It's all over the net today, Starbucks is partnering with Yahoo and others to bring free Wi-Fi to all of their stores, along with some free content that would normally be paid content, such as NY Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and more!
So the question remains, does the offer of free Internet (without the normal limit of 2 hours and the requirement of being an AT&T customer to continue to use it for free) really entice the public to come back in and spend some time in the store?
I'm skeptical. But let me start from the beginning.
I used to be more than regular Starbucks customer, I was a fan!. I used to visit often and found it exciting to find a new location. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the customer service. And then things changed. The customer service dropped off, turnaround at the stores I visited was so high that I never had that "welcome back" feeling. I started to notice all the force fed advertising of things that I didn't really care about; such as an inventory of travel mugs and coffee related accessories that could choke a horse. Then they added what Starbucks thought I would like in music. Most of the times the artists were not artists that I disliked, but I certainly was not going to pay the overpriced cost for the CD's they offered. It started to feel cold and definitely was not as inviting as it once was...
I started going elsewhere and finding better service, more selection and better customer service.
OK - so back to the free internet. Will this win back my business? In short - No.
My visits were never longer than it took the counter line to dissipate. I never saw the value that others did in sitting around and taking in the atmosphere, reading, or socializing - even though I've never thought of the Starbucks store layouts that I've been in as conducive to sharing a conversation with a new found friend. The vision of the "quiet coffee house, where one could work or focus their energy as they relax" really never formed for me. Most of the time I was in the store I was feeling caught awkwardly between the aging hipsters and the young and loud crowd. It just was not my scene.
I do wish Starbucks good wishes though, there is still a part of me that enjoyed the phenomenon while it was on the way up and got caught up in it, and some of those memories are very good.