It’s still happening mostly in New York and possibly California but if the trend moves across the land, those “Free Wi-fi” signs will be a thing of the past. And how. Where once, laptop bearing freelancers and telecommuters were courted for their staying power, this isn’t necessarily the case anymore. They are occupying seats while nursing one, if that, cup of beverage over several hours and this is a drain on business.
Where once laptops and their owners were seen as a way for a business to appear busy thereby drawing other customers, the businesses no longer care about appearances. They are looking for real business and today’s numerous unemployed have flocked to coffee shops for the wif-fi, for the human contact and just to escape the monotony of being at home – but not to drive coffee shop business.
Observing that laptoppers were furtively unwrapping sandwiches, some business owners thought the patrons were hungry and promptly included sandwiches among their offerings. But soon the realization dawned that sandwiches and coffee weren’t in the budget for many of the visitors. Some were even secretly toting their own coffee to avoid buying. Others took the bold step of bringing tea bags and requesting hot water.
Some shops put up “no-laptop” signs but others installed plastic covers over the outlets. In these cases it isn’t clear if they just favor laptops with long-life batteries. Obviously, today’s plethora of mobile technology with apps for everything makes it possible to do so much without having an actual laptop along, that only the most egregious laptop bearing offenders need be excluded.
Coffee shops have long been a refuge not only for laptops, but as mobile offices for those who work from home but need a place to meet clients or interview subjects. So it would have been nice if visitors recognized this perk as great customer service. It would also have been nice if coffee shops established a few ground rules in the first place. But maybe it isn’t to late for that.
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