Tourists in rural areas without local cellphone coverage may find their vacations ruined by symptoms of nomophobia.
One small-town Canadian store has observed this problem and created a solution. Barnabe’s Independent Grocer, a 35,000-square-foot grocery store located in Perth, Ontaro, is now offering free wifi from Ottawa-based Storm Internet Services.
For outsiders visiting Lanark County’s tourist region, it’s one of the only places around to access the internet.
“There’s no cell signal in many parts of our region, yet a huge percentage of our summer visitors are in the habit of using the Internet before they get out of bed,” explains Matthew Barnabe, the store’s founder. “So when those people go to one of the many remote lakes or resorts in our area, they tell me it takes two days tops before they start to go insane for lack of some kind of Internet connection.”
Barnabe’s may be a grocery store, but thanks to some creative business savvy, it’s no longer just a grocery store. 26 million Canadians use cellphones, and over half admit they sleep with an internet device next to them and check it first thing each morning. Matthew saw this as an opportunity.
“Cressida [Matthew’s wife] and I decided to help them out and offer free wifi in our store,” the entrepreneur continues. “Customers can also access it just outside our building if we’re closed or they want to check a few emails before coming in. We see it as necessary as our dry-cleaning or BBQ tank services – it’s all about offering ultimate convenience that makes your store a destination.”
Barnabe’s wifi is public, with no bandwidth or password restrictions. Matthew says he has seen children streaming movies on iPods while their parents shop. And he says he gets excited by people who use his his internet to text home for a special ingredient, consult a YouTube chef to find out which cut of meat to purchase, or check out an online recipe site when discovering an exotic fruit or vegetable.
UPDATE: We have been informed that Foodsmiths, a full-service, independent, family-owned natural grocery store has offered free wifi in the area since the beginning of January. Techvibes regrets the error.