Starbucks Woos Customers with More than Just Siren Song

By June 04, 2008

The coffee mogul announced Tuesday it would stop charging its $5 fee for wireless internet (more than most beverages, though still less than half the cost of its priciest drink), offering it now, instead, for free. Starbuck

s has broken its deal with T-Mobile, fostering one with AT&T in its place.

The Java king must be scared of an overthrow. In January, it released a statement explaining it would be closing 100 of its more than 9,000 stores due to their relative underperformance. Buzz surrounding the mega-corporation has, in the past week, linked the coffee chain to other such bigwigs in danger of losing serious profit during the recession (e.g. Borders and J.C. Penny). So the customer-luring logic behind the giveaway is clear.

But buyers: beware. Like most things in life, this seemingly attractive offer has a catch…well, four.

Starbucks’ new offer stipulates that in order to benefit from this pro bono access, patrons must purchase a Starbucks Card with a $5 minimum charge on it, register online for the Starbucks Rewards Card Program, make use of this card at least once a month and only cruise the net for a continuous one-sitting two hours (after which the hosting expires).

That’s a lot of if, ands or buts for such a simple offer. By erasing the upfront fiver it used to charge, the Green Goblin effectively ensnares customers into spending as much as (and likely far more than) they did before--while now subscribing to the shop’s product online as well.

Intelligent marketing it may be, but free it is not.

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