ticked off .... so they thought it best to leave after 4 hours. I don't know how they'll ever prove who was there - but I do hope that McDonald's tries to make amends somehow.
Sushi August 25, 2011 at 07:46 PM
McDonalds doesn't serve food, they serve death. This move is saving these kids lives...
Neen August 25, 2011 at 11:55 PM
This is a statement McDonald's sent out today: “McDonald’s is excited to be opening a new location at 544 Maple Ave West in Vienna. Due to an unforeseen delay in the operating permit the opening was rescheduled. We apologize to those customers who visited this morning for our grand opening celebration. Our grand opening celebration has been rescheduled for Wednesday, August 31 at 5 a.m. and we will extend our offer to the first 200 people who arrive that morning. We apologize for the inconvenience and welcome everyone to the restaurant on the 31st.”
Kevin G. August 27, 2011 at 01:08 PM
Hahahahaha! Lighten up Sushi! We all die one day; enjoy the time in between.

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