It looks like the throngs of people without anything better to do with their time will have to find somewhere else to do it. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that coffee shops and cafés all around NYC are ‘pulling the plug’ on laptop users who sit around in their shops for hours at a time and mooch off of their free internet supply.
WSJ’s Erica Alini writes, “Amid the economic downturn there are fewer places in New York to plug in computers. As idle workers fill coffee-shop tables, nursing a single cup, if that, and surfing the Web for hours, and as shop owners struggle to stay in business, a decade-old love affair between coffee shops and lap-top wielding customers is fading.”
The coffee shops are using a wide array of weapons in their fight against space-consuming, self-entitled laptop users: bans on laptops during busy lunchtime hours when web surfers take up much-needed space, signs that discourage laptop use, and even all-out bans. The most effective of these seems to be covering or locking the dataports and electric outlets that the greediest of the mooches need to ensure that they can go about their energy-draining, freeloading hobby all day long, uninterrupted.
To me, there’s nothing wrong with going to the coffee shop, buying a coffee, and enjoying it on the premises while you browse the world wide web for a half hour or so, maybe even forty five minutes, max. But many New Yorkers abuse the privilege; Massoud Soltani, owner and operator of Cocoa Bar, reports, “Some patrons show up with a tea bag for a free hot-water refill or quietly unwrap homemade sandwiches.” Something has to be done about these special types of leeches, and these new measures seem to be a great first step.
Aside from running up the electric bill and taking up space without contributing anything to the business, laptop campers can also literally single handedly ruin a coffee shop’s ambience. Massoud’s brother, Bahman, explained that at night they seek to create a quiet, romantic environment for their clientele, which is often wrecked by laptop users: “We lower the light, and it’s chocolate, wine, and couples holding hands. What’s the guy with the laptop doing here?” Indeed, it’s hardly the ideal setting for a date when some creepy loser lingers in the background, watching videos on Hulu as he slowly sips a cup of coffee that he bought two hours ago.
Coffee shops are small businesses trying to scrape by in the recession just like many New Yorkers are, not libraries that are obligated to accommodate everyone that walks in wanting free internet access. If more places adapt these harsh measures, maybe more people that spend their entire Saturday afternoon surfing the web at Starbucks will be forced to take up more constructive hobbies.