A pre-wedding Internet story

I’m in Lawrenceburg (by God) Tennessee, talkin’ at ya (local lingo) from the swank Best Western hotel. Alicia and I are getting married tomorrow afternoon, so we’re in town doing the last minute things. It’s amazing how such a simple thing as a wedding can be so complicated, but that’s not why I’m writing this morning. I’ve a travel story to tell that will amuse bloggers and geeks everywhere.

Best Western has a deal with a company called SpeedLinks to provide free (yes, free) High Speed Internet Access (HSIA) in every room. It was the primary reason why I chose to lay my head here instead of other even swanker places up the road. One problem. This e-mail access is for receiving only, and being an important person (in my mind), I needed to send some e-mails. Here’s their marketing concept, which is found on a little tent card on the table.

SpeedLinks™, Best Western’s High-Speed Internet connection is free to guests as US and Canadian Best Western® hotels. Now you can

  • Stay in contact while traveling
  • Check your e-mail
  • Get that assignment completed on time (my favorite)
  • Connect to your corporate network
  • Browse the Internet
Silly me. In my mind, the Internet is a two-way connection, and the ability to send e-mail is as important as the ability to receive it, so I called the 800-number listed on the card. A nice fellow apologized and said, “Some places it works, other places it doesn’t.” He was unable to give me an SMTP address through which I could send correspondence. I told him it was nice that it was free, but I rather pay and have it work. He tried to argue with me that he had never been able to send e-mail in a hotel. Huh?

So I went to my Web hosting company, Earthlink (very happy with them, BTW) and got into a chat session with one of their tech people. She noticed that the connection was coming in on Bellsouth, so we entered Bellsouth’s SMTP address, mail.bellsouth.net. Viola! Immediately, my little mails went on their merry way.

There are several lessons here. Firstly, don’t try to force your business model on people who are smart enough to get around it (read: everybody). Two, if somebody “gives” you access to the Web, there’s a hitch to it. No free lunch, remember? Finally, never give up when it comes to this stuff.

Comments

  1. Matt C. Wilson says:

    Wow. Good for you on circumventing the problem Terry. As a software engineer, it truly irritates me to hear about businesses shoving their views on customers like this. They’re trying to capitalize on the supposed ignorance of the users out there, and it’s going to fall apart. The same happened for AOL when people started realizing they were really just getting the Disney-internet, and over dial-up no less.

    What boggles me though about it is why they want to prevent email sending? The bandwidth costs money for them either way – sending or receiving, it boils down to data on the wire. My only guess is they don’t want the hassle of running their own SMTP server, probably from fear of an enterprising spammer sending emails through their system. They could be a lot friendlier about informing their customers though.

  2. Matt, the concern is viruses and spam, I believe. Still, it’s a hell of a way do business.

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