Starbucks Nespot No Movement? Help!

UPDATE (Friday, 20 February, 2009): Starbucks called me the day after I posted this, and it looks like the problem may have been fixed since I last tried. (Or partially fixed, with more fixing to come?) Read the followup-post here.

ORIGINAL POST: I personally find it annoying that Starbucks Korea offers (with partner NESPOT) free wifi in all its branches throughout Korea… but only to Korean citizens. I find it even more ridiculous because when they launched it, it was advertised in English, all proudly and happily, until it was discovered that foreigners couldn’t register with their alien registration numbers for this service. I find this even more infurtiating because it’s a foreign company, and because every time I’ve tried to connect and complained about it still being impossible, the coffee shop people get that awkward, embarrassed grin and say, “Yes, foreigners can’t [connect]” but nobody ever, ever bothers to call Head Office and say, “Uh, this is probably easy to fix, and a lot of foreign customers are asking about it, so could you please?” Let alone the thought of, “Hey, maybe we’ll lose business if we don’t fix this.”

Which is the choke point, folks. If you want free wifi in Starbucks, why not demand it? Now, the Starbucks Korea site, like any other Korean website, has a message board for customer service, but I don’t see anywhere to send emails directly there. Not so the main International Starbucks webpage. If you want to join in on calling for someone to update the software so everyone can use free wifi in Starbucks, this is the page you want to go to. I’d encourage anyone who’s been annoyed about this even once to shoot off a quick message, and see whether we can get this idiotic policy changed.

By the way, if you’re curious about what I wrote in my complaint message, I’ll paste it into the extended post, but please don’t copy and paste it into your complaint. Just write your own. It’s worth pointing out, though, that this is:

  • common practice in Korea, but still embarrassing and silly, and absolutely unacceptable in a foreign company
  • absolutely unnecessary, as a small software change would allow alien registration numbers to work in the system
  • a good way to lose business from foreigners and anyone who’s going for coffee with foreigners

As for my own complaint mail…

This is the text of what I wrote:

Starbucks Korea offers free wireless internet, and even advertised it in English to foreign customers before launching it. The problem is that their partner, NESPOT, requires registration to use the system. This means users must use their National ID Number, something foreigners don’t have. (Actually, foreigners have an Alien Registration Number, which is (legally AND technically) swappable if the programmers bother to update their out-of-date software to allow it. But in Korea it’s routine for lazy programmers not to bother, excluding non-Koreans from their sites and services. While this is routine in Korea, in a foreign company it’s execrable and you’re losing my business, and that of my friends, to competitors that offer free unregistered wifi at the moment.

Worse, every staff member I’ve complained to has said, “Oh, yes, foreigners can’t…” as if the idea of notifying someone was beyond their imagination. (Which the Koreans with me took them to task for, pointing out it’s a discriminatory setup, but nobody has done anything.)

It’s easily addressed, if the inertia can be overcome. One strategy is to point out it’s shamefully backwards and that foreigners will start blogging it mockingly — this usually gets *something* done at Korean head offices.

I hope you’ll pressure Starbucks Korea to change this policy. It’s one thing to be discriminated against by Korean companies, quite another when it’s companies from back home.


That word “discriminatory” is Lime’s, by the way, not mine. She pointed that out, and I couldn’t disagree. The fact it results from laziness or bad coding or whatever is one thing: the fact it has gone unaddressed although shop staff are aware of it — meaning its a zero-priority issue, where if the connection went down completely, for everyone, it would be a higher priority — makes it discriminatory. Not the top battle I’d fight in that area, mind you… definitely not most important battle to be fought. But then, this may not take more than a few emails, so maybe it’s less a battle than an adjustment.

8 thoughts on “Starbucks Nespot No Movement? Help!

  1. I never use a computer at Starbucks, nor do I even know how to use wifi . . . anywhere. But I may fill out the form, just because it’s irritating to not be able to use the ARC number for many things.

    Just wanted to mention, might it be a good idea to say how this problem could be solved? Presumably Korean programmers might know how to fix it, but do you think Starbucks folks know how things work in SKorea?

  2. I’m with you on this. It’s not the number that doesn’t work because they advertise that foreigners CAN use wifi if they have ARC. It’s the same problem that (EMART?Homeplus?) had on their website: Foreigners names are too long for the box! I asked a guy in Starbucks COEX to get the manager/call head office so I could speak to them about it. He said “OK Wait!” and ran off. 30 mins later he hadn’t come back…. poor guy I think i scared him away.

  3. Brian,

    Well, if Starbucks contacts me I’ll tell them. (Unlikely, I know.) Or maybe in my next complaint message, in a week or two, when it’s still not fixed.

    I’m not even crazy about Starbucks, but sometimes it’s the only option and I don’t see why I should have to go without wifi when it is.


    I’m pretty sure they advertised it for foreigners, but never bothered to test it. Maybe the name is too long, or maybe it’s that the system just isn’t set up to accept AR numbers. It wasn’t even made legal to accept ARs until a few years ago for anything online, but inertia means most programmers just haven’t bothered to implement the updated software.

    Until I hear that a non-Korean has successfully gotten onto the wifi with his or her own AR#, I’d guess the system rejecting the numbers is the culprit. (And it seems, from the reaction we got at the Shindorim location, that many a non-Korean has tried.)

    EFL Geek,

    Being new to twitter, I don’t know how to actually send a twitter. Do I need to follow the twitter feed in order to message it?

  4. Gord,
    no need to follow to send – I don’t follow starbucks (used to though).

    Free wifi is available at Tom n Toms, Caribou Coffee, Seven Monkeys, and Pascucci (though pascucci coffee tastes like monkey piss). I prefer Tom n Toms because refills are only 1,000 and they have a coffee card.

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