Ovation: Coffee Shops Evicting Wi-Fi Squatters.
My folks love a good cup of coffee. In fact, they have a pretty serious Starbucks habit. They drink simple brewed coffees, not the fancy high-fat super calories offerings, and they sometimes will walk to their local shop for a fresh cup. They like to sit and drink their coffee before they go on with their day.
Sometimes there’s nowhere for them to sit down.
Like many around the world, my local coffee shop has turned into a hodgepodge of maddening chaos. What used to be a place to grab a quick cup of fancy coffee has turned into an expensive fast food join that serves “artisanal” sandwiches heated in a microwave and processed baked goods from “the home office” as loud music blares and dozens of excited conversations take place simultaneously. It’s a coffee shop, a bakery, a sandwich shop, a smoothie store, a daycare, a conference room and a home office for far too many people who camp out to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi that the store offers to its customers.
As they were growing, independent coffee shops used to try to lure business away from larger chains by offering free internet access and electrical outlets to encourage customers to buy their products. Unfortunately, the practice of arriving early to claim a favorite table has become problematic. In some instances, the “squatters” take up so much real estate that other customers are staying away.
“Our stores were designed to be community gathering places. We’ve heard from many of these customers that in some high volume stores, they want to be seated to enjoy the food and beverages they purchase in our stores but many times are unable to.” – Starbucks spokeswoman, Alisha Damodaran
To be profitable, coffee shops have to sell high volumes of low priced items so they really can’t afford to provide temporary office space to people hoping to pay only $1.85 per day in rent. The business no longer needs these unprofitable seat fillers and they’re becoming increasingly unwelcome.
One Chicago coffee shop may have found the perfect solution. The shop, Perfect Cup, has plenty of electrical outlets and Wi-Fi but in order to access the network users must enter a password that is found at the bottom of their receipt. Each password lasts for only three hours which encourages customers to make subsequent purchases in order to maintain a connection to the internet.
“Our product isn’t Wi-Fi. The reason we have seating is for serving our product to people.” – Darleen Scherer, Co-owner of Brooklyn’s Park Slope Gorilla Coffee.
Hopefully, as more customers complain about laptop users with an empty cup in front of them occupying seats for hours, some taking up entire tables with piles of books and papers, the squatters will be asked to move on.
And then there might be a place for my mother to sit down.
Are you a coffee shop squatter?
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