How Small Coffee Shops Feel About Starbucks WiFi

from the mixed-feelings dept

Starbucks’ (via T-Mobile) move to offer WiFi access in most of their stores has received a ton of attention lately. However, there have been a bunch of smaller, independent coffee shops that have offered internet access for a while now (sometimes for free), so SFGate wanted to see how these shops felt about Starbucks muscling in on their internet access business. It seems they have mixed feelings. Some are upset that Starbucks is going to steal customers away, even though the T-Mobile offering seems to be a lot more expensive than any small shop is offering. Of course, I still think that these shops should focus on what they do best (selling coffee and associated foods) and simply look at offering free wireless access to bring in new customers. If T-Mobile keeps up its current pricing, then cheaper or free access would certainly counter that. However, there’s also one coffee shop owner who says that he doesn’t want the sort of traffic that these laptop toting, web surfing types bring in to his coffee shop. It seems they mostly buy a single cup of coffee and then sit there for four hours (admittedly, I am guilty of doing this). Of course, the people who do that, tend to come in during off-peak hours anyway, so they’re not keeping anyone else from sitting at a table, and they’re still buying something. I just find it amusing to think of laptop-toting wireless web surfing geeks as being the “wrong sort of element” for a coffee shop.

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Comments on “How Small Coffee Shops Feel About Starbucks WiFi”

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Joe Schmoe says:

Ok, so...

Ok, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I have relatively no clue what can be purchased in these so called coffee shops, except of course coffee. But I am a coder, so I must ask, do these shops sell soda, munchies, and whatnot that we have a reputation for imbibing? Would a broader selection of munchies that we’d want to buy address this single cup situation?

dorpus says:

cyber cafes don't work anyway?

I live in Silicon Valley, and cyber cafes aren’t very popular here. There are one or two I pass by in my town, but I’ve never seen more than about one customer in them. People here live surrounded by computers at home and work, so going out means getting away from them. As a possible exception, I’ve heard reports of pearl-tea shops that are hangouts for Asian ethnics, but they go more for the pearl tea and Asian camaraderie than surfing the web.

It seems to me cyber cafes are more popular in areas where home computers are not widely available, or the computer literacy rate is low. Places like New York City or Moscow has shitloads of them to cater to the Macintosh/”I’ve never used email before” crowd.

tjcali says:

Re: Re: cyber cafes don't work anyway?

Cell phones are popular for talking and sometimes sms messages not surfing the net.

The majority (mass market) doesn’t have a clue what wifi is and what it can do for them yet alone try to figure how to go about using it. If their device does not say “you’ve got mail” or “search” in a simple way, noone understands yet alone cares to.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: cyber cafes don't work anyway?

Well, maybe it’s just my lifestyle but the coffee shops I’ve been to have people who go in and out quickly. If anyone is going to loiter for internet access there, it’s probably teenagers or college kids who the shops don’t really want anyway.

I wonder if there isn’t a market for the reverse business model — shops that jam radio signals so the cell-phoners and laptoppers can be kept away.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: cyber cafes don't work anyway?

Actually, I’ve found that, occasionally, it’s a nice change of scenery to park myself in a coffee shop and work from there. I’ve certainly seen other folks there who were clearly not teenagers or college kids. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but there does seem to be a group of people who do like using it.

I also find it useful when I’m travelling (when I can find a place that has WiFi). I know other business travellers do the same thing as well. Knowing that we can turn a Starbucks into a temporary office for an hour or two is a huge benefit.

Jack Schaefer (user link) says:

Re: cyber cafes don't work anyway?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: cyber cafes don't work anyway?

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Ben says:

Re: Re: Re:2 cyber cafes don't work anyway?

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