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The Power of Free WiFi
Ed Kohler

I need to get a little work done while out on the town today, so I headed down one of St. Paul, Minnesota's shopping districts, Grand Avenue, in search of a coffee shop with WiFi access. Finding a coffee shop in St. Paul that doesn't have WiFi would be tougher than finding one that does, but not all coffee shop WiFi is the same.

Here is a picture of a Starbucks on Grand Avenue:

Starbucks Coffee on Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN

This picture was taken and uploaded by me from a Caribou Coffee across the street. Caribou Coffee has free WiFi - Starbucks does not. My money was spent at Caribou.

I wonder if I could reach Caribou's WiFi signal from the Starbucks across street?


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1. Posted by: PXLated on March 3, 2007 5:39 PM:

I avoid Starbucks at all cost. Caribou and Dunn Brothers are both free and if I can't find one of those I'll go for a Panera Bread.
Yours is a timely post...the New York Times just posted that WiFi should be free just like air conditioning...

2. Posted by: Justin on March 3, 2007 6:50 PM:

Another vote for Panera here. I always find plenty of space at Panera and they have a decent selection of food and drink to keep me satisfied while working away on their wifi. Starbucks really missed the boat on this one.

3. Posted by: Graeme Thickins on March 4, 2007 7:10 AM:

Yeah, Caribous are nice, but noisy. Do they buy their machines based on how much friggin' noise they generate? The Dunn's on Prairie Center Drive across from Eden Prairie Center is a great place...nice and quiet, plus more and better seating than I've seen in any Caribou (or Starbucks).

4. Posted by: CRC on March 4, 2007 10:16 AM:

Caribou goes out of the box to provide service. At a newly opened store in Bloomington this winter I was told that their WiFi was not in place as yet but if I sat in a certain window I could hook into Brueggers across the street.

5. Posted by: Dave Leigh on March 4, 2007 11:43 AM:

Learn to like Caribou. They went out of their way to make your day easier; they deserve your business. Kudos or spending your money there!

6. Posted by: Ed Kohler on March 4, 2007 4:05 PM:

Agreed on the Panera scene. I've written about them here.

Dave, I'm pretty indifferent on the difference in coffee between the two. I'm generally more likely to hit a local spot than a chain.

7. Posted by: PXLated on March 4, 2007 10:35 PM:

Just to add to the conversation, one of the worst experiences I've had with free WiFi was Buffalo Wild Wings. It seemed to insert an annoying Wild Wings ad page (landing page) every 10 minutes or so.

8. Posted by: Ed Kohler on March 4, 2007 10:42 PM:

That's interesting about Buffalo Wild Wings. Wings and WiFi don't mix all that well unless you have some sort of non-stick keyboard. Throw an ad interruption into the mix, and I'm even more turned off thinking about surfing from their locations. That seems a little over the top considering that you'll already be getting plenty of marketing messages from waiters, table tents, signs all over the place, menus, etc.

9. Posted by: Paul Jenni on March 5, 2007 8:53 AM:

The funny thing is that Caribou offered free wireless because they were getting wasted by their other competition, namely Panera. I talked with one Caribou rep who said that since Panera had started offering free wi-fi their store visits (especially among the laptop crew) plummetted. Now they offer it free. It's a good thing too.

Down with Starbucks! Friggin watered-down slew...

10. Posted by: Cariann on March 5, 2007 4:13 PM:

Look, I know that this is a little off topic... but I just read this article:
That talks about the most admired companies in the US... and Caribou is no where to be found. Just and FYI

11. Posted by: Jon Washington on March 6, 2007 11:41 AM:

I'm still boycotting Caribou due to the fact that it's still nearly 90% owned by the First Islamic Investment Bank of Baharain, and after Caribou was boycotted a few years ago, one of the pre-eminent world supporters of terrorism stepped down as a director of that bank. So I'm not 100% convinced that some Caribou profits are not going to terrorist groups - our nation's enemies. In other words, do you really want to go to Caribou for free Wi-Fi when you know that you may be supporting your own destruction?

12. Posted by: Bradey Davis on March 7, 2007 7:18 AM:

Another vote for Caribou here. I'll go anywhere but starbucks. I love Starbucks coffee, but not the high priced WIFI.

13. Posted by: Peter on April 29, 2007 10:06 AM:

I must say that I love going to Panera Bread. You have to be careful because a few of the spots in the store are dead. I think Buffalo Wireless needs to take a look at their antenna positioning. Right now though, I am headed to Bruegger's Bagels to eat a heavy breakfast and get my presentation done for Thursday. Starbucks really disappoints me. I understand that they make a TON of money from T-Mobile, but I know they would make a ton more money with all of my Iced Quad Venti Nonfat Extra Caramel Caramel Macchiatos they are missing out on. Do you guys have any good local establishments you frequent for free wi-fi?

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