August 6, 2009

"No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users."

Blares the Wall Street Journal.

Buried in paragraph 5 (after talk of the "economic downturn" and "idle workers" cluttering the cafés):
So far, this appears to be largely a New York phenomenon, though San Francisco's Coffee Bar does now put out signs when the shop is crowded asking laptop users to share tables and make space for other customers.
Ha ha ha. It's just New York. And hello? It was always hard to find free WiFi and a place to sit in New York cafés. It drove me nuts when I lived in Brooklyn Heights from September 2007 to May 2008. My favorite local café was Tazza — depicted in the March 10, 2008 blog post called "Lunch at the Loneliness Café." (Ah, now I never go back to the Loneliness Café!)

Click through to enlarge that first photograph, and you'll see that the white sign near the laptop user's head says: "ABSOLUTELY NO COMPUTERS...." (Why did that guy get to flout the policy so close to the sign? He's cute. Right? That's the reason, isn't it?)

28 comments:

Ron said...

Ah, now you lunch at the "Hoggin' the Sheets" Cafe!

Der Hahn said...

I've seen signs asking wifi users to free up large tables and booths during peak serving times in Panera for years. I just noticed that now their wifi system will kick you off after 30 minutes during lunch hour.

Oligonicella said...

Their system, their rules. One can always go to the library. Most not only provide free connectivity, but free machine access.

Michael Hasenstab said...

First the government wants to pull the plug on us, now coffee shops. That's why I only hang out in bars.

MadisonMan said...

There is a time limit on the computer restriction, but I can't tell what it is, or what time the picture was taken. So maybe the guy isn't such a scofflaw after all.

Zach said...

In Europe they have coffee shops with no internet. What they don't have is customers.

Or that many coffee shops, to tell the truth.

Comrade X said...

What a surprise! It turns out the campers are the worst customers revenue-wise. They are also well known for their tipping.

Bissage said...

At first blush, this looks like invidious discrimination against laptop users, but I once got bounced from a bar for plugging in my HoMedics Shiatsu Back Massager, so we need to keep all this in perspective.

Ralph L said...

Dude's got a fancy computer, but he's too cheap to buy a comb.

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chuck b. said...

"Why did that guy to flout the policy so close to the sign? He's cute. Right?"

Definitely!

chuck b. said...

Or, should I say, "YES!!!!!!1!!!!!"

rhhardin said...

I have a nifty Dell 910 mini, tried once at a Kroger/Starbucks, and it worked; but the usefulness seems to be lacking.

My home/office is much more convient, with its ancient laptop but with huge outboard monitor, mouse and keyboard.

And I'm going home at that point anyway, an act delayed only by any lingering to use the mini.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

Most places in LA have passwords and you have to ask the barista for the password, and the password changes periodically. Isn't that sufficient? There's also a cafe I go to where the password logs you in for two hours. You can re-login after two hours, but it at least is a hint that you've used it enough.

My stance is that I, as a laptop/internet user, will patronize the places that treat people like me well. If you have policies to make it harder for me, I'll go somewhere else. They clearly don't want me around, and if not having me there is better for them financially, then maybe that's an effective business strategy. I really think that only works with certain types of cafes (like ones that are almost restaurants or are just extremely busy all the time) and that other types of cafes (the ones that I'd probably prefer anyway) actually need people like me, since that's their primary clientele.

BJM said...

There is no such thing as "free" internet access, some one pays for the bandwidth and it ain't cheap.

Zach, Huh? you've never been to Berlin, Vienna or Prague?

I lived in Italy for six years and the neighborhood cafe bars are part of the daily fabric of life. That's where you find out who's doing whom and what they were wearing.

They also serve aperitifs and simple antipasti for Italian "happy hour". Everyone meets on their way home for the mid-day meal to gossip and toss down a few Aperol and again to toss down a doppio before they return to work in the late afternoon. They don't linger, the rush is over in a half an hour.

Internet service is expensive in most of Europe so you don't find it as widely available as it is here. Home computer usage is way less than in the US too. Italy is still under 50%. Since the Madrid and London bombings, users must provide ID cards or passports to use Internet cafes in many countries.

In italy for example, Internet cafés owners must not only collect and verify a person first name and last name, but they need also to log the time they started using a computer, and which computer they specifically used.

Computers in public places need also to keep track of which files and applications are used, which web pages are visited and for how long.

In practice, anything you do on a computer in an Italian Internet café or a free wi-fi hot spot is basically logged and referenced to your MAC address and/or name on paper.

Pogo said...

One less reason to bother with the coffee shop.

I never understood the economics of those places anyway. To make dough, you gotta move 'em on through, so many per hour. But it's the ambiance of lingering that beckons in the first place, no? But lingerers don't spend enough money!

Gosh. Math is hard.

John said...

I'm with Pogo on this. It's their business. If they think they're going to make more money by banning laptops, good for them. Besides, who has time to sit around and work at a coffee shop. Doesn't anyone have an office anymore?

Ann Althouse said...

I think the economics is in the take-out dimension. The people at the tables are part of the ambience that makes the takers-out think they are getting coffee worth $4.

Quarter Credo said...

He is not cute. That is all.

Christy said...

My Panera Bread is full of laptop workers in the morning. Yes, I peep. I see lots of spreadsheets and overhear far too many business conversations. Still, it is an agreeable place to be. All they ask, as Der Hahn says, is to limit use to 30 minutes when people are waiting for tables between 11 and 2.

downtownlad said...

Quarter is right. Not cute.

John Lynch said...

What, the "Third Place" really isn't?

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

One can always go to the library.
___________________
Julie
Payday loans Today

Julie said...

One can always go to the library.
___________________
Julie
Payday loans Today

MarkW said...

It'll be interesting to see what happens when more people have their own wireless broadband connections and don't need Wifi. Will they still go to sit in coffee shops to work? And will coffee shops still try to kick them out if they sit too long?

Brad V said...

I've definitely learned just how spoiled I was in both Madison and New Orleans after a summer in Manhattan.

Finding a decent local coffee shop is difficult in the first place.

Finding one with free wireless is almost impossible.

Christy said...

Mark, if you are still around, I have had my own wireless broadband for years but still enjoy taking my laptop for a spin at the local Panera Bread. I don't get a "need" vibe from others. It's just fun to hang out.