This week Starbucks will make the transition to AT&T as their in-store wi-fi provider. As part of the deal they are announcing free wi-fi with the purchase of a $5 Starbucks card. You must use your card at least once a month to keep the deal going. So, for a cup of coffee a month, you have wi-fi at Starbucks. The one hitch in the deal is that the access is for two hours a day only and those hours must be consecutive. That means you can come in the morning and get some use but if you come back in the afternoon, no dice.
I don’t understand why they need to put these kind of restrictions on the service. My other favorite coffee shop, It’s A Grind, provides free open access, no questions asked. And when I am there, I always buy a coffee. The Starbucks program reeks of corporate think. Let’s look at all the risks and mitigate them. God forbid we trust our customers because given the chance they’ll rip us off. 98% of Starbucks customers will buy a coffee while there, so there’s no real reason to require it with the card and how many will sit there all day and suck access? Not many. And those that do are going to be thirsty and hungry and will most likely buy more stuff. I would rather see Starbucks and AT&T trust customers to begin with and apply restrictions in the future if real problems surface. But like the music and film industries, corporate America still feels the need to control their customers and has a basic lack of trust for them. This, of course, runs completely contrary to the spirit of the Internet and the new world of business online. Maybe, just maybe if you treat your customers with respect they will give you back the same.