Coffee Shops Begin Limiting Wi-Fi Perks

Wall Street Journal is reporting something we've noticed recently, locally, at one location. However, they're reporting it's happening in New York City in a big way: coffee shops offering free wi-fi are starting to boot out the free (wi-fi) loaders.

We noticed this locally at a Panera Bread store, which offers free wi-fi. But during lunch hours, they restrict the amount of time you can be connected to the service. What the WSJ is reporting is similar, with some coffee shops even going so far as to cover --- and lock --- their electric outlets.

Yes, it's not just the fact that customers sitting in a coffee shop surfing the Web during the busiest times of the day might keep paying customers from being able to find a seat, it's also the electricity that they use, which does add up, no matter what you might think.

Larger establishments, like Starbucks (free wi-fi for AT&T customers) and Barnes & Noble (free for all) are not shutting down free wi-fi; most of the "crackdowns" are among smaller shops.
"You don't want to discourage it, it's a wonderful tradition," says Naidre's owner Janice Pullicino, 53 years old. A former partner in a computer-graphics business, Ms. Pullicino insists she loves technology and hates to limit its use. But when she realized that people with laptops were taking up seats and driving away the more lucrative lunch crowd, she put up the sign. Last fall, she covered up some of the outlets, describing that as a "cost-cutting measure" to save electricity.
There's been some backlash from some customer. For example, Brian R wrote about one such place, the Cocoa Bar on Yelp.
Laptop users are not welcome here. I was treated very rudely here by the staff and owner. Coffee shop are laptop havens, if you don't want people to bring computers in, don't open a coffee shop you morons!

Down with Masoud Soltani! (the owner)
Hannah M. wrote about the Cocoa Bar:
The establishment doesn't allow computers to be used in the store after 8:00 on weekends - no exceptions! When I pointed out that we were one of two tables in the entire place and not even in eye shot of the other couple, they claimed the ambiance would suffer. What ambiance? It's an overpriced, under-stimulating wanna-be hot spot.
It should be noted that the Cocoa Bar has some negative reviews based on pricing, service, and food, rather than wi-fi. However, some are more understanding. Norm Elrod said the following about his own experience with a different establishment.
"I used to be one of the abusers, sipping a two-dollar cup of coffee in a to-go cup for hours." But, he says in an interview, now he practices what he considers better coffee-shop etiquette, lingering over his laptop during off-hours and spending more money.
When we partake of free wi-fi, we make sure that we also partake of the establishment's offerings as well. Free wi-fi is great, but it's a bonus, not a right.
Via:  WSJ
3vi1 5 years ago

That guy paid $2 for a cup of mostly water, and thinks *he* was the abuser? People who drink coffee are funny.

Wait... no... I was thinking about clowns.

realneil 5 years ago

I used to use the Wi-Fi at Panera Bread in Palmdale, California about three years ago. They had a 20 Minute use policy in effect at that time. They would ignore it if they were not crowded and they expected some occasional purchases from you to stay for a long time.

I think that it's a good way to gather customers but it is the coffee shops property and their Wi-Fi too, so they have a right to make the rules.

If it's too restrictive then stay home while surfing the web that you're paying for and brew your own Coffee/Tea.

bob_on_the_cob 5 years ago

Coming from someone that has worked in many restaurants I think it is more the table you are taking up. Servers only get between 3 to 6 tables in most places and if you are sitting in there table all day then you are making them lose a lot of money.

Another situation is that I'm getting cut in a half hour and you sit down and use your laptop for 2 hours I am stuck there for the next 2 hours. Most servers come very close to overtime every week and do things like not clock in until they get there first table or clock out as soon as the last table leaves and clean off the clock so they can work more. That hour and a half could cause them that shift on the weekend when they really make there money.

swag 5 years ago

"Begin"?! "Starting"?!?

This has been going on along the West Coast for years. It's only because New York City took until a couple years ago to open coffee shops worth staying in that suddenly everyone notices like this is a new issue.

digitaldd 5 years ago

I think the problem is really that we have people who friggin live in these places with free wifi. I recall a coffee shop a couple years back where the tables were completely filled up with people using the free wifi but no one was buying anything. Starbucks is a little better because there are uncomfortable stools but no tables/chairs for folks to get really comfortable in. Now Barnes & Noble has always been a place where you could just hideout in and nobody would bother you, You can simply just hang out in there all day whether you buy anything or not so they don't really lose anything by you hanging out in there and may occasionally pick-up an impulse buy from you hanging out in there.

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