Something happens to a man when he puts on a necktie.

From Chris Pirillo:

When Starbucks introduced for-pay Wi-Fi in 2002, it seemed like a great deal. But five years later, the model appears old and stale and ready for a complete overhaul.

According to my friend Mike Elgan at, Starbucks will begin providing their customers with free Wi-Fi within the next year. This is an excellent development. I believe we shouldn’t have to pay for wireless access points, and I bet you don’t, either.

Who pays for the router (infrastructure) and ongoing connection (overhead)?

Delving into relevant specifics, how many people go into Starbucks looking for coffee, a sofa, and a wireless connection? How many people go in to Starbucks looking for a cup of coffee and a fast exit? Given that the cost of the initial investment and ongoing internet connection is not free¹, why should the latter subsidize the former?

If you want a service, pay for it. If you can find someone willing to provide it with the cost included in the primary product of the business, offer that establishment your business. But do not expect another group to pay for something it doesn’t value because you find the fringe benefit so neat-o that you refuse to pay for it.

For fun, change the subject from WiFi in coffee shops to any illegitimate product/service offered by the government, at full taxpayer expense, for a niche group of taxpayers (or non-taxpayers).

Title reference here.

¹ These will be minor on a per customer basis, and I’ll generously assume each Starbucks franchise would not reach its bandwidth capacity. That does not change the analysis. Also, include security to prevent customers from unintentionally (or intentionally) exposing Starbucks to civil and criminal liability.

2 thoughts on “Something happens to a man when he puts on a necktie.”

  1. I think that you are letting your dislike of this writers preference (believing that no one should pay for internet access) get in the way of what is actually going on.
    A private enterprise (i.e. not government) is going to provide free wi-fi because it thinks its a winning business model.
    My guess is that they are right. When people come into Starbucks they buy coffee. By reducing the barrier (the cost of the wi-fi) there are likely to be more people buying coffee.
    Chris is a moron for thinking he should get something for nothing, but there is nothing wrong with Starbuck’s approach.

  2. I don’t have a problem with Starbucks offering it, at a price or no price. I’ve used the free WiFi at Panera many times in the past, so I’m more than willing to accept it as part of a business model. But saying it should be free is too much. I don’t think Mr. Pirillo (or his commenters) intends for Starbucks to pass the admittedly minimal marginal cost to customers.

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