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Starbucks "free" Wi-Fi a debacle on day 1

Posted at 1:16 PM on June 3, 2008 by Jon Gordon (3 Comments)

I stopped in to one of my local Starbucks stores to test the new AT&T Wi-Fi. Disaster.

It's supposed to work this way: Wi-Fi is free and unlimited for AT&T Internet customers; others load a Starbucks card with at least $5, sign up for the Starbucks Rewards Card Program (providing their name, physical address, and email address), and use the card at least once a month. If you meet all those criteria, you can use the AT&T Wi-Fi in Starbucks stores for two hours per day, but only in one sitting - no coming back for your minutes.

Granted, it's only day one but I'm sitting here in Starbucks trying to cool off with a hot cappuccino after a major hassle getting online. First, the barristas had no idea the new system is supposed to work. Second, the online sign-up process was excruciatingly slow. After the system kept rejecting my new Starbucks card, the local staff suggested I needed to put more money on the card. So I did, and still no luck. I got error after error from the registration site. I did get online eventually, but it took me nearly an hour in the store to make it happen, and I put more money on the Starbucks card than was necessary.

So now I'm online. Whoopee. The "free" Wi-Fi cost me time, frustration, personal information, and $10 on a Starbucks card that I would have preferred spending at a place that makes better coffee.


Comments (3)


I signed up for T-mobile hotspots about 5 years ago and it worked pretty seamlessly. It was when I was interning out in L.A. and the room I was renting at the time didn't have internet. Since I was a T-mobile user already, the rate was only $19/mo (I say only because at the time, high-speed access wasn't cheap - it still isn't).

That system sounds completely convoluted. It should either be free (like most stores that offer wi-fi) or just be a subscription service that just works.

Posted by Elliott | June 3, 2008 2:21 PM


I can't believe Starbucks WiFi is 1) so hard to use, 2) hasn't been free since WiFi was available. WiFi is a great way to get customers in your doors. Just look at any independent coffee shop and you'll see laptops everywhere and they are all sipping drinks. Perhaps those indie stores are happy Starbucks is so dumb with it's use of WiFi...

Posted by John | June 3, 2008 2:49 PM


Then for the love of God... PLEASE go somewhere else from now on and stop complaining.

Posted by Ettal | June 5, 2008 1:55 PM