The cost of free Wi-Fi

For this post, I am straying from my usual theme of “design.” After all, there are numerous factors that can make a hotel attractive or unattractive — the service it offers guests, the quality of its cuisine, and … its Wi-Fi!

Earlier this year one of my sons took a university course in New York City. Since our family enjoys experiencing different types of hotels, when we visited him we decided to try somewhere new — the Trump SoHo.

The Trump SoHo is a very nice hotel. It has a stunning lobby and a great pool terrace on the seventh floor, and its beautiful guestrooms are quite big — rather unusual for New York City. The bedroom furniture looked quite rich — some of it was from the brand Fendi.

So this was certainly not a cheap hostel type of accommodation. Indeed, we did not have to pay extra for the electricity, which we used, nor for the hot water — even the use of air conditioning was complimentary. But using Wi-Fi was another story — that cost extra!

Just opposite the entrance to Trump SoHo is a Starbucks café where the Wi-Fi is free — even if you don’t drink coffee! So my boys checked their emails using Starbucks’ Internet connection while I paid the equivalent of at least six coffees a day to have the privilege of using Wi-Fi in our luxury guestroom.

This didn’t really pose a financial problem. It was just annoying, because Wi-Fi is something everyone needs today, and we all know it costs a hotel operator practically nothing!

So despite my comfortable stay, my final impression was flawed simply because this luxury hotel found it necessary to charge its guests for the Wi-Fi that Starbucks gives away for free. It makes me wonder — what is the real cost to a hotel’s reputation when it charges guests for the use of Wi-Fi?