The Dilemma of the Internet at Starbucks Query

May 20, 2010 at 5:15 PM (Miscellaneous, Musings) (, , )

Relatively frequently, customers come into Starbucks and ask about Wi-Fi.  How do they connect?  Is it free?  The simple answer is yes.  Ish.  It depends.

Okay, perhaps simple, but definitely not clear.  And herein lies our problem, mused the baristi of a busy Starbucks on Boylston St.Starbucks logo siren Cue informative blog post, courtesy of yours, truly (or so I hope).

There are two methods of accessing the internet at Starbucks: for free* or not for free.  Easy decision, right?

But wait!  What’s that asterisk??  Note:

*Free with a registered Starbucks card.

This is where the confusion kicks in.  What’s a registered Starbucks card?  How do I get one?  Does that cost money?  Usually by this point in the conversation with our patrons, my ability to put together a coherent phrase goes out the window – along with any hope the customer has of figuring out how to get internet access.  However, now I have the chance to answer all those questions clearly, and for everyone to see.  Huzzah!

What’s a registered Starbucks card?Starbucks card You know those little gift cards you see in front of the register when you’re paying for your caramel macchiato?  It’s those guys.  After a couple easy steps, anyway.  A registered Starbucks card is a gift card that you have tied to an online account at

How do I get one? Pick whichever card you like most and hand it to your friendly barista.  You can buy a Starbucks card for as little as $5.00.  Afterward, use the unique information on the back of the card to register it online.  Once you have registered your Starbucks card, you can access the internet for two hours everyday.

Uhm, Brittany, you just told me I have to spend money on a gift card in order to use the interwebs.  What happened to it being free, you sleazy scam artist? This is where our customers get cranky and confused, too.  The $5.00 on the gift card you purchased does not fuel your time online. That $5.00 can go back toward your caramel macchiato.  Or a CD.  Or a bagel with cream cheese.  Or a French press made out of recycled material.

If you think this is just a rouse to get you to give Starbucks your money, I must ask you: is this going to be your one Starbucks visit ever?  I can almost guarantee that you’ll be in at a Starbucks again at some point in the not too ridiculously distant future, and that you will eventually spend $5.00 there.  Now you can do so and take advantage of our erratically functional wireless internet!  However, if you’re determined to never again set foot in the third place environment, you are of course welcome to purchase an AT&T Wi-Fi day pass.

And so our ambitious blogger attempted to explain the Wi-Fi access at Starbucks.  I hope it was useful.  Questions?  Comment!

Today’s Tunes
“Swallowed In the Sea,” Coldplay
“The Best Is Yet To Come,” Frank Sinatra
“This Ole House,” The Brian Setzer Orchestra
“Selfish Ways,” Timmy Curran



  1. Brittany Falconer said,

    I neglected to mention that once you register the Starbucks card, you need to create an AT&T Wi-Fi account:

    Thanks Jana!

  2. Jennifer said,

    There is also a new step in the equation that was added not too long ago. When Starbucks introduced the new “gold” card they also changed the rules. I believe that once you register your Starbucks card online, you must also use it five times in order to be considered “green status” and qualify for the perks this title implies–one being free internet. Yes, the card must be used five different times, that’s (five different payments), BEFORE you can use the free internet. So, for those customers who are seeking a quick fix for free internet, it gets even trickier. The only sort-of way around it is to make five different partial payments on the same card.

    Example: I had a customer who purchased the the Starbucks card and registered it immediately there in the cafe with the intent to use the internet right there and then. She was more than frustrated to find out that even after she purchased the card and registered it she could not use the free internet. So, for the next 5 transactions (next five people to order coffee) I used her registered card to pay for 10 cents of the transaction. So, those lucky five got a miniscule discount and then I gave the internet lady a free drink coupon (because now there was only $4.50 on her registered card). She was annoyed, but eventually got to use the free internet.

    Hope this helps…

    Hope all is well with you Brittany!!

    BTW, I think of you every time I have to write the name “Brittany” on a cup….and I NEVER spell it B-r-i-t-n-e-y…=)


    • Brittany Falconer said,

      Starbucks, thou art so sneaky! Thanks, Jen – I missed that entirely. I’m doing okay these days! Keep an eye on your Gmail inbox. =)

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