Nobody seems to doubt the usefulness of Wi-Fi for the modern mobile worker – though some suggest portable may be a better phrase than mobile.
But semantics aside the one question few appear to be raising relates to the locations companies are choosing. Trains and planes make perfect sense, for obvious reasons, but some businesses appear to be undermining their very business models by jumping on the Wi-Fi bandwagon.
Take McDonald’s for example. The chain of fast food outlets has been trialling Wi-Fi access schemes in its restaurants for a while now and is set to make the trials permanent.
The very ethos of McDonalds was ‘get ’em in, get ’em fed and get ’em out’. The idea that some procrastinating fast-food lover might hang around and make their Big Mac meal last all day would have Ray Kroc turning in his grave.
This is a man who told his own resting staff: “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” He did not understand ‘hanging around’.
So why would McDonalds now start encouraging people to get their laptops out and start working rather than eat up and get moving? Some may say progress, but surely it represents the epitome of throwing a spanner in the works. McDonalds got rich on hamburgers not on time spent idle.
The same is true of coffee shops such as Starbucks.
If you think it’s frustrating that the cast of Friends monopolise the best seats in the house despite apparently making minimal trips to the counter, you wait until every seat in Starbucks is taken up by somebody surfing their VPN while making an ultra-skinny cappuccino last for several hours.
With T-Mobile benefiting most from the Starbucks access points the coffee chain may start to rue the day potential paying customers started to be turned away by the lack of seating.
Earlier this month David Levin, CEO of Symbian, said: “Some of the businesses are taking punts, and some of them are taking bad punts. If you are running a coffee house do your really want somebody dawdling on their email over two cups of coffee?”
It’s a question other businesses may think about before jumping on the latest fashionable bandwagon. At the moment businesses are being driven in their decision to go wireless by demand among consumers, but are they damaging their businesses by being so easily led?
As Ray Kroc himself said: “The definition of salesmanship is the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way.”
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