McRefugees Take Advantage of Shanghai’s 24-Hour Fast Food Joints


The most obvious byproduct of the decades-long growth of fast food restaurants is a nation (and increasingly, a world) of overweight citizens. But now we’re seeing another disturbing fast food-related trend: McRefugees.

Some Shanghai residents have started to take advantage of 24-hour fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC, which offer uncomfortable yet reliable temporary shelter for people who can’t–or don’t want to–pay rent in the ultra-expensive city. Many of the McRefugees are employed, albeit with underpaying jobs in security, housekeeping, and hospitality. And apparently, restaurant officials are looking the other way. Shanghaiist explains in its translation of a Southern Weekly article:

In response to questions about people sleeping over at McDonalds, a spokesperson named Mr. Lu said the store “doesn’t explicitly allow it, but doesn’t explicitly disallow it.” But for all the stores in the Tianyaoqiao Lu area, KFC has the most serious McRefugee problem. “Because there’s sofas there, [McDonalds] only has hard stools. In the winter, people will even bring their blankets and bedrolls into the restaurant.”

Up until a McRefugee stabbed a McDonald’s employee trying to kick him out this past March, the group remained largely under the radar. But the trend is unlikely to slow down–Japanese “cyber homeless,” or residents that sleep in 24-hour Internet cafes, have been around for years. For a small price, these cafes offer their temporary residents furnished private cubicles along with soap, towels, and shaving cream. Now that the 24-hour fast food culture has permanently embedded itself in Japan, is it time for McDonald’s and KFC to start doing the same? After all, the McRefugees probably won’t go anywhere as long as the economy remains stagnant.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS