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How Much For That Laptop? Wi-Fi Tactics at St. Johns

September 15th, 2008 · Tags:Cities · Coffee Shops · Restaurant

The next day, I fired up the Wi-Fi Ford 250 Diesel, 4-wheel-drive, King Ranch edition and rolled toward Jacksonville for some urban trucking. But first, I ran across what must be the shopping mecca of north Florida, St. Johns Town Center. As I like to say, there was more Wi-Fi than you could shake a stick at among the best-know retail brands.

Naturally, I hit the area at lunch time. I heard Panera’s Asiago beef and Wi-Fi calling my name. I parked the truck in 2-3 parking spaces and sat up shop inside. I think all Panera’s are designed differently. This one had sort of a nerd nook back in one corner … only it wasn’t a corner. It was a triangular tip of a room with several seats, just right for laptop types. Talk about wireless mobility, the chairs even had wheels. I suppose if the computer nerds perched for too long … you could just roll them out of the way for the normal customers. Ah … but Panera’s had a better plan. After 30 minutes of clear sailing on-line, the Wi-Fi network kicked me off, and I then I saw a polite little message to make room for others. Not a bad idea … share the Wi-Fi and don’t abuse the hospitality. I get that. However, a little advanced noticed might be appropriate. Like, “ahem … it is time to finish your juice and move on … in five minutes.” I mean! I would have been irate if I were posting a blog, using the Word Press console on-line when I was booted. I was lucky this time and didn’t lose any work.

Otherwise, the Wi-Fi was trouble fee … like it is in all Panera’s … free … only a splash page to contend with. Oh … and this Panera’s was also sharing some love with lots of electrical outlets.

Panera’s at St. Johns gets 4 pings – good Wi-Fi and cool chairs … crowded, but plenty to go around. No need to be booting, at least not on that day.

I fired up the diesel, if for no other reason than to move it and see if I could master parallel parking at the other end of the retail complex. Success, and no BMWs lost their paint jobs. Oh … and I saw an Apple Store as I whizzed by. Time for a walking test. Wait … where did the Apple Store go? Ha … I walked right by it. As they say on the farm, “if it had been a snake, it would have bitten me.” iPhone in hand, I new I was close because I located the wireless network. Ha … the Apple logo was on the top of the high store front. I should have looked up, or done a little more window gazing. Yet another example of finding a store using the Wi-Fi signal. Quickly, I asked permission to snap a couple of photos and to use the Wi-Fi connection. No prob – even though I fired up a Hewlett-Packard. No one seemed to notice, until one sales associate approached me and tried to buy the thing. I kid you not. He assumed I was looking to buy one of the uber cool Macs. Which would potentially put my HP “up on the block.” The salesman literally asked me how much I wanted for the HP, because he said he couldn’t afford an Apple. Dude, I am so no giving up your name in the blog. I think management would find fault in your customer service strategy.

Well long story, but I feel better now. I fired up the HP and it had no qualms about using the free Internet in the Apple Store. Other than the laptop proposition, everyone left me alone. Strong signal, of course, sense after all I was at ground zero.

By the way. I went to a grand opening of the Apple Store in Fort Worth about 3 weeks earlier. I think it is a strange tactic they use. I was greeted and greeted again by hosts or hostesses in one color-coded shirt …. Who basically could greet me, and that’s it. My simple questions had to be relayed to another colored shirt. And if I really wanted help with my iPhone software issue, that would require yet another colored-shirt to become involved – IF I wanted to make an appointment. What the heck, I did. A few days passed and by the time it was my turn to come back in and talk to the most-supreme colored guru shirt, I had already fixed the problem. (I new software download had knocked out my blue-tooth earpiece’s ability to sync with the iPhone.) Interesting. The day came for my guru or Yoda session or whatever, and I never received an e-mail or anything. Surprised, I was.


“It don’t matter what yo got in yo pocket” or your laptop bag – Apple Stores are like cool on steroids. Excellent Wi-Fi. Lots of people. And did you get a load of all those toys? Oh what I wouldn’t do to enhance my t-shirt collection …. Wouldn’t mind test driving one of those swank, featherweight notebooks, either – 6 pings. And an interesting story on salesmanship.

In my haste to check out Apple, I almost overlooked a couple of other hotpsots. There was a something 13 network … which I at first wrongly assumed was a clever name for the Wi-Fi at the Lucky Brands store. It wasn’t. It was some sunglasses retailer, and it was locked down. No score for the non-lucky 13.

Then I noticed another network, cleverly called Free Wi-Fi. We all know that is a telltale warning there may be a scammer in the area, hoping to get the unsuspecting to go on that network and donate their money to a sub-Saharan royal family or whatever. So I asked Mr. helpful Apple guy about it. He was a good source. It seems the shopping center itself has covered the place with Wi-Fi access. I’ll bite. I jumped on fairly quickly and was introduced to the center via a splash page. It advertised several players and captured some basic marketing data – nothing too intrusive. Smart … very smart. I glided on past the suggested retailers, on line, and checked my site. It was business as usual at pingmart and the site loaded quickly. I sent a couple of e-mails and prepared to power down. But, first, Simon Malls hotspot asked me to log off and they captured some additional info. So, they subtly recorded what I was interested in, who I was, and how long I was online. Pretty crafty. I like it so much, I almost did some online shopping, from inside the store.

No wonder they do Wi-Fi right. Simon Malls has at least 38 malls with Apple locations, see

Two high scores in a row. Double sixes. (Wished I had been rolling dice in backgammon.) The Simon Malls Wi-Fi service was excellent and smart. I have no problem giving information to a Wi-Fi supporter, when it proves to be intelligent life.

Know what I sayin?