Free Wi-Fi Stirs Starbucks Customers

Starbucks announced that they would offer their customers free access to Wi-Fi via AT&T on July 1, a change that could have several implications for coffee drinkers who frequent the franchise regularly.

The move comes at a time when Starbucks is trying to reel in job seekers and resume refiners who have been out of jobs due to the high unemployment rates. Starbucks wants to position itself as an interim office for these people.

Also, independent coffee shops and McDonald’s, which both already offer free WI-Fi, have been siphoning customers away from the coffee giant, according to a June 15 Times article.

The Starbucks Wi-Fi package, called Starbucks Digital Network, partnered with Yahoo to include free access to paid sites, such as the Wall Street Journal; tools for people searching for jobs; and other entertainment features, such as free iTunes downloads.

Previously, Starbucks internet surfers went through an arduous process of buying and registering a Starbucks card, which allowed them to use the Web for two hours after completing a log-in process, according to the Times article. The new method streamlines the process by making WI-Fi a mere click away.

Still, some consumers remain mindful that free Wi-Fi will encourage people to loiter in the coffee shops too long, crowding tables or turning Starbucks into a business-like atmosphere

The same Times article quoted Jodi Geren, a local coffee-shop worker, who said a laptop takeover could make Starbucks “feel more like a library.”