Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Starbucks makes life easier

logo_topHow did you spend your summer vacation?  Starbucks announced they're now offering Free wi-fi at all their company-owned stores.  I must not have been listening, because I only found out about it by accident!  In fact, I generally try to avoid Starbucks whenever I can - both as a way to protest their ridiculous pay-for-T-Mobile service, and as a way to support local independent business-owners.

However, when you're consistently working out of your car, and regularly trying to find local hotspots on the other side of town...  let's just say it can get frustrating at times.

Starbuck's free wi-fi program comes with some strings attached, so it's not as easy as most independent shops make it.  I'm not here to argue whether this is good or bad, as I see both sides of their reasoning.  I'm here to tell you it's about time they opened it up!  Here are the hoops you have to jump through:

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Get a Starbucks Card.  You can do this online, or you can walk into the store and get one at the counter - just a regular gift card will do, as if you're going to give it to somebody else, but you keep it instead.  It's not the fancy branded Visa card or anything like that.

Register Your Card at starbucks.com.  It took me about 3 minutes to get through the process, including also registering for AT&T as part of the registration (didn't have to buy or subscribe to anything - just need an AT&T password to access the wi-fi connection) and writing down my password so I'll have it when I'm at Starbucks.

Confirm the Registration.  AT&T will send you an email; you have to click on the link to activate it.

Semi-limited Access.  You're allowed to use Free wi-fi at any Starbucks for 2 consecutive hours each day, every day.  This means you can't sit at Starbucks all day long and use it as your office - get in, get online, get out.  (they have pay-for-service plans if you need extended time.)

Reload your Card.  You need to either use your Starbucks card (presumably to buy coffee while you're online) or reload your card once every 30 days.  Failure to do this will freeze your free access.

Bottom Line.  Yes, there are some hoops to jump through.  Yes, you can get easier access (and support local entrepreneurs) elsewhere.  But if you're out & about on a regular basis, you can't beat having 8,000 free hotspots across the country.  Heck, there are 7 Starbucks stores in a 10 square mile block around my house!

Your liking Starbucks today more than yesterday Realtor,

Chris Butterworth