Here I am at the Eurostar terminal at Paris Gare du Nord.
A guy just sat down opposite me and tried to connect to WiFi. He opened up his MacBook Pro (this is the business lounge, so, you know, MacBook Pro’s are ten-a-penny) and tried to find the WiFi.
Like me, he cycled through the various paid-for network options and then got up and went to reception. He returned with a credit card in a little plastic envelope. He looked in disbelief at his girlfriend and proceeded to use his fingers to scratch off the WiFi codes. That gets you 60 minutes of WiFi usage.
No doubt, he was wondering why — like me — he’d paid £225 for a business-class ticket for this experience.
He proceeded to connect to the SFR WiFi — I’ve written about that before — utter bollocks. It looks fast. But it’s not compatible with Boingo or anything else. It’s for French customers only. That’s fine.
I’m not a customer of Gare du Nord. I’m a customer of Eurostar. And I’m in their business lounge. So show me the internet!
The guy began to get a little bit frustrated. He was speaking in French so I could only pick up the odd ‘WiFi’, ’email’ and ‘ess-fffff-errrr WiFi’ comments. I could certainly measure his frustration. 9 out of 10 I reckoned.
His train was due in about 10 minutes and he wanted to check his email (I’m on the one after him, which is why I’m not writing this post percolated with all sorts of swear words).
Fumbling with the plastic and the passwords, the chap tried to connect to the network.
Over his shoulder I saw the same error message I was getting.
Firefox wasn’t liking it. SFR kept timing him out.
I tried Safari and got the same error.
Finally I waited a few minutes and tried accessing the SFR WiFi login page with Chrome. Success.
Alas this chap’s train was now boarding. He didn’t have time. He left the lounge really, really annoyed. I would have been too.
After 16 minutes of messing about, I managed to get connected.
This is good news.
More good news? The SFR WiFi is actually pretty usable.
My feedback for Eurostar:
1. Install your own dedicated WiFi service — and if you must secure it, how about making users sign-in with their Eurostar login credentials?
2. Make the internet service blazing fast and tell your customers about it. Really show off about it.
3. In doing the above, please dump the plastic credit card thingy. It’s so… ‘add-on’. Like internet and WiFi is an afterthought.
Meanwhile, if you’re doing Eurostar business from France and you need internet — remember to ask at the business lounge reception for the little card. And persevere. It does actually work.