'Star-squatting' at Starbucks?

Is the new free Wi-Fi at Starbucks making open tables an endangered species?

By Kim Peterson Sep 3, 2010 2:55PM

Credit: (© Michael Conroy/AP)
Caption: Customer in a Starbucks storeInvestor Paul Kedrosky uses a term I like: Star-squatters, also known as people-who-sit-at-Starbucks-forever-using-free-Wi-Fi.

"Local Starbucks full of Star-squatters ever since launch of free Wi-fi," Kedrosky wrote on Twitter. "Zero tables/seats. Ever."

The Starbucks (SBUX) near my house is starting to fill up as well, with plenty of open laptops. Sometimes, there isn't even a drink at the table. It makes me wonder: How will Starbucks' free Wi-Fi policy affect its bottom line?

Surely, Starbucks has researched the heck out of this, and must have some degree of confidence that free Wi-Fi helps sales -- or at least doesn't hurt them much. And the company has grand plans for advertising to its Wi-Fi users, which should add some revenue down the road. The company is developing a content network for Wi-Fi customers and plans to sell advertising space there.

We don't have any official sales numbers yet, since Starbucks only launched its free Wi-Fi network July 1. But some on the Starbucks Gossip site -- a page mostly for company workers to chat informally -- say they can see a change. Post continues after video:

"Stopped in the Starbucks beach side in Cocoa Beach Florida last week and every table had at least one laptop and the folks looked like they had been there for a while," wrote one user.

"Anyone else seeing losers en masse showing up to just use the Internet for hours at a time and not buying anything?" asked another.


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