Would you like McWi-Fi with that?

I read with particular interest this week when McDonalds Australia announced it will be rolling out free Wi-Fi access to all stores in Australia.

If you’re a US reader, don’t laugh. It may not sound like a big deal for you guys (since McDonald’s US has been doing this since 2003), but believe us, it is. Finding free Wi-Fi in Australia is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack — a terribly difficult and ultimately sad situation.

Anyway, Ronald himself has apparently partnered with Telstra (who else) to roll out free Wi-Fi to its 720 stores Australia-wide. They aim to have it completed by March 2009. No doubt this is good news, but it also raises plenty of questions.

Which brings me onto my point — should more retailers like McDonald’s be providing free Wi-Fi? Or should us poor sod consumers have to pay for the privilege of using these services?

As far as I’m concerned, if you are using a product or service, in this case be it McDonalds, you have already paid for your meal. Considering the food you are getting is already overpriced (wonder how long it will take McDonalds to blame the current global economic crisis?) and largely lacking in quality (let’s be brutally honest here) some extra incentive to go back and purchase another crappy meal should not be out of the question.

The more time consumers like us sit at a McDonald’s table, the more money we are going to spend. It may only be a few dollars, but the lure of free Wi-Fi should theoretically increase sales. Having previously worked in retail (albeit as an introduction to the working world while I was a bright-eyed, part-time school student), anything that brings customers back to a store is worth its weight in gold.

With all notebooks including Wi-Fi as a standard feature, in addition to a range of mobile phones and smart phones, Australia needs as many free Wi-Fi spots as possible. Considering the costs and quality of our mobile broadband, a free Wi-Fi hotspot is priceless. Honestly, who wants to find a Wi-Fi spot and then have to enter their credit card details to use the service? With all the security risks involved, it’s just not worth it.

We can only hope that many other businesses and retails can follow McDonalds lead in this regard.

And wouldn’t it be nice for all you travellers if that included all Australian airports? Dare to dream.