As many of you may know, I’m regular Starbucks (SBUX) patron. For me, “working from home” is a euphemism for plopping myself anywhere more comfortable than the soul-sucking florescent glow and countless unproductive meetings housed within the confines of a typical office environment.
I’ve been pestering one of my local haunt’s managers for details on when we’d finally see them implement free WiFi via AT&T (T) - both with anticipation and dread. I wouldn’t mind saving the $20/month spent on unlimited T-Mobile HotSpot access (backup for 3G card, especially in United airport terminals), but I wonder how much more crowded the already bursting-at-the-seams coffee shops will become.
Earlier Saturday the aforementioned manager approached me (unsolicited) and said the system was configured a few days ago and they’ve confirmed it works. I saw the back of the store memo and the manager says they’ve got signage behind the counter ready to go in conjunction with the June 3rd launch. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t let me take a peek and snap photos. My “contact” confirmed what Starbucks.com tells us:
Complimentary Wi-Fi for Starbucks customers When you register your Starbucks Card and use it at least once a month, you’ll receive two consecutive hours a day of complimentary Wi-Fi, courtesy of AT&T.
I didn’t think to ask if the on again, off again free iPhone WiFi would make a reappearance on Tuesday. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
As to the business rationale, it’s fairly simple - Internet is inexpensive and sales are down:
Starbucks reported that earnings fell 28% in the quarter ended in March. Sales at U.S. cafés open at least a year declined. The shares, at just over $17, are down 57%.