Friday, July 18, 2008

Lost in the AT&T desert at Starbucks...

I don't like blog rants against companies. Each person's experience with a company is uniquely theirs...potential readers have had their own encounters with businesses, both positive or negative. Ranting doesn't solve the problem because this is just a personal blog not one of influence or a large readership.

And yet...and yet...I must write because I can't get past the experience. Because I am stuck here in the Internet netherworld at Starbucks. I am stuck in limbo.

As you might have heard, Starbucks is now offering free wi-fi in its stores. Or at least that is the hook that gets people who used to come more often to Starbucks to come back. Free wi-fi is great, as soon as my computer booted up, I was instantly connected to the AT&T network. recognized me and that I was logged on. Unfortunately, AT&T didn't recognize me by any username or password combination that I have ever used online. Yes, I was online via free wi-fi but I was trapped in the desert of an AT&T log in page, a bitterly harsh, empty plane of existence with nary an oasis in site.

I tried, Lord, I tried and tried every way I could to get online for over an hour and a half. I tried going through the but, as I mentioned, the website said I was already online. My username was "already in use". Well, that is partially true I was logged on but I was stuck in an online purgatory.

I tried recreating my account. Starbucks wouldn't let me use any username I tried (I can't have created multiple accounts, could I?) and when I tried to create a new account under the username "Starbuckssucks", they accepted the name but wouldn't let me register with my Starbucks card because it was registered to my original account. You can't have a card registered to two different users.

Why didn't I talk to a barista about the problem? Well, the one time I tried to do that on a previous futile effort to use the free wi-fi, the person at the cash register said, "Really, we have free wireless here? I didn't know that. When did that start?"

So, let's try the AT&T log in page, there MUST be some link there to help the poor user. But, alas, no. Clicking on "Forget your password?" or "Manage account" just leads to an empty error page. And when I tried to find a link to contact the company, I got a T-Mobile page (say what?!) offering a list of phone numbers that I where I could call the company. This is crazy! Like I, a free wi-fi user, would try to navigate through the voicemail wilderness of AT&T in order to fix a problem with the Starbucks/AT&T recognition system. That would involve more hours of my life and I doubt they would even be any help at all. How can a Starbucks customer using free wi-fi have any influence over a corporate giant that has the iPhone to worry about?

The funny thing is is that I'm a devoted Starbucks customer and have been since the late 1980s when I first visited a store in Oregon. I defended their predatory business practices and argued for the quality of their coffee over similar coffeehouses. But once they raised my expectations and I came into the store with my computer, ready to get some work done, it was maddening to spend all of this time trying one way or another to get online and end up accomplishing nothing.

So, because Starbucks promised the customer (me) something which it could not deliver, they turned an embarrassingly loyal customer into one that wants to go just about anywhere else for coffee.

I should mention that in 6 or 7 attempts, I was once (1 time) able to get on to the AT&T wireless network. Once, and never ever again. And here ends my tirade against a company offering a service which is not really available and, what is worse, having no back-up plan (trained baristas? some help on the AT&T page? troubleshooting information?) to help when things go wrong.

P.S. Posted after I got home and went online thanks to another corporate giant, Cablevision


frank said...

I completely agree with you!

Free wi-fi is supposed to work automatically, or with a password...I've never experienced such a complicated sign on procedure...and, with no results.

I've gotten onto their wifi several times, but onlythrough some act of god series of superstitious events which included hand gestures and whispers to myself.

It's not only you, but I hope they fix it soon.

Fuji said...

I have the same problem as does another friend of mine. This account is already in use. My computer had to restart after auto updates and I think the router does not allow that. I will try again tomorrow with a clean slate. I agree that it is crazy confusing and difficult. Just a real shitty system.

Michael R said...

I have the same experience as you. Card or account is already in use error. I believe you must have a separate death star account to get the free wifi but have not been able to figure out how to get one that will link to my existing Starbucks card.