Hey Starbucks, Here’s Why This Writer Ain’t Around Much Anymore

by John Soares on January 22, 2014

Important Update: I Take It All Back…

Starbucks has delivered on its promise to provide much faster wifi through its partnership with Google. Basically, at the Starbucks I frequent in far northern California and the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, the connections are now quite fast, certainly on par with other coffee shops I hang out at, such as Noble Coffee and Rogue Valley Coffee Roasters in Ashland, Oregon.

This is how it was in early 2014, though…

I like Starbucks, but this freelance writer needs fast and reliable Internet. Thanks to Allison/Tea Escapades.

Thanks to Allison/Tea Escapades.

Your Wi-Fi connection sucks. Seriously.

I’m a freelance writer, and like many freelancers, and business travelers, and location-independent self-employed folks, I frequent coffee shops.

Why? Well, I do like coffee.

But I come primarily because I need to do some work on my laptop, or I’m meeting with a client. In both cases I need a reliable, reasonably fast Internet connection.

Here’s What I Like About Starbucks

Overall your coffee is reasonably tasty, and it’s consistent.

You have very friendly and attentive staff who seem to truly enjoy working for you.

You give your staff very good benefits, at least compared to similar companies in your industry.

You open very early, a huge plus for an early riser like me.

You often play quality music, music I like, but at a volume low enough that I can still pay attention to my work when I need to.

You have a zillion locations, which means you’re convenient and easy to find when I’m traveling.

All are good reasons why I’ve had a gold card since 2008, and why I owned your stock for a while.

And What I Don’t Like?

That slow Wi-Fi Internet connection that takes 30 seconds or more to load a basic web page, or it just doesn’t load it all.

I’m not talking about watching video online, or even listening to Pandora. I’m talking about checking e-mail. Or reading an article. Or doing research for a freelance writing project. Or looking at a client’s website. The most basic of the basic things one does online.

You are failing at that.

This may not be happening at all your stores, but it is definitely the case at the Starbucks I frequent in southern Oregon and far northern California, and I’m talking nearly a dozen or more locations. And it’s been that way since you first began offering Wi-Fi several years ago.

I know you have recently partnered with Google to speed things up, and maybe that will help alleviate the problem.

The Bottom Line, Starbucks…

If you want business people to conduct business at your coffee shops, you must have fast, reliable Internet.

Most of the independent coffee shops do have that, and  many also have good coffee and a cool atmosphere. And that’s why I’m almost always at those independents.

Your Take

Do you go to Starbucks? What’s been your experience trying to get your work done there? How does Starbucks compare to independent coffee shops and  small, local chains?

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    { 14 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Juli Monroe January 22, 2014 at 8:02 AM

    Twitter: @1to1Discovery

    WiFi in DC-area Starbucks can also be problematic. Most of the time, it’s fine, but not always. For me, a bigger problem is getting my tablets to authenticate. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

    To be sure I have WiFi when I need it, I bring my portable hotspot with me. It’s pay as you go, and I only pay for what I use, so it’s there as a backup, but it’s not costing me if I don’t use it.

    Not ideal. It’d be better to have store WiFi, but at least I know I won’t get stuck not being able to work.

    Reply

    2 John Soares January 22, 2014 at 8:31 AM

    Juli, I’ve considered getting my own portable hotspot, but I haven’t yet made the leap.

    Interestingly, I was in the Starbucks in downtown Ashland, Oregon a few months ago. The Wi-Fi wasn’t working well at all, and a guy there let me connect to his portable hotspot. It worked very well!
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    3 Lori January 22, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Twitter: @LoriWidmer

    It seems to be a location-specific problem. I have five Starbucks in my area. Two have a connection that’s insanely slow. One is lightning fast. The other is meh.

    Reply

    4 John Soares January 22, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I’ve found Starbucks to be quite slow across the region from Santa Cruz north to Ashland, Oregon. Occasionally one will have a decent connection, but it’s fairly rare.

    I wonder if they’ve made poor choices in choosing the companies to provide Internet service. They’re switching to Google now, so maybe that will help. The roll-out will take many more months.
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    5 Lori January 22, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    Twitter: @LoriWidmer

    Oh, and I’ve not tried the connection at the fifth one. Sorry. Hit reply a little too quickly (that’s what happens when the phone rings). :)
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    6 Terry Golesworthy January 22, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Twitter: @terrycrg

    I think the coffee shop/work space is a growing issue. I agree Starbucks speed is almost unusable. It is ok for picking up email in the background but webpages are too slow. I much prefer local independents with good wifi but feel guilty about buying a coffee and sitting there for an hour. What Starbucks do well, in some locations, is provide long tables that encourage laptop users to sit together and therefore not sit one to a table.

    I would be happy to pay for time at an independent coffee shop that included basic coffee and (refills), good wifi, low background music and a buzz of fellow workers.

    Reply

    7 John Soares January 22, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Terry, I’ve also seen the long tables at some Starbucks stores, including the one in Anderson, California and another I saw in Provo, Utah. I definitely like that concept.

    You bring up a good question about buying a cup of coffee and then sitting for an hour or more. I’m often one of those people. I try to be sensitive to how full a coffee shop is. If it’s crowded I won’t stay long, or I’ll take outside seating that’s less desirable.
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    8 Anne Wayman January 22, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Twitter: @annewayman

    I don’t really like Starbucks Coffee… much prefer some of the independents we have here in San Diego – Twiggs and Cafe Moto for example… good and great coffee, decent speed.

    Of course, I don’t write much in coffee shops… if I can’t work at home for some reason the National City Library has a zippy connection.
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    9 John Soares January 22, 2014 at 10:59 AM

    Anne, I also work a lot in libraries. I’m in one right now, and it has a decent connection.

    I also spend a lot of time in the independent coffee shops. Sometimes, though, Starbucks is either the only one available (like in small towns), or it’s the only one open at 5:30 a.m. (I’m an early riser!)
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    10 Allen Taylor January 23, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Twitter: @allen_taylor

    I’ve never been a big fan of Starbucks’ coffee. I prefer their cold products. Still, you are right. All businesses that offer free wi-fi for their clientele should put a premium on faster Internet service. A lot of people use such spaces as offices these – a move I am contemplating myself with some trepidation.
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    11 John Soares January 23, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Allen, I’m on the road a lot, either on working vacations or visiting friends and family, so I do wind up using coffee shops as office spaces.

    I do try to give back by buying coffee and food, and by being pleasant and telling others about the places I patronize.
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    12 Dave Briggs January 24, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    Don’t most people now just tether through their mobile phones? I actually even run my home internet connections through my phone!
    In the UK, if I wanted WiFi, I would choose a pub over Starbucks though… I would be the only one using the WiFi ;)
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    13 Kelly Banaski January 31, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Twitter: @writelikeamutha

    Agreed. I stopped going for the same reason. Also, they banned the use of electric cigarettes – a must when I’m writing.

    Reply

    14 Pinar Tarhan February 6, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    Twitter: @zoeyclark

    I like Starbucks in the early morning when it’s empty. But unfortunately it gets too crowded and too loud too quickly, and I don’t like it. The internet connection speed seems to depend from branch to branch.
    I have the same internet connection problem with another coffee house chain that I love. The connection starts fast enough but as the shop gets more crowded, it becomes a nightmare. I learned to adjust. I often do my online stuff earlier. This even inspired an article I sold to former Freelance Switch.:D
    And when it gets way too busy, I need a change of venue anyway…
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