I’ve been a regular Starbucks customer for many years. I spend about $250 per month at my local Starbucks, separate from WiFi access fees. I pay $7 for pre-made, cold sandwiches so I don’t have to leave my table. I visit Starbucks nearly daily when on travel, and I even buy stuff from their over priced gift racks. I have been a t-mobile unlimited subscriber for several years, just for the Starbucks connectivity. I have a collection of Starbucks cash cards, and I always maintain a balance. For years I was on the auto-renew program. I give pre-loaded Starbucks cards as gifts, and I reward tech workers with $100 Starbucks cards on a regular basis, often over the web. But this past week I have tasted the coffee and WiFi at 7 other coffee shops, because lately, Starbucks WiFi sucks.
I currently have both t-mobile and ATT unlimited WiFi subscriptions, so I can stay connected at Starbucks. And that’s not good enough. It still goes down, drops me, or refuses to grant me access. It is slow, it chokes on non-www URLs, and otherwise just plain sucks. If this is Starbuck’s version of the evolution of the Starbucks WiFi experience, I have news for Starbucks: your coffe is not as good as 5 of the 7 other places I tried this week. And neither is your WiFi. In the 3 years I’ve had a smart phone, I’ve been technically able to tether the notebook and avoid the need for WiFi altogether. But I haven’t bothered.. until this past week.
If this goes on much longer, I hope t-mobile is able to sure Starbucks for the mis-management of the network. It appears to have been outsourced to SBC, although I have no interest in digging for those details. Whether I try to connect to the t-mobile or ATT account doesn’t matter.. I still get crappy service from the access point. Sometimes I connect to the t-mobile SSID and get an ATT sign on page, and sometimes I see a srong t-mobile signal and a weak ATT signal, so I know it’s bad management.
I used to think I needed my coffee, but it’s clear as day now: I need my WiFi connectivity, and I am willing to pay someone to maintain a comfortable community-oriented space for using it. Starbucks was on the right track putting a meeting place in every town with a big green sign. Read my lips: it’s college study hall for the post-graduate technical workers. It’s comfortable, familiar, and conducive to thought. No doubt Starbucks needed to put in free WiFi, but it’s a big mistake to muck up the reliable connectivity like this. Fire that director and try again… quick. If I end up discovering an alternative location, I’ll be happy to bring in my coffee or send out for it, but I won’t be willing to pay the Starbucks prices any more. There are quite simply better options.
Update: A few hours after I posted this, t-mobile files suit against Starbucks. Clue to Startbucks: don’t use your customers as pawns in your corporate games.