Friday, March 19, 2010

Starbucks Offers Wi-Fi Just for Registering a Card

I somehow missed a significant change in Starbucks revised rewards program launched last December: In the initial announcements from Starbucks about a reworking of its discount card (eliminated) and rewards attached to its stored-value Starbucks Card (revamped into tiers), I reported on 3 November 2009 that new card users would have to make five purchases to reach a new "Green" level, and be able to use two continuous hours of Wi-Fi each day at no cost, along with a bunch of free beverage add-ons. I also wrote that Wi-Fi access was enabled only for 30 days following the use of card. Neither turned out to be true in the program that launched.

But when I checked a couple of days ago for a forthcoming article in The Seattle Times, I found different verbiage--in fact, two different sets. On the main rewards page, Starbucks said the deal was as above; on the FAQ, the Wi-Fi deal was much simpler. After a couple of days of finding the right person at Starbucks, I've got the answer: the program changed, and they didn't make a fuss about it.

The deal as it stands requires just obtaining a Starbucks Card and making a single purchase or adding $5 to the card's balance, which qualifies you for the "Welcome" level. You must then register the card, and sign up for an AT&T account. After that, Wi-Fi is free for two successive hours a day. No further purchases are needed. The Web site is being fixed (you're welcome).

That's much closer to free than Starbucks has offered before, and a big turnaround from what it was promoting in its FAQ in November.

It's nearly free, even.

A huge swath of AT&T customers as well as Qwest DSL customers get access to Starbucks all day, every day, at no additional cost.

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