Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
July 7, 2008
Free Wi-Fi! (Kind Of,
Sort Of, Not Really) from Dumb Starbucks
Poor Starbucks! The purveyor of caffeine-fueled trendiness has announced
it will soon be closing 600 underperforming stores and laying off 12,000
people. It bears repeating. Poor Starbucks!
Dumb Starbucks. Hereís what caught my eye about the story. ABC News
reported that Starbucks, in an attempt to better retain customers and
attract new ones, is now offering free Wi-Fi. Did you hear that? Free
Whatís next? A place to sit?
it turns out, the super-amazing offer of free Wi-Fi isnít even what it
first appears to be. If, and only if, you buy a Starbucks Rewards Card,
you get two hours a day, and only two hours a day, of free Wi-Fi.
donít mean to unfairly mock and belittle Starbucksí offer, although itís
hard to see how that would be possible. But I have seen this phenomenon
before. Iíve never really come up with a name for it, but for the
purposes of this column, I will attempt to do so on the fly.
Phenomenon. Weíll go with that.
know coffee shops. I like to do my work in them instead of my office.
There is no one there to bug me. (Well, there are different people
bugging me in different ways. Variety is the spice of life.) There are
four coffee shops within three miles of my house where I can sit all day
long if I like, and I get free, unlimited Wi-Fi just for walking in. If
I actually stay there that long, I generally buy at least a full meal,
because if I didnít Iíd feel like I was mooching space and wireless
access Ė but Iíve never seen the slightest evidence that these people
mind at all.
They know the Wi-Fi is one of the reasons people become loyal customers.
They would have Internet access anyway, and a wireless router doesnít
cost very much, so itís a no-brainer for them to extend access to their
customers with their compliments.
The company that is closing 600 stores and laying off 7 percent of its
workforce thinks Wi-Fi is something you should have to earn. If you buy
one of their Rewards Cards, OK, fine, you can have a little bit of
Wi-Fi, but hurry up and then move it along! Do you know how much $4
coffee they have to sell to pay for your two hours of free Wi-Fi?
There is a Starbucks right across the street from one of the four coffee
shops I mentioned above. I went in there once. At the time, they had no
Wi-Fi at all. Fortunately, I was able to pick up the network from the
coffee shop across the street!
never went back to that Starbucks. I never will. Why would I? For the $4
Apparently certain people are so hooked on Starbucks coffee that they
will put up with these indignities. Suit yourselves, folks. Thereís a
whole lot more coffee out there and itís just as good if not better.
This sort of arrogance is usually fueled by a true ignorance of what
else is out there. It was only a couple years ago that AOL was still
running TV ads with amazed-sounding people talking about how, with AOL,
they had e-mail. E-mail! They just love e-mail!
Everyone has freaking
seven-year-old has it. Did AOL really not know this? I honestly think
this is possible. I think itís possible that AOL executives didnít know
there are other ways to get online besides through them. I think itís
possible Starbucks executives donít know you can get free Wi-Fi pretty
But itís also possible they consider it beneath them to give it to you
for free, no matter what other people do. Like the swanky restaurant
where you get a five-ounce steak a la carte for $65, and if you want a
vegetable, thatís extra. Theyíre swanky! You think youíre getting free
vegetables? Ha! Go get on food stamps if thatís what you want!
This isnít limited to retail establishments, either. Have you ever
driven into Chicago from Michigan, via northern Indiana? Then you know
the entire route is filled with construction slowdowns. What you may not
know is that those construction slowdowns have been there for more than
They never finish, and they never make any appreciable progress. Why
not? My theory is that theyíre not doing anything. Chicago just thinks
itís so great that you should have to work a little harder to get into
Maybe arrogance sells. Or maybe you really do think so little of
yourself that youíre willing to be treated like dirt by the people who
say, ďHey you, customers: Weíre the king!Ē
Iíd better wrap this up. If youíre sitting at Starbucks reading it,
youíre running out of time.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.