In the past, finding free Wi-Fi away from home was difficult, if not impossible. However, most of the fast food restaurants and many other locations now make Wi-Fi available. If that is true, and it is, that should be the end of my article.
However, in a recent column by a local newspaper, there is a growing issue of quality of that Wi-Fi. I have found McDonalds’ connections consistently good. It has the AT&T name and their hotspots seem to be maintained.
I recently stopped at a Burger King, which had a sign advertising Free Wi-Fi. After I ordered my food and sat down, I could not find their hotspot. When I approached the employees, including the shift manager, my response was, “Oh, it doesn’t always work.” I guess this was one of those times.
While I was there, I noticed a man who was bringing in his laptop and a printer to use the Wi-Fi to send a report to his boss. He set up on the floor as there was not a table near the electrical outlet.
Once he was set up, he also approached the employees about getting on line, without any more help than I had received. I told him where the nearest McDonalds’ was located.
That brings me to my point. While many of these restaurants have Wi-Fi, the quality or the consistency of it working is not always reliable. To compound that, one of my friends pointed out that he recently stopped at a McDonalds, only to discover that his laptop battery was dead, and that particular location had no electrical outlets. The manager stated that they may be doing a remodel of the location and hopefully they will add some outlets.
Our computer user group has some meetings at a couple of local Denny’s Restaurants, which also advertise inside & out that they have free Wi-Fi. One of our special interest groups meets at one Denny’s every month and has been doing so for several years. For several months we could no longer use their Wi-Fi, if were available at all. The manager kept telling us that a third party took care of it and she reported it. A district manager from the franchise happened to be in the building the same night as one of our meetings. He promised it would get fixed. A few months later, when it was not, we contacted him again. He actually fired the 3rd party and hired someone else. We now have WiFi and he has happy customers, who were about to go elsewhere.
Merely offering free Wi-Fi to customers is not enough. Having it work consistently gets you repeat and happy customers. At a minimum, every shift manager should know how to reset a router, if they receive complaints. Certainly they should show the customer a concern and see that it get repaired by doing a follow up. It’s called training.
I also carry an extension cord and strip in my car, in case there is but one outlet and it needs to be shared, or it is not near an open table.
by Hewie Poplock, APCUG Director, Vice President, Central Florida Computer Society
Hewie (at) Hewie.net