Cafe Witness

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Gift of Free Wireless

It's been awhile since I posted. This defeats the purpose of a blog, which means I need to get back on the ball. Consider this the re-mount.

I'm back at Crazy Mocha in the South Side Works, which I tend to work from at least 4 days a week. Why? Two words: free wireless.

Telerama provides wireless internet to dozens of hotspots around Pittsburgh, many of them coffee shops. The Crazy Mocha chain and The Beehive (who seem to use another provider) are the only cafes I know of that offer free wireless to their customers; everyone else requires you to be an existing Telerama user. While that's a perfectly sound choice, it seems to me to be a bad business move.

In the 4 days a week (at least) that I'm here, I spend a minimum of $3 per visit (not including tip). That's at least $50 a month, of which I'd presume $45+ is profit. I know that Telerama charges Crazy Mocha $100 a month to enable its customers to access the web for free, as opposed to the $60 or so it charges the hotspots that require a login. That means all it takes to cover the cost of free wireless for everyone are two of me every month.

As a regular, I've noticed dozens of other regulars using the net every time I'm here. I'm pretty sure we're all here for the same reason: free wireless. (Not that the baristas aren't rocking too; we're talking numbers.) Many of these regulars spend more than I do, frequently knocking back cheesecakes or deluxe drinks. If you forced each of them to register as Telerama users, you'd force Crazy Mocha to fight on the same level playing field as Coffee Tree Roasters, Kiva Han and, um, Starbucks (okay, so "level" is a matter of perspective), and then the question becomes: what sets Crazy Mocha apart from the rest of these cafes now that we've removed our defining edge?

Those other establishments are all wonderful, by the way, and each has something special to offer that the others don't. But given a level playing field, who wouldn't go to the closest cafe, rather than trekking several miles away (as I know many people here do) for the free wireless? (In that case, I'd be at Coffee Tree Roasters on Forbes for hours on end every day, which is a ten minute walk as opposed to a 12 minute drive -- thanks, planet.)

So yes, Crazy Mocha is a rocking joint with good coffee, good food, friendly people and a great ambience (and the comfy balcony area). I'm proud to call it my personal cafe.

But I'm also damn glad I can check MySpace all day long for free.


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