- Internet & the Web
Are Free Wifi Hotspots Killing Business?
All across America, businesses everywhere are offering the convenient service of free wifi. Wireless Internet access which used to be considered a luxury is now becoming a standard complimentary service offered with business. Many businesses posts "free wifi hotspot" signs all over their establishments proudly showing their customers that they are hip to this new trend. While other business owners catch up to this new standard of attracting customers, some business owners disagree. They are actually claiming that free wifi is hurting their business. Can free wifi hurt a business? As I think about it, this claim could hold water in some cases. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of offering free wifi at a business establishment.
What is wifi? Wifi or officially, "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance which promote wireless LAN. Wifi is the universal standard for wireless LAN or "Local Area Network." Wifi is often referred to as wireless Internet or a wireless network. A place where you can pick up wifi is called a "Wifi Hotspot." This wireless standard also have different performance classes. Wifi A, B, G, and N are the current classes. Wireless n being the latest while wifi g being the most popular. Each class has a performance cap. Wifi G being acceptable in most applications while wifi n being much faster and having more range. Most people know of wifi through their mobile devices. They turn on their netbooks, laptops, etc and connect to a wireless network. They are either automatically accepted or there is a key/password that must be input in order to connect.
When we go to a coffee shop, isn't it convenient that we can pull out our laptops and get some work done as we enjoy a nice cup of java? Why yes it is! Isn't it great? I wish every business have wifi. What a great way to attract customers. Not only do I enjoy a good cup of coffee but I also get perks for being a good patron? That's a sweet deal.
Some businesses don't see it that way. Some coffee shops complain that customers buy a single cup of coffee and use it as a ticket to stay and use wifi for hours. Across the country, shops are complaining that seats are getting filled and their income is dwindling because they can't seat any more people. This claim does hold water. If I was in the shoes of these business owners, I would be upset too. I would want my business to make as much money as possible. I am selling coffee, not wifi. Wifi is a luxury. It's an extra perk for my customers. I wouldn't want a bunch of free loaders clogging up my business.
Is that what it comes down to? Free loading wifi? Some people say,
"Yes." People are cheap. Instead of going home to do their
work, they stop by a wifi hotspot, set up an office, and stay for hours.
Is buying a cup of coffee a ticket to stay and leech wifi for hours?
When do we draw the line between enjoying a customer perk and loitering?
Coffee shops aren't the only places that offer free wifi. Popular fast food chain McDonald's is making a bold claim that nearly all their locations have wifi. I've personally went to a few of my local McDonald's in a clutch and their claims do not measure up. Is this false advertisement? Are companies using free wifi to draw in customer but don't deliver because it is a perk? To me this sounds like a scam. The old bait and switch. Bait the customers in with cool offers and pull on the string the moment the customer reaches the prize. One could say leeching wifi is wrong but is luring people into an establishment under false promises wrong too?
While some businesses cut off wifi to rid themselves of "loiterers",
it may still be a good idea to keep that router on. Some people, including
myself, believe that wireless hotspots are indeed what their name suggests.
Hotspots. People are attracted to these areas. People rely on their Internet access. Like it or not, free wifi has been adopted as a new
standard in the eyes of a consumer. Just like pagers and cell phones,
wifi is what consumers want and if a business won't supply it, there
is always another business down the street that will. Wifi has also
become somewhat of a "seal of approval." This wifi badge tells
a customer that this place of business is aware of the needs of a modern
consumer. If you don't offer free wifi, your business is just not with
There are exceptions to free wifi. I don't see a fancy restaurant offering free wifi just because of the environment. You must be sensitive to your consumer demographic. Do you want your customers to hang out? Hanging out at a business can create buzz and gives it value that is hard to measure. Hanging out can also increase loitering but that comes with the territory. It may not be wise to offer free wifi and then disconnect the service on your patrons. This might build resentment to your business. If my local mechanics shop offer free wifi, then that might say something if you disconnect the service on your customers.
Etiquettes Of Wifi
There is an unspoken rule when it comes to free wifi. Just like all things in life, nothing is free. Sometimes, it may be a good idea to adopt some etiquettes and manners. What I mean by manners is humbling yourself. Imagine yourself as the business owner. You need to make a living. So next time you are enjoying free wifi, take a minute to buy from the shop. It's up to you how much you want to spend but it does seem rude to buy a single cup of coffee while you set up an office for 3 hours of work. Another thing to consider is if people are waiting to be seated. If you are the only one in the shop, I can't see the harm in getting comfortable. After all, you are a customer until you leave the door. Just use your common sense. Showing some manners is a good idea if you are a frequent customer.
Is free wifi killing businesses? While it can hurt an establishment, I don't believe adding free wifi is the culprit. People need to realize that this global economy is still bad and blaming their losses on free wifi seems like a cop out. If anything, free wifi helps a business. It makes the area desirable and no matter how cheap some people can be, you can't really stay at a place too long without spending some money. I hope you enjoyed my article. Thanks for reading!