In case you hadn’t heard, Starbucks announced they’ll be offering free, unlimited WiFi beginning July 1. Unlike the AT&T-powered wireless service they launched two years ago, this won’t require a login and occasional purchase. And, of course by being “unlimited,” connectivity is no longer restricted to two hours. Most interesting is the “Starbucks Digital Network” which will provide SBUX visitors access to premium web content, like the Wall Street Journal.
I assume Starbucks’ goal is to increase store traffic and thus revenue, something their shareholders will certainly appreciate. However, as a regular I’m a concerned with what could happen to the Starbucks atmosphere. The obvious comparison is Panera, an establishment I no longer patronize on a regular basis. Their overrun environment is more akin to a computer lab or Kinkos than a bakery-cafe these days. (See iMac man, above.)
What you may not have known is that Starbucks has been the unofficial work space of ZNF since our inception. The vast majority of posts are written and site management is typically handled at the ‘bucks in about 60 minutes a day. Basically, SBUX provides a chill environment that isn’t my home and isn’t my office – where I have other responsibilities and distractions. I’m always respectful, taking the smaller table when available and using headphones when/if I have a need for audio. (Something not seen and not enforced in my visits to Panera.)
When ZNF started out, Starbucks offered WiFi subscriptions via T-Mobile. Originally running me $30/month and later $20/mo through Melissa’s cellphone account. “HotSpot” service was more reliable that the two hours of free AT&T wireless that launched in 2008, which periodically drops my connection for unknown reasons. Of course, I almost always have aircards and tetherable devices in my possession. Sort of emphasizing the fact that I’m here for the environment.
Assuming the worst, that ZNF will need to relocate, I ran a quick report on my credit card to see what I’ve spent at Starbucks in 2010. Through 6/13, I’m in for $727.21. Kinda sickening, isn’t it? And not even tax deductible. Plus, I can’t even say my iced coffee tastes great. (Caribou’s cold press is superior.) But it’s been money well spent over the years — ZNF has prospered and the staff at the various ‘bucks has always been good to me. (Take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers.)
So I suspect the time has come to move on… And, honestly, I’d rather patronize a local cafe. If one existed. I also have an unused home office which may be in need of a reconfiguration to support ZNF. Regardless, wherever I (and ZNF) lands, I’m sure to start saving money… that is better applied to my ever expanding gadget collection – don’t you think?