Last Saturday when Monique and I were running errands (okay she was running them and I was driving the car) we stopped into a little strip mall. She went to get some invitations for a party and I, as always, went reconnoitering for Wi-Fi. I breezed into a local coffee franchise called CC’s Coffee.
The two employees had heard something about the place having Wi-Fi. But they were largely at a loss to answer any questions other than they “seemed to think” that the place had wireless Internet. I’ve learned that many tech-unsavvy people seem to confuse “broadband” internet with “wireless” internet so I wasn’t convinced.
The next day I returned with my laptop for a stealth inspection. I also wanted to try my newly acquired Kensington Pocket Wi-Fi finder. As I came in I pushed the Kensington’s button. No signal.
So maybe the employees were wrong. No surprise there.
But then I saw a blue Netgear 802.11b access point on the wall with its little lights happily blinking away, so maybe there really was Wi-Fi. (Earlier tests at home suggested that the Kensington is not very reliable and this confirmed its worthlessness).
I fired up the trusty Apple Powerbook and sniffed a signal with the bland SSID “Wireless”. Bingo! So there was Wi-Fi to be had there.
The first thing I did was google “CC’s coffee New Orleans” to find their website to see what sort of online efforts they had made to publicize their wireless access. I found this page, which supposedly lists all the locations in New Orleans. Interestingly, the very location that I was sitting in wasn’t even listed. According to the website, it didn’t even exist.
Surely this is an insignificant marketing error. After all, there were other locations listed on that webpage.
Two of the locations that were listed claimed to have “Free High Speed Internet.” Yeah, and so what? I’ve been in one of those locations because it’s near my office. They have several Ethernet ports near tables, but these obviously require a wired connection with CAT 5 cables. The obvious question (for those who love Wi-Fi and seek it out wherever they can find it) is: why not plop in a Wireless Access Point [cost: $99] and blast out a Wi-Fi signal? Same goes for the other location that has “Free High Speed Internet.” Total cost to convert them to wireless would be less than $200.
But I still can’t figure why the only CC’s Coffee location that actually has Wi-Fi isn’t even listed on the company’s website. And if you read the page with the New Orleans locations you’ll see that they advertise in bright red font “NEW!! High speed wired and wireless Internet Access at select locations.”
Perhaps their customers don’t really want Wi-Fi so there isn’t any great harm in their less-than-stellar web publicity. Well, since there were several people with laptops in the coffeeshop I decided to ask the guy sitting next to me (obviously a business man) if he was aware of the Wi-Fi service? He didn’t know about it and didn’t even know what Wi-Fi was.
I explained it to him and his jaw dropped. “You mean I can get free internet access right here without plugging in to the DSL socket?” he asked. Yep. I told him all he’d need was a card and he began scribbling furiously on a napkin. “Okay,” he scrawled “so I need a PCI card for some sort of 802.11b thing? And then I can come here and use the internet free?”
I gave him more details. He asked me if I was some sort of sales representative. I said, no, I was just “a guy who was interested in technology.” I felt like the guy in the Sprint commercial. You know, the guy who is always on the lookout to help customers with their cellphone problems. Yep. That’s definitely me with the Wi-Fi thing.
So, a day later, over at another coffeeshop I saw a guy who looked like he “ran the place.” Obviously, I engaged him about Wi-Fi. He’d heard of it and proudly told me about how two years ago he had set up a room in the upstairs with Ethernet ports so people could work on their laptops. But, alas, he said, they didn’t like it. And it was a miserable failure.[sigh] Another poor soul who equates “broadband” with “Wi-Fi.”
I explained Wi-Fi and told him that Wi-Fi would not be a miserable failure; it was just a question of when people would start clamoring for it. Perhaps out of deference to a customer, he enthusiastically agreed. I thought I’d let him go by acknowledging that perhaps it was too early in the adoption curve to incur the expense of a monthly high speed connection just for the few people who might want Wi-Fi.
Then he mentioned that he had a high speed connection (“up there in my office”). Again, sensing that he wasn’t inclined to spend much money I told him “yeah, well it’s probably not worth the $100 for the access point just in case a few customers might want it.” To my surprise, he disagreed with that statement. “I don’t mind spending $100,” he replied, “I just don’t want a bunch of people coming in here and taking up tables with their laptops when it’s busy.”
I guess it never occurred to him that he could offer the free Wi-Fi on the condition that people only use it during off peak hours, or otherwise they would have to pay. I was truly puzzled.
Surely, there had to be a way to harmonize the desires of his customers with his business needs. But, whatever the solution might be I was still truly shocked by his statement. When was the last time you heard a business owner say he didn’t want to do something that wouldn’t cost him much money because it would attract too many people to his business establishment?
Incidentally, in case you are in New Orleans, the CC’s Coffeeshop I was talking about earlier is located at 701 Metairie Road. Promise you won’t tell anyone. They’re obviously trying to keep it a secret.