Bitterwallet poll - is free wifi ruining the coffee shop experience?

10 June 2011

Bitterwallet - Starbucks logo changeIt has been known for some, more or all of the Bitterwallet writers to spend part of their working week in a coffee shop, sucking up free wifi. Yes, we're fully paid-up members of the LMT club - the Latte Mac Twats - ordering the cheapest coffee on the menu in order to check emails and piss about on Facebook.

But although we may only drink a couple of coffees while hogging a table for hours on end, we'll return time and again to our favourite cafes and bookshops, because we don't get any chew about working there. We're loyal customers. The likes of Starbucks has become the second office and, in plenty of instances the primary office, to hipsters and Groupon salesmen and the Shelley Levenes of this world.

Businesses with free wifi secure our business and over time, our loyalty. Those without, don't. But some proprietors aren't fans of people pitching up with their laptop and minimum spends. Take this gentlemen, the owner of a bookshop that doesn't offer wifi. People still sit at his table with their laptops, and it's fair to say he has issues:

...the sight of people going into retail establishments and whipping out a laptop seems akin to public masturbation. What compels them to use their laptops in public? I suspect that there is some sort of exhibitionist behavior at play here. Why can’t they do whatever they are doing at home or back at the office? Or don’t they have homes?

The laptoppers will unashamedly sit for hours nursing a single cup of coffee while immersed in their “work,” or whatever the hell they are doing on their precious devices. An hour or two? That’s a short coffee break for these slackers. I’ve seem some of them hole up for five or six hours. But rarely, if ever, do these digital wankers ever buy an actual book.

It’s just another sign, in my opinion, of the decline of civilized society. Yeah, yeah, all these gadgets are nice and handy — and apparently indispensable for some — but they are also a major contributor to slothful, impolite behavior. It’s time to fight back!

The owner admits some laptop owners are perfectly polite, but that he hasn't space for people wanting to do anything other than buy books and drink coffee. He then describes one lady who asks if there's a power supply for her laptop as a 'wench'. How to win friends and influence people.

The question is - is he right? Has mobile society gone too far? Does the sight of a dozen Mac Books put you off frequenting your closest coffee shop, or is it no more impersonal or impolite than sitting alone reading a book? Your vote and comments please, citizens.

TOPICS:   Technology


  • br04dyz
    I was "trapped" over a weekend in downtown Chicago recently, and Starbucks free WiFi was awesome! All i had to do was use google maps to navigate where I wanted to be, using all the starbucks in between as weypoints so my internet connection didnt drop. There signal is strong enough to go some way down the street, so you didnt have to even buy a coffee! I even did some shopping for Mrs Bro4Dyz in the levi shop, and used messenger (powered by the good people of Starbucks) to fire photo's back and forth to make sure I bought the right ones! All hail Starbucks and their wonderful free WiFi!
  • Alexis
    Surely a polite sign would solve his problems instead of whinging on a blog?
  • Sawyer
    @Alexis: exactly what I thought. Either that, or he needs to get out of the retail business altogether if customers make him so angry. He fails customer service 101 in his first paragraph by failing to understand that "the customer is always right" is a motto, not a definition.
  • Brown
    If this guy only wants to sell books, he should just remove the coffee part of his business. The way we work and consume media has changed. I personally see no difference between someone using a laptop and someone reading a paper, I don't think it's impolite. Wonder what his reaction would be to a Kindle.
  • PokeHerPete
    If they banned anyone wearing skinny jeans entering Starbucks, it would solve all of those problems.
  • Dick
    Why does a bookshop need to sell coffee? There are enough coffee shops in the world, and I am sure there is no bookshop on earth more than 100m from a coffee shop. So if customers need a break from looking at books, they can go to the coffee shop. Combined bookshops/coffeeshops deserve what they get - people going in, having a coffee and reading a book off the shelf whilst "deciding what book to buy", then deciding they don't need the books since they have already read them.
  • StauntonLick
    Seriously, there are bigger problems in the world. Children in restaurants, for one.
  • businessman
    I would feel the same as the bookshop bloke. Why would he want to subsidise non-customers? Then again surely there has to be some way to make money out of this. People really enjoy hanging around all day on comfy sofas playing about on the internet and having a coffee every now and then. It's just the billing that's wrong.
  • Brad
    Hang on! Coffee shop experience!? its not diving on the Barrier Reef or climbing Everest.

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