Thursday, July 8, 2010

Starbucks: Now Tolerating Freeloaders

Imagine my surprise when one recent night on the 5:00 news Lester Holt announced that Starbucks would now be offering free Internet access. What year is it, 2007?

At first I thought maybe college had spoiled me. In school, I had access to free Internet anywhere I wanted it. The campus library? Check. The Student Union and Quad? Check and check. Random grassy patches where people gather to study? There too. A coffee shop without wi-fi was unheard of. In my mind, there was no greater pairing. What self-respecting pseudo-intellectual or academic hasn't killed a day at their local coffeehouse?

I had taken it for granted that Starbucks would offer free wi-fi. But apparently, prior to July 1, 2010, one had to pay to hop on a wireless network at the nation's most famous coffee chain. And even then, there was a time restriction. Those dinosaurs! Why were people still going to that joint?

I'm sure not if all Starbucks operate the same. As much as I can remember, my campus Starbucks had free wireless. And I've been able to get on a free network at the Barnes and Noble in my city with a Starbucks in-store since it opened two years ago.

But, the fact remains. For a brand that claims to "inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time," Starbucks has been slacking.

And when you think about it, it's even more than slacking. Starbucks has been elitist in their attitude. Their policy of Internet only for those who can afford it is not very customer friendly. Some wireless providers make you pay $5-$10 a sitting! With prices so high, it's as though they didn't want people to use their Internet. They took so long getting with the program that now I don't really care to get with theirs.

I'd much rather go down to my neighborhood fast-food joint to connect to the Internet for free. You know there's something wrong when Popeyes, Subway and McDonalds get free wi-fi before Starbucks. I've been told Starbucks is a great company to work for. As a consumer, I don't support it. You'll see me patronizing local shops, where the coffee is cheaper and the attitude isn't so uppity.

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