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March 31, 2012


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I've seen them entering the Dutch market a couple of years ago, and I've been surprised by the difficulties they faced in getting their act together. Service at the first licensed stores was appalling, they would not even brew coffee at slow hours but just advise you to take americano. After long waits the baristas did frequently serve me the wrong drink, while all the time chatting with it each other and even laughing at colleagues taking client requests serious (I've timed them at serving one client per minute with four baristas on duty). Later on it marginally improved, but still you get the strangest reactions from baristas (Iced coffee? No sir, we don't do that. Or: Short coffee? No sir, that size doesn't exist). These licensed stores are often very dirty with empty cups left on all tables. Only very recently did Starbucks decide to open up company stores, including the famous Amsterdam concept store. Not sure where that will bring us.

Jonathan Marks

It's true...Starbucks came late to the Netherlands. The first store opened in 2007 inside Schiphol Airport, expanding to 5 premises in the airport premises. The next step was to expand to locations at train stations. Three popped up in Amsterdam, one each in Leiden, Den Haag, Utrecht, and Groningen. Late last year Starbucks arrived at Hilversum station, billed as Holland's Media city although we're still waiting to find out the long-term ambitions of the city council.

Time to try out a Chai Tea Latte. And a muffin. And the WiFi. Ah, no. "You can't have a WiFi code because we don't have WiFi! " says the Starbucks server with a smile. Why not? Because the building is owned by Dutch railways (NS) and they have done an exclusive deal with KPN Hotspots who charge ordinary customers 1.15 Euros for 15 minutes of connection time.

What most people don't know is that if you have an Internet account with providers like XS4ALL or KPN, access to 1000 of these WiFi hotspots in the Netherlands is actually free. I know because I found the text buried on the third page of the KPN Hotspots website. That would apply to me. Except that there's no WiFi signal in the Hilversum Starbucks that my iPad can detect. It's WiFi- free rather than free WiFi. Oh, well. When will it change? The store manager says he hopes the contract will be changed by the end of 2012. Until then, the KPN Hotspot seems to be at the snack bar round the corner in the station foyer. Believe me, you don't want to get out an iPad anywhere there.

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