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Not so Wired

2006-08-10 12:26:20.926706+00 by petronius 3 comments

A few Random Musings about the connected lifestyle:

I'm entering this from a Panera Bread shop, using their free Wi-Fi. If I were at Starbuck's I'd have to pay T-Mobile some money for a one-day connection. Why is free OK for Panera but not for Starbuck? For 2 buck's worth of coffee I can work here for hours. Is this economical for Panera? It does increase their traffic in the non-lunch hours, while my impression is that Starbucks has a steady level of business throuout the day. Is there a better business plan, or two unrelated ones?

Now for a higher case: I was in Dallas over the weekend, staying at a nice Westin Hotel. Westin heavily advertises their amenities, such as a really nice mattress and shower heads that actually get you wet. The rooms are more spacious than at Red Roof Inn or Motel 6, and the furniture more comfortable. The room also costs more than double the cheap motel's rates.

However, while local calls are free at Red Roof, they cost $1.50 each at Westin!! But, for about 15 bucks a day Westin will give you unlimited local calls and high speed internet in your room. Red Roof is going to the T-Mobile solution for web access. So, I'm a business type whose company is paying for a nice room, but getting dinged on local calls. Seems to me that enough people would get pissed off by this stinginess to cancel out the delight over the nice mattress. In the long run, will this work for Westin, or does wide use of cell phones and free-standing connections make the issue moot?

I guess we are just witnessing another experimental era, where different ideas are being tried out. Just like banner ads became a glut on the market, but targeted ads based on search terms have been a success. Wireless awaits the Gillette moment: give away the razor but make it up on selling blades.

[ related topics: Wireless Work, productivity and environment Travel Net Culture Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-08-10 12:55:47.850263+00 by: meuon [edit history]

Nancy and I like personable 'mom and pop' hotels. You know, those quirky strip things of 10-25 rooms (hopefully near a beach). Although the last one we were at in N. Myrtle Beach had a pay plan, it also had a 'ask the manager for a code' field. In this case, I just wrote code on my laptop. It's all I needed. But in most of these places, they have a very generic 'free' wireless setup, usually a Linksys or Dlink set wide open. In one case, along Melbourne beach, the AP serving our building was flaky, I asked the manager about it and he had made a little desk in his miniscule lobby to snag the WiFi from the office. He had ordered a new AP. Turned out he was pretty sharp and we had a good talk about WiFi and hotel rooms. He said, in his $75/night across from the beach hotel, about 1 in 10 people used it while they were there, and it was a 'deal breaker' for that 1 in 10. The rest did not care. He also said the ones that did were customers he really wanted: working upper middle class kind of people that didn't cause any trouble, paid bills, etc.. he said the big guys go T-Mobile/LodgeNet/.. because the local people don't have to know or do anything.

The business class places just figure you are expensing it all anyway..

Stone Cup Coffee. Known for good coffee, but also for plenty of outlets and a great WiFi connection. It's the preferred hangout locally for casual meetings. Coffee and food is a little pricey, but I'd rather pay them for the food, then T-Mobile for the overpriced flakey internet access.

Panera's pretty cool downtown, but I've heard the one by the mall (which is always packed) has made WiFi camping an issue. Knowing the people that were camping that were asked to leave... it could have been them (4+hrs, 1 cup of coffee, maybe just a water). They have wanted me to take a survey when I use their WiFi.. before you get more access. I think that is a great idea.

We've joked where I am working, that we'd be more productive converting the main room into a coffee shop atmosphere. We are all laptop workers.. using WiFi, Skype, Asterisk.. etc... work almost the same from anywhere. Coming together in meatspace for the interaction (Wednesday is Meeting Day) and because we actually like and respect each other.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-08-10 15:47:50.584933+00 by: ebradway

Like Mike, I also hit the mom & pops. I did the free night in a time share recently and the sales person was trying to justify how hotels cost so much during vacation that the timeshare costs less. However, we find rooms for around $30/night most of the time. Even at double that rate, it didn't match the annual maintenance fees on the timeshare.

The tricks with Mom & Pops are:

  1. Get off the interstate and go down the US highway. These places were built before the interstate system and only the big chains could afford to build at the big Exits.
  2. Ask to see the room first. They will ALL let you do this. It's SOP. If the room sucks, go down the road. If the rate sucks drive a little further.
  3. Amenities vary - you may not have a phone, you may not have full cable, you may not get wireless. But you might get all of it AND you'll get a decent bed and a shower that works. What else do you really need?

Frequently, you'll get a full kitchen too. For longer stays, that's better than wi-fi!

I've "camped" at coffee shops many times and always try to buy something every few hours. Stone Cup started charging for refills, I think, becuase people were paying $1.50 for a cup of coffee and hanging out all day. But other places, like Panera, don't care. They really aren't losing anything and laptop campers certainly smell better than the bums out front...

#Comment Re: made: 2006-08-10 15:53:14.0658+00 by: Dan Lyke

San Anselmo Coffee Roasters[Wiki] has free wifi and a "No Camping" sign. They use Surf and Sip.

I stopped in at a coffee shop in SF yesterday that advertised free WiFi, but it was weirdly slow. On the other hand I also fired up the laptop at the ferry building while waiting for my boat and got web surfing, but my mail download was glacial.

I don't know what the economics of WiFi in coffee shops are, but those two bucks worth of coffee are probably often money they wouldn't see at all without the WiFi. What sort of advertising budget per cup of coffee do they have? If there's not too much of a camping problem, $60/month is probably less than they pay the local weekly paper, and probably brings in more customers.

Telephone policies seem to become more and more ridiculous at higher end hotels, if you travel at all a cell phone is a necessity. But then last time I was traveling I learned to love lower end motels because I ended up in the pricey ones (although I guess there's no other option in New York), and frankly the cheaper ones may have been lacking in the chrome and black decor but had friendlier service and better sheets.