Not free wifi

Why do businesses lie about ‘free’ wifi?

It happened again on Sunday. We went out for a quiet meal and at the entrance to the restaurant was a board proclaiming that they had ‘free wifi’. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘on the off chance I need to access my phone I will be able to do this easily’.

How wrong was I.

Now maybe it’s me. Maybe I am expecting just a little bit too much from these businesses. After all, we know there’s no such thing as a free lunch so why should we expect truly free wi-fi? Except for the fact that it’s already covered in the business overheads. So, much like we get ‘free carpets’, ‘free tables’ and ‘free toilets’ when we go out shouldn’t we expect to get ‘free wi-fi’?

What gets me more than anything is that far too many restaurants have been sold on the idea that by providing’free’ wi-fi they can gather an opt-in email database to which they can market all their special offers and events. As you might imagine, I have no problem with firms doing this but I do have a problem with being lied to in order to get my details in the first place.

If I had simply been asked for my email address and ‘we will keep you up to date with all our special offers and events’ then I may well have given it, but being forced to enter my email address to use the ‘free’ wi fi really riles me.

Quite apart from the fact that it’s not ‘free’ (I’m giving something in exchange which to me means a trade has occurred), I have a fundamental problem with the details I am being asked for. Once upon a time they wanted an email address so anything@anysite.com would do, but now a real email address is required to send a code before you can access the wifi. This particular restaurant however, wanted my first and last names, my gender, date of birth, mobile number and email address just to use their ‘free’ wi-fi.

Not a chance.

Let’s be clear here, your ‘free’ wi-fi is nothing of the sort. You are proposing an exchange and in this instance, I felt that the exchange was unfair so I declined. The problem was however that your bloody wi-fi then insisted on trying to force itself on my phone over everything else. Despite the fact that I have a perfectly good BT Openzone wi-fi service (for which I already pay) this particular restaurant’s wi-fi was like an insidious virus and kept blocking everything else and trying to force me to enter my details.

The problem lies with the public wifi provider who’s own website proudly boasts that their system gives you ‘full control over your customers’. This is unwarranted arrogant nonsense and deserves to be highlighted for the con that it is. The only thing it achieved on my visit was to wind me up to the point that I turned my phone off.

Ironically, the food, service and ambience were really good, yet because of this nonsense, I still walked away with a nasty taste in my mouth. I doubt I’ll be back anytime soon.

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