When It’s Best To Give Stuff Away

by SMD 

Finally someone gets it! I’m talking about Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi has been [is] one of the holy grails of computing. Essentially it is wireless internet access. You go to your local cafe fire up you laptop and you’re listening to your favorite internet radio and surfing the web while you sip your $4 coffee.

Wi-Fi, has not quite panned out. Why, does something as amazing as Wi-Fi practically died? Because, almost no-one understands that there are things that you can charge money for and things that you have to give away as a bonus. Most every one, including Starbucks, thought that they could make a bucket of cash from Wi-Fi. Starbucks has had to slash the price of its Wi-Fi service and still I doubt it is doing very well at all.

People won’t pay for it. It is just a nice to have while at the cafe, but it doesn’t offer any real value. I can go home and check my email for free, so why would I cough up 5 dollars for an hour of internet time? If I was something other than a complete marketing ignoramus I’d be able to tell you why this is, but sorry I don’t know. What I do know is that as a full-on internet addict, the only time I ever paid for public internet or Wi-Fi was once in an airport when I was desperate to check my mail. And I never will pay for it again.

Then last week it happened.

Last week, while at my local cafe [I don't always go to Starbucks] I was shocked to see the sign: Free Wireless Internet! Yeaah! They get it. Do you think I’ll come here more often and buy more $4 coffees and snacks now that they have free internet? Of course.

The funny thing is that it costs next to nothing to provide Wi-Fi. For about $70 bucks of hardware and an hour or two of any geeky 16 year-olds time and you’re in wired.

Most online businesses do get this concept. They understand that you need to give stuff away in order to build a relationship and trust with your customers that will pay off down the road. It really surprises me that it took so long for someone to understand the real business potential of Wi-Fi. Now if only I can get the manager of my favorite Starbucks to read this story.

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6 Responses to “When It’s Best To Give Stuff Away”

  1. Alison on June 12th, 2007 4:09 pm

    I couldn’t belieeeeeve that Charbucks charged for wi-fi! Really. I can and will check my e-mail at home, thankyaverymuch. Then I saw smaller cafés with free wi-fi, and yeah, that was more like it. Of course, that was in the States. In my rural corner of France, it’ll be a while before the concept hits the cafés. But then I don’t have a laptop anyway.

  2. Scott on June 12th, 2007 4:09 pm

    Jon, thanks for sharing your rant. We are in the business of supplying free wi-fi locations because we don’t believe people should have to pay for wi-fi either. Right now we’re working on moving globally from just the US only, so in the next few weeks we’ll be adding Remedy to our databases! I’ve posted your article on our site: Thanks, Scott

  3. Dan Marque on June 12th, 2007 4:10 pm

    Great post! Logan airport in Boston charges around $10-$15 for a day of wireless! I wrote about your post today on my blog.

  4. Caitlin on June 12th, 2007 4:10 pm

    Agreed! Especially about Logan…a couple of years ago it was free in the terminal where Delta was while Term A was being built…used it all the time. Then suddently it was over $10 a DAY. And of course…you rarely spend an entire day in the airport so it really works out to something like $10 for 10 minutes…so why would anyone pay that? I never thought that the starbucks model would work…our local coffee shop “chain” (if you can call it that) gives it for free and they’re always packed. It’s also sad that the telcos are thwarting free and low cost municipal wifi in some areas

  5. Dominic on June 12th, 2007 4:10 pm

    I wish your local cafe was my local cafe. I reckon you could make a killing on coffee and snack sales if your cafe was in or near a business centre and you provided free wi-fi.

  6. sara on June 12th, 2007 4:10 pm

    This is a great blog i really like it it has great infomation to.

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