Miss Woodhouse's Musings

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“Free Wifi”

on 12 June 2010

Scene: Starbucks

Time: Inconvenient

Characters: Barista (me), Random Person, Laptop, Starbucks Card

Setting: Cafe is fullish, there are several customers waiting for their drinks.

RP: *walks into the store with laptop bag. Finds a table, drags three chairs into the “perfect position”, sits down. Pulls out laptop. Does not make purchase. Turns on laptop. Does not make purchase. Opens web browser. Does not make purchase. Attempts to load a webpage. Does not make purchase. Fails to load a webpage. Does not make purchase. Attempts once more to load a webpage. Does not make purchase. Discovers AT&T login screen. Does not make purchase. Tries to log-in and fails. Does not make purchase. Approaches register. Does not make purchase.*

Barista: Hi there, can we help you today?

RP: Yeah, what’s the deal with your wifi? Do I, like, need a code or something?

Barista: It’s actually kept a paid service here. You can purchase a pass from AT&T using a credit card, or you can load a Starbucks card with $5, register it in-store (this takes only 2 minutes), and get 2 free hours of wifi a day.

RP: So it’s not free?

Barista: Technically no, but if you do the Starbucks card option, that money is still yours to spend here at the store so you aren’t actually paying for the wifi. It’s like getting it for free, plus getting the other Starbucks card reward benefits.

RP: *Returns to table, slams laptop closed, walks out. Does not make purchase.*

***End Scene***

I’m not exaggerating (much) when I say that this scene plays out in our cafe at least twice a shift- sometimes more often. There is a massive outcry from customers for Starbucks to provide free wifi, but I think it’s a bad idea. Here are a few reasons why I think Starbucks should never go to limitless, free wifi:

1. It’s a marketing gimmick to get people to stay longer at your store. Starbucks already has a solid base of homesteaders; we don’t need anymore people setting up camp. When we have a cafe full of free-loading computer geeks, then our regulars don’t have anywhere to sit. Let’s face it; we *heart* our regulars.

2. It’s expensive to pay for high-quality, limitless wifi. Should this happen, quality is going to drop and people will be complaining about that instead of price. At least now you have little chance of being kick off the network.

3. We will lose a LOT of business should we go to free wifi. People won’t ever feel like making a purchase, and they will keep our paying regulars from having a “third place” environment.

There you have it, my thoughts on free, limitless wifi. What are yours; good, bad, helpful, harmful? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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2 responses to ““Free Wifi”

  1. mum says:

    Hmmmmmm… I wonder… if you show up at their houses with your coffee cup, will they give you a free cup of coffee? I’m thinking not.

    I’m just sayin’…

    Love you (&*$s),
    Mum

    And you’re right. (don’t you love reading those words?!) As a very regular Regular, I would like to comment that seeing non-purchasing customers take up tables, use WiFi, and/or conduct business meetings (usually loudly) annoys, and I want to ask if they were raised by wolves… But, I haven’t…yet.

    • I’m so glad you agree; I had a feeling you might! :)

      Overall, I really think that this little issue is indicative of a greater problem. Not only do many people want things for free, but increasingly they want what they want for free. We’re offering 2 free hours of wifi a day, a free drink on their birthday, free syrups/milk changes, and the option of earning other free drinks. It’s a great deal, but they want none of it. They want free, limitless wifi, and they don’t want to put any money into the business who is providing the table, chairs, and wifi. It’s very frustrating. And yes, I do believe some of them were raised by wolves. ;)

      It’s why I’m (secretly) glad that we only have two tables with electrical outlets! :D

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