Thoughts on travel ... the Internet

Recently, in the small town of Paihia in the Bay of Islands, we were surprised to see a large group of people mulling about outside the local library. I was thrilled to think that reading is still alive and well until I realised they were all playing with their mobile phones and tablets – utilising the Library’s free wifi service.

As it was lunchtime we located a nearby café and ordered lunch. Free wifi was advertised, with conditions, and when I asked I was told that it was available to customers who purchased food or coffee. I was then provided with two access numbers that could be used to log in to café’s provider, on two separate devices and we were really pleased to be able to check our emails for the first time in days.
What I didn’t realise is the effect the whole ‘free wifi’ experience is having on small businesses. Whilst we were there a young man came into the store and bought an icecream. He then apparently asked for free wifi and was told he would need to purchase a meal or coffee in order to take advantage of the offer. He apparently refused and was therefore declined.

I’m not one to make a scene in public so either I would have forked out the cash for a coffee or just left the shop. But not this guy. He argued with the staff who, to their credit, stuck to their guns, and then he went outside, sat down and started ranting to other customers about what had happened.
When I went back into the shop to buy some bottled water the staff were discussing the incident. They said this sort of thing happens frequently and that they wonder why they even bother to provide the service when the business has to pay for the wifi and they only ask that customers spend five dollars. And now the young man appeared to be even angrier. I watched, amused, as he got up out of his seat, knocked the chair over and stormed off.

The Internet is wonderful, but postcards are probably a lot less stressful…