Coffee Shops Give the Boot to Laptop Users

August 6, 2009

Just days after Barnes & Noble delighted us with free WI-FI for everyone, the Wall Street Journal reports that small  coffee shops in New York and San Francisco are putting strict time restrictions on patrons with laptops.  I actually understand the owners’ dilemma and here’s why… 

Naider’s Coffee Shop offers free internet.  In these tough economic times, folks in the neighborhood, unemployed and looking for work, have cut out their own in-house internet and are seeking out free WI-FI – and mooch wherever they can. The newly unemployed may find themselves lonely sitting at home surfing the web for employment opportunities, and would rather venture out with their laptops to do more of the same.  They enter the local coffee shop and pay a couple bucks for a cup of hot java, but proceed to nurse it for hours as they surf the net. One coffee shop owner complains he’s seen folks bring their own sandwiches and tea bags and have the nerve to ask for a free cup of hot water! The regular lunch crowd has nowhere to sit and thus small coffee shops are losing business.   Previously it wasn’t a problem because "the usual" crowd of laptop users were writers and the alike.  But now that the unemployed have joined in and the recession crowds are pinching pennies, it’s proving to be too much for small coffee shops to handle.  Some shops have covered up the electrical outlets, and others have placed limits on laptop usage.  Naider’s has specific "rules of no geekd’m" between the hours of 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. weekdays.

There’s always two sides to an argument and in this case, I understand both.  I think in these economic times we all need to be considerate.  If you are consuming space in a coffee shop for hours on end in exchange for what equates to a few bucks for the owner.  Well… I can see mom and pop stores having a problem with this kind of patron.  On the other hand, I think it’s just bad policy to ask a decent paying customer to be on their way after they’ve swallowed the last drop.  There’s a fine line being tiptoed here – an unfortunate drawback to a stressful economy.  


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