August 08, 2004

WI-FI WANTS TO BE FREE: At least at my local Panera Bread (actually, I think it's now at all of 'em in the area). And it's totally open -- no login, no fee, just turn on your computer and surf. (And note the comfy chair.)

I spent this afternoon there working on a column -- and I also spent a fair amount of money.

They'll be getting a lot more of my business, and, I suspect, a lot of other people's as a result. I hope that more businesses will follow suit!

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I spent three nights in your fair city's Radisson this spring and I'm still bitter that they charged me for the WiFi. I will now make a point of spending slow afternoons in Panera and eating their tasty although pricey sandwiches. It's amazing every business doesn't understand this simple model.

Yeah. Of course, he could have walked a block from the Radisson and enjoyed the free wi-fi at the Downtown Grill & Brewery.

Meanwhile reader Martin Shoemaker emails:

I love Thai food. I like Panera's food. It's acceptable. On the road between my house and Ann Arbor (where I travel a lot), there's an interesting looking Thai place. A block away, there's a Panera place, the first near me to have WiFi. (Recently, they finished adding WiFi in all their stores in Michigan.)

I have spent somewhere over $200 at that Panera store this summer. I still haven't tried the Thai place. To me, this seems like the smartest move Panera could make.