Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Wi-Fi

It’s 2013. If you have a place where people gather, you should offer free Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi should have a strong signal that can handle numerous users. At sports arenas and convention centers, the W-Fi should be able to accommodate thousands of users. It should not have a lengthy “terms of service” contract to which users must agree (as if we have taken the time to read it).

With some wireless providers charging for data use above a certain amount, free, easily accessible Wi-Fi is a vital resource for many subscribers. With small merchants using Square to process payments at their convention vendor booths, access to Wi-Fi equals access to dollars. With online social networking continuing to grow, good Wi-Fi facilitates check-ins and photo sharing that can promote your business and/or event.

For organizations concerned that free Wi-Fi will encourage people to linger for hours over their connected laptops, tablets and smartphones, let me remind you that lingering is not a new thing. I hung out for hours over coffee at the Dobbs House and the Supe Store in Tuscaloosa (AL) during my college days, which preceded the internet/mobile era by decades.

For merchants concerned about “showrooming,” where shoppers compare the Amazon (or other online seller) price with the store price, let me remind you that comparison-shopping is not a new thing. As one who has walked from one end of a mall to the other to compare the Penney’s versus Sears prices on a kitchen appliance, I can assure you that price-conscious shoppers will shop around with or without your free Wi-Fi.

I recall hearing a radio spot several years ago for a funeral home that offered free Wi-Fi. I wondered at the time why Wi-Fi was a selling point for a funeral home. That was before I got my first smartphone. Now I know why.

People want to stay connected. They want to monitor and post to social networks. They want to settle arguments about football players or movie stars by looking up info online. They want to open email attachments while shopping. They want to watch Youtube videos between convention sessions.

Don’t be the place that turns people off by having spotty or non-existent Wi-Fi. Remember that connectivity is, as Martha Stewart might say, a good thing!




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