Earthlink store

TechCrunch posted about Earthlink this morning, in a post titled “When did Earthlink get so cool?“. While I don’t agree that they’re doing anything unusual here, I was surprised to see mention of two Earthlink stores that have opened, one in Seattle and one here in San Francisco. As it happens, the San Francisco one is just a couple blocks from my office.

Earthlink store, San Francisco

I walked down there this afternoon to get a few pictures and talk to the people inside. This is more of a showroom than a store, really. It’s been compared to an Apple store, but it’s actually much more like of those old Gateway store/showrooms, in that they don’t actually sell any physical products. It exists solely to showcase various Earthlink services and entice people to sign up.

It turns out they’re not only selling wireless internet access now, but mobile phone service as well as a bunch of other tangentially-related stuff. Strange directions they’ve taken these days. Additionally, in an example of brand necrophilia that would make AOL proud, they’ve also resurrected the Mindspring name to sell some sort of Skype-like software VoIP software and service.

The guys I talked to in the Earthlink store were friendly, filling me in on what they’re doing with these showrooms and giving me permission to take a few pictures. Until, that is, the store manager saw me. He was confrontational from the first, standing directly in front of me, less that two feet from me and trying to put his hand on my shoulder until I moved back slightly. He wanted to grill me on what I was doing taking pictures, but I simply told him that I had already asked for and been given permission by two other employees. After asking why I wanted them and what I was going to do with them, he grudgingly said I could take them as long as I didn’t get an Earthlink logo in any of them. As you can see, that would be nearly impossible to avoid, as they’re covering every available surface. His reason for wanting me to avoid photographing them? Copyright. sigh Since I had already gotten some pictures I told him I’d put the camera away, but couldn’t resist advising him to read up on what does and does not constitute copyright infringement.

More pictures

Comments

Dave Coustan says:

Thanks for stopping by the store. I don’t think it’s totally a fair comparison with the Gateway stores; we’re not trying to sell computers, we’re selling voice and access services which themselves are services you get at home. So “buying a product” like TrueVoice and Line-powered Voice would entail qualifying and then signing up. There’s no additional step you’re missing by going to the store, checking it out, and ordering it. I haven’t been to that location, but I believe we do also sell Helio phones there (in addition to our voice and access services). One of the main goals of the stores is to showcase our DSL and Home Phone Service (LPV), which is a technology unique to us and our Covad partnership.

I like your photos and I’m not sure what the problem would be with you taking pictures inside. If you know the name of the person who asked you not to, can you e-mail it to me? If there’s a policy I don’t know about, that’s my bad, but if not I’d like to get some clarification.

Kenn Christ says:

Hi Dave. I only brought up Gateway because the Earthlink store has been compared to the Apple stores. Because they’re more showroom than retail establishment, I thought a better comparison could be made to Gateway showrooms. I could have used a mobile phone carrier store here instead — think T-Mobile or Verizon stores — but while those are also focused on the service, they sell more physical products as well. None of these are perfectly equivalent, of course.

I didn’t get the store manager’s name, but it’s no big deal. A lot of stores don’t allow photography inside (although they rarely have a good reason for that), so it’s really no problem. I just wish he had been a bit more courteous about it, not so confrontational.