Right, so after my message the other day to Starbucks Seattle, I got a very courteous, polite, apologetic, and professional call this afternoon from someone at Starbucks Korea, who works in marketing and who gave me the lowdown on this story, after getting a call from Seattle sometime today.
She told me that the Alien Registration Numbers weren’t usable for Starbucks wifi access at first, but that this was fixed in early February. (I think she said the 6th, but I’m not 100% sure of it.) She said that it should be working now. I told her that it had been suggested to me (on Facebook, thanks Sarah) that the name-length problem might have been part of the culprit more recently.
(That is, that often on Korean websites, the field where names can be entered is relatively short, but that on Alien Registration IDs, the full name is used, which means you’re looking at 30+ characters for someone with a long name, like my middle name, Alexander.)
She said she was going to look into it, and told me that if I had any problems, I could call her back. So I guess sometime in the next couple of days, I’m going to test it out and see if it works. Also, I’m assuming the field is going to require the name to appear as on the Alien Reg card — ie. surname first, all caps. If this isn’t clearly indicated, I’ll give her a buzz to let her know this should be clearly indicated on the website somehow. (I don’t remember it being indicated.)
In any case, I was very impressed. Also, another interesting thing she said was that this free service is not provided by Nespot, but by Google. I wonder how Google feels about the fact that to access a free Google service, internet users in Korea are being asked to enter their national ID #s. Given the connection between this and anti-free-speech movements like the whole Minerva case, one wonders… but then, Google was happy to accommodate the government of China, so I don’t expect they’ll think much either way about this.
But over all, as I say, I was impressed. Through its employees’ efforts, the company surely gave me the impression they give a damn about what customers think, and understand this affects whether they’ll get repeat business or get scooped by the competition. And while maybe this is normal in some places, that idea hasn’t penetrated as deeply in Korean consumer culture, so it’s quite refreshing.
Readers! Go forth and test this out! And remember, you probably need to put your surname first, and write it all in capital letters. Let me know whether it works for you! (I’ll bring my [new] iPod Touch and give it a try, if I have time on the way to my gathering this evening (in the course of which a few clever souls in hairy white bodies will drink beer and natter away the hours, though given the cold I feel coming on, maybe it will only be a few hours…).