I was going to spend the afternoon working at Starbucks today. (I’ve been working remotely from home for the last few months, and sometimes it’s a good change of pace to get out of the house.)
Then I remembered how they charge for WiFi, and decided to stay away.
There are three reasons Starbuck’s decision to charge for WiFi is not best:
First, it slightly diminishes the value of their brand. My esteem for Starbucks is a bit lower because they are unwilling to make the simple customer-oriented choice to make their WiFi free. Especially when even most hotels now offer free WiFi.
Second, it complicates things. The problem is not simply that it costs $10 to get online there (although that’s a big barrier). The problem is also that adding the payment gateway increases complexity. You have to create a username and password, for example. My password list is already 16 pages long (yes, 16 pages). It is not fun to have to add to that list.
Third, it probably costs them sales. They’ve probably done the analysis on this, and so maybe they would say this is made up for by the revenue generated by the WiFi. But speaking as a customer, there is at least one less person buying coffee at Starbucks today because of this WiFi policy.
I don’t want to sound down on Starbucks here. They do great work. But if their value proposition is that they create a “third space” rather than simply selling coffee, they have an opportunity here to do things better and advance their brand.