The deal announced in February comes to fruition: The Starbucks Card, their stored-value plastic, entitles you to two continuous hours of free Wi-Fi service each day for 30 days in all their company-owned freestanding stores starting Tuesday, June 3, so long as you either add value or make a purchase every 30 days. Cards may be purchased with an initial value of as little as $5. Details are on Starbucks' site.
This free Wi-Fi deal with AT&T taking over Starbucks' hotspot service was fully explained by Starbucks in February, but apparently many media outlets were unaware of the details, and have reported on it over the last week as if it were newly announced and posted on Starbucks site. What's new is that the deal snapped into action today. I wrote extensively about this in February, notably in an extended explanation on February 19, in which I also explained why I was wrong (and right) about Starbucks never offering service for free.
The Starbucks Card loyalty program also now includes free syrups and free milk choices, brewed coffee refills at no charge, and a free tall drink when you buy a pound of coffee, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
If you'd like a good laugh, read AT&T's terms of service for these free Wi-Fi users. Specifically, I like this phrase: "...connectivity shall be for the limited purposes of accessing electronic mail, operating a basic web browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, or downloading files via the 'ftp' protocol typically implemented in web browser programs."
So...it's okay to read email, browse Web pages, and download files but not, say, upload pictures, view videos, listen to audio, use VoIP, or run other Internet-connected software?
One clue to the sanity of this provision, which I hope when Starbucks is fully aware of they demand to be changed, is that it mentions Netscape Navigator as a Web browser. Netscape Navigator is officially dead. This reeks of lawyer-speak unconnected with a customer's reality.
Update: I was unable to get a login page at a Starbucks just a few minutes ago that would let me enter the card information. Back at my office, I discover I'm supposed to sign up for an online account and activate Wi-Fi usage. I try. It fails. In an ugly fashion: apparently my card was already activated (even though it's in my possession). Perhaps systems are overloaded? Ah, now I get "Service Unavailable" on Starbucks.com. Now it's back. Now AT&T (via sbc.com, gotta love nostalgia) is totally hosed--the server is stalling.
Later in the day: Starbucks called to let me know the site's been fixed. I was able to register without a hitch.