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A Coffeeshop's Weekends Without Wi-Fi 513

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the back-to-basics dept.
Glenn Fleishman writes "Victrola Cafe and Art in Seattle is a popular coffeeshop that offers free Wi-Fi--except on the weekends. In an experiment, the cafe started shutting down its Wi-Fi network on Saturdays and Sundays after watching their culture erode: the shop became full (and was turning away customers) with six-to-eight hour Wi-Fi squatters, many of whom didn't even purchase anything. Their second Sunday without Wi-Fi was one of their best revenue days in some time. I don't propose a Wi-Fi (or free Wi-Fi) backlash, but it's interesting how with some time under their belt, the clash of inward facing technology and outward facing culture hit these particular entrepreneurs' limit."
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A Coffeeshop's Weekends Without Wi-Fi

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  • Their own fault.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by InsideTheAsylum (836659) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:24PM (#12650785)
    Lesse, they don't want to enforce the "buy something or get out" rule? Their loss...
    • Re:Their own fault.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pdbaby (609052)

      This pretty much sums up all the discussion required on this news article, doesn't it? Go slashdot user brevity and succinctness!

      In all seriousness though, whatstops wifi users from sitting in a car outside? or in the shop nextdoor?
    • by rokzy (687636) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:32PM (#12650830)
      um, what part of "one of their best revenue days" is so hard to understand?

      I think they've done well. an attitude of "buy or get out" would be devastating to any sense of culture. terribly vulgar. not because of the principle, but just the impossibilty of implementing it without leading to bad customer service.

      and weekends aren't so important as weekdays for people to have internet for business purposes, and are much more likely to be kids using it for fun, so it makes sense.
      • by InsideTheAsylum (836659) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:34PM (#12650848)
        The people who were gonna buy will buy anyways and the people who weren't, won't..

        I'm not saying that you post a bunch of signs on the walls and stuff, but if you see someone squating day after day you come up to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me sir, can you PLEASE SOD OFF YOU WORTHLESS PLACE TAKING PIECE OF SOD?!?!"! Well, ok, maybe not quite like that.
        • > The people who were gonna buy will buy anyways and the people who weren't, won't..

          And now they've gotten rid of the people who won't buy, made more room for people who will buy (as can be seen by the higher revenue) and it makes for a better atmosphere ("The staff "loves it," she said, and regular customers are "coming up to us and thanking us.")

          Exactly, how is it their loss?
          • Re:Their own fault.. (Score:3, Informative)

            by soft_guy (534437)
            I use WiFi, I buy coffee when I am at the coffee shop on the weekend. Lots of coffee and also food. If they do not have WiFi, I leave and go somewhere else. And I'm only going to buy a finite amount of coffee and I am going to buy it where they have WiFi.

            So, a rule like this would screw some "ethical" WiFi users.

            • Maybe I'm square, but at home, the coffee is cheaper (but just as good-I get the beans from them), the chairs are more comfortable, and when I tire of it all, I can lay down and nap. I never understood sitting in a coffee shop with a laptop for an hour, much less several.
              • Re:Their own fault.. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by DarthTaco (687646) on Friday May 27, 2005 @12:10AM (#12651823)
                "I never understood sitting in a coffee shop" It's called the rule of: doing what makes you happy. I don't understand why certain things make certain people happy, but then I don't have to. I just know what makes me happy. And that happens to be coffee shops and book stores. For you it isn't (at least the coffee shop part). It's really not a mystery.
              • dude... (Score:4, Informative)

                by Cryptnotic (154382) * on Friday May 27, 2005 @02:50AM (#12652463) Homepage
                I never understood sitting in a coffee shop with a laptop for an hour, much less several.

                It's all about checking out the cute high/college/grad school girls hanging out there doing their reading.
          • Re:Their own fault.. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by iocat (572367) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @11:22PM (#12651519) Homepage Journal
            If they can now get rid of people who take up space with their irritating, thoughtful, public, journal-writing, we may be able to really get some things done.

            Seriously, though, who ever *wants* to use wifi in a coffee shop? I'd much rather be in my office, using a real keyboard and mouse, or in my house, lounging around on the couch while surfing. I reserve free/pay coffee shop wifi for desperate times -- business trips; times when work is way too hectic an environment, etc. Six or eight hours on a laptop keyboard? I'd be dead.

      • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:53PM (#12650977)
        an attitude of "buy or get out" would be devastating to any sense of culture

        Um... what culture is that, now? The one where the people who don't buy anything sponge off of the merchant's not free (to them) service? The one that burns up bandwidth that the merchant put there as a value to their customers?

        vulgar

        No, vulgar is using a merchant's services without participating in the implied contract: be our customer. Do those same people feel comfortable showing up there every morning to wash up in the merchant's restrooms, ask for some coffee for free, and then go on their way?

        It's not about whether the merchant would have to get into the awkward mode of policing their users for those that have or have not bought coffee... it's about the people who do buy it pointing out that the leeches are, well, leeches. And extracting a little social pain from them so that they get it, and don't wind up with an even stronger sense of entitlement than they already seem to have.
    • Have you ever (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SengirV (203400)
      tried to enforce that? IF, as they say, the place had reached capasity, then it would be a sea of people. Are you going to go around insulting peopole who actually purchased something and throw it away when done? Nothing like making your real customers feel like squatters to discourage repeat business. And the real squatters would simply lie and say they did buy something. It NEVER works out as simply as you think.
    • by psuedo_samurai (670924) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @11:16PM (#12651476) Journal
      That is the problem but the way the place is laid out. It has hard back chairs (libary style) with hardtop slate tables which each seat between 2-4 people. Reminds me of a restaurant evey time I walk in there. Perfect for studying, but no "community" feeling about it. Can you imagine walking up to another person's table at a restaurant and striking up a conversation? It would be a bit awkward.

      The owners lament about the erosion of culture being the cause is pure BS. Make no mistake, this is simply about $$$$, nothing else.

      Just up the street though is the non-profit Cafe Perkatory [perkatory.org] which is laid out like a living room with soft chairs, nice rug on the floor, and great Wi-Fi. And there is no complaints about erosion of culture there. Almost every time I walk into the place I am gauranteed to strike up a conversation with a new and interesting person.

      However, if Perkatory isn't your "Cup 'O Tea" then you can always try one of the hundreds of other weekend Wi-Fi enabled coffee shops in seattle which are conveinently listed here [wifimug.org].
  • Solution? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xshare (762241) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:24PM (#12650787) Homepage
    Easy Solution: Make people buy something to use wifi, and propose a 2-hour limit, or however much you deem necessary.
    • Then you would have that SOB buying a pack of gum for $0.99 every 2 hours. I completly agree with this decision based on their rationale. They are not providing the wireless for people to sit there and take up space by themself for 4 hours (w/ or w/out a coffee purchase).

      They wanted to facilitate a more enjoyable coffee shop experience and they realized that wifi on the weekend was taking away from that atmosphere.
      • So, then limit the free access to people who make purchases of X dollars...

        It's just a matter of finding a line and sticking to it.
    • Re:Solution? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by biobogonics (513416)
      Easy Solution: Make people buy something to use wifi, and propose a 2-hour limit, or however much you deem necessary

      Please. You can't fix social problems with technological solutions.

      • I agree to an extent, but I think throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the way to deal with it. Perhaps it is, but why give up business X to business Y when you can have both? (There's a rhetorical answer to that, which is to keep the type of environment they want, which is a valid argument.)

        A technological solution that is available however is very simple, and integrates well. The linksys wrt54g is to a point now that you can load just about anything on it. There are several captive portal s
        • Re:Solution? (Score:3, Informative)

          by KarmaMB84 (743001)
          It sounds like they were giving up business when they were running wifi on the weekends. The low-lives were coming in with their gear and taking up space and not buying a damn thing. When you're turning away paying customers because the place is full of sponges due to the wifi, the wifi goes off. "Their second Sunday without Wi-Fi was one of their best revenue days in some time." sums it up nicely.
      • +1 funny? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shihar (153932)
        "Please. You can't fix social problems with technological solutions."

        "Please. You can't fix social problems with technological solutions."

        Are you joking? I don't even know where to start. Let's start with this. You are at a computer somewhere in the world. If semiconductors were to vanish tomorrow, wherever you are, your government would collapse, the balance of power in the world would be thoroughly shaken from head to foot, and millions, if not billions of people would die within a year.

        Take the s
        • technolgy is intergrated with are society, but it has in no way fixed any societal problems.
          WE adapted technology into the way we bahave, not the other wya around.

          My favorite farside has a guy sitting in a little flying saucer zipping through the sky. On the roof of this flying saucer is a spilling cup of coffee.
          the caption:
          "Technology changes, people don't."

          BTW, BILLIONS would not die. Most of the world would get along. A billion, at the worst. consider most people in the world never use a computer
        • Re:+1 funny? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by stlhawkeye (868951)
          I know some times when we bang things out on the keyboard they sound really insightful and intelligent, but some times we need to respect the preview button, read what we read, and decide if it really is insightful, or a load of thoughtless crap.

          Take your own advice. Your post doesn't really refute the poster that you quoted. The person you quoted said that you can't fix social problems with technological solutions. Your examples all showed that if you remove technology, you create social problems. Th

    • Re:Solution? (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem isn't that wifi users are taking up space without paying for it. The problem is that laptop users are taking up space without contributing to the vibe that the coffee shop is trying to generate.

      Coffee shops are meant to be a highly social place, while the life of the computer addict is a solitary one. It sounds like they were ending up with a shop without energy, silent but for the tappity-tap-clicking of laptops. Even if the sea of laptops was purchasing goods at the same rate as the orig
  • easier solution... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by killa62 (828317) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:25PM (#12650795)
    An esasier solution would be to just have hourly changing codes to enter that would be given to people who boutght something, that way, squatters would have to buy stuff every hour and therefore not be squatters anymore.
    • But you couldn't get anything done that way. When I go online anywhere, it's going to take me almost an hour just to situate myself! I don't want to be interruped, not only to change the code (presumably an encryption key) but also go and purchase something.

      It'd be better if I could buy seven cups of coffee for seven hours of MUDdin^H^H^H^H^H^Hbrowsing the internet.
      • You don't need an encryption key, just a passworded proxy... preferably with an autoconfiguration URL so that users can easily set it up (and then enter a password).
    • That sounds like a cyber-cafe and not a coffee shop (w/ complimentary internet access to check your email). They obviously want a coffee shop feel, not a cyber-cafe feel.
    • by loraksus (171574) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @10:38PM (#12651234) Homepage
      Easiest would be to just have no power plugs. Your average laptop doesn't last that long.
    • by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @11:00PM (#12651354) Homepage
      Solution 1: Implement system that requires a system to generate codes, have some kind of login mechanism and so on

      Solution 2: Flip the switch on the wireless router on weekends.

      You have some strange ideas about "easier"
    • by coaxial (28297)
      You (and the apparently the mods) have a bizzare definition of "easier". Let's see:
      1. Adding a firewall seperate from the WLAN router.
      2. Creating a system to generate random passwords.
      3. Modify the firewall so that it stays synced with the password generator.
      4. Replace/Modify the point-of-sale system so that it can distribute a unique password to each customer.

      Cost: $$$$$

      Versus

      Unplug the router every Friday at close, plug the router back in every Monday at open.

      Cost: 0

      Yeah. Option one is way easier.



      • You're totally right. An elegant solution would be expensive to do. How about a more crude implementation: 1. Buy 6 cheap netgear APs at Fry's for $10 each. 2. Configure each one with a different, but simple WEP. Use masking tape to label each one with its WEP.
        3. Connect each one to one of those cheap electric outlet timer gizmos so it runs for an hour then shuts off. Sync the timers so one there is always at least one running.
        4. Put all this junk behind the counter.
        5. Magic marker a sign that says, "A
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:25PM (#12650797) Journal
    Obviously what they ought to do is give time-limited wifi passkeys that can be "charged" when the customer buys a product. That way they don't get lingerers/squatters who are only there for the wifi without having to pay.

    The higher the receipt, the longer the passkey works. It's a decent system, if not a little burdensome for freeloaders.

    The question becomes, How easily or feasible would it be to put such a system into practice?
    • If you could get some programming into the cash register, it would be easy to generate a password that prints on the receipt, and sets the AP to allow that password to work for N minutes.

      The hard part is identifying the customer. It's unlikely most would know what their MAC address is, and you can't hand out encryption keys like this since you'd have to change the encryption key for everyone at the same time. Instead, you'd have to have something that determines whether a MAC is known, if its not kno
      • Maybe authentication via RADIUS to validate the passcode?

        Granted, it would require a custom RADIUS server.
    • You can do it with these:

      "HotSpot" Gateways
      http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=349 [dlink.com]
      http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=173 [dlink.com]
      http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=402 [dlink.com]

      "HotSpot" Ticket Printer
      http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=282 [dlink.com]

      All they have to do, if they have the printer, is hit a button and it dynamically creates a user account/password and prints it up.

      ---
      telnet://sinep.gotdns.com [gotdns.com] -- It's a BBS -- Read my journal [slashdot.org].
    • It's not just about the money. It's about the atmosphere. Nothing kills the mood in a coffee house more than a bunch of people working on their laptops. Maybe during weekday afternoons it's ok, but I think killing WiFi in the evenings and on weekends is a great idea.
      • It's not just about the money. It's about the atmosphere

        The "Atmosphere" ? You mean the noisy chatter? Seriously, what do you mean?

        • I think what he means is perfectly clear, at least to me. Especially if you read the article, the point is crystal: "Before Wi-Fi, 'People talked to each other, strangers met each other,' she said. Solitary activities might involve reading and writing, but it was part of the milieu. 'Those people co-existed with people having conversations,' said Strongin." IOW, the atmosphere of people communicating face to face. But what do I know? I sit in a NOC all day staring at a monitor.

          It reminds me of an old joke-
    • There was a coffee shop in New Orleans airport that had something similar to this. You had to buy coffee and printed on the receipt was a code you punched in which gave you access to their "free" network. I of course was too cheap of a bastard to buy coffee.

      I think a 2 hour limit should be good enough for coffee. If someone blows through that two hours but is a legitimate customer, either the customer should have no problem buying another cup in 2 hours or the shop should have no problem saying "hey, you
    • The question becomes, How easily or feasible would it be to put such a system into practice?

      I played with such a system, though I do forget its name, a few years ago. It was fairly simple: You'd get a ticket that had a number on it, and when you started up you'd be redirected to the 'login' page no matter where you tried to go where you had to enter your code. That fixed you up with a proper route on the gateway and now you were on the internet for a while.

      It was something like $40 for the software. P

    • Easy and hard. Best bet would be to filter out all MAC addresses like colleges do, then allow certain ones when a purchase is made. If you're going to be buying wifi time, then you should know your MAC address anyway. It's not like it's not printed on your system or card (if PCMCIA). Now this is still cumbersome so they could do it with one of those coffee card things so you only need to give them the address once.

      Hell, automatically redirect any http requests from an invalid MAC address to a local
  • Well, well, no surprise here. "Free" wifi surely attracts the cheap folks who either cannot afford or will not shell out $50+ for high-speed bandwidth.
  • I always though a good solution would be to give a code on the back of the recipt that would give you free wifi for 20 minutes, with the clock automatically starting from the time of purchase. Set the minimum price that gets the code to a medium coffee and a cookie. Yum. Cookies.
    • A local gas station did this for their car wash. If your purchase was over a certain dollar amount it printed a key on the receipt that would bypass the coin drop.
  • How rude (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:26PM (#12650803) Homepage Journal
    In an experiment, the cafe started shutting down its Wi-Fi network on Saturdays and Sundays after watching their culture erode: the shop became full (and was turning away customers) with six-to-eight hour Wi-Fi squatters, many of whom didn't even purchase anything.

    Considering that most people have Internet at home, on campus, or at work, this is just a rude thing to do. Coffee shops provide Wifi so you can relax with a cup of coffee in a comfortable atmosphere while still being able to get that little extra bit of work done. There's no way that's accomplished by squatting in the coffee shop for 8 hours on end. If that's you, get some manners, and get a life.
    • Re:How rude (Score:3, Insightful)

      by prockcore (543967)
      Coffee shops provide Wifi so you can relax with a cup of coffee in a comfortable atmosphere while still being able to get that little extra bit of work done

      No. Coffee shops provide coffee so you can drink it. Everything else is ancillary.
  • Couldn't they give out a coupon good for N hours of wi-fi access with each purchase. The coupon would have an activation code that the user would type in when connecting to the network.
  • by yagu (721525) <yayagu.gmail@com> on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:30PM (#12650820) Journal

    Isn't this yet another syndrom associated with advancing technology? I can understand wanting to sneak in a few minutes of productivity during a quiet moment of opportunity but have always tried being discreet (and discrete). But I've seen the described behavior in a local Chicago coffee shop... squatters who were there at different times of the day as I passed through. Not only did they not really appear to be paying customers, they:

    • monopolized entire tables capable of seating four with: laptop, some analog of an iPod, spare battery(ies), headhphones, and typically paperwork
    • typically were buried in their headphones
    • made no eye contact with anyone

    I have a friend who has a startup refreshment shop, and foot traffic and available space for paying customers is precious. These shop owners aren't making any fortune with their stores, they (at least my friend) do it out of love of the job (interacting with long-time customers, meeting new people, becoming an established figure of the local community).

    I also have another friend who frequents a local Seattle coffee shop a lot. It seems from talking with him he is an honorable patron, but I do get the impression he doesn't interact much with anyone there.

    Cell phones, laptops, pdas, portable music devices... they all have driven a somewhat asocial behavior. In public it's mostly annoying, maybe a little rude, sometimes outright boorish, but in a coffe shop, good for the owners to shut down the wireless on weekends (for example...). Sounds like they made a right move based on the almost immediate response and thanks received from regulars.

    Frankly, the day cell phones and laptops, etc. become totally uncool in public can't come too soon for me. In the meantime (shameless plug) if you're looking for more social ways of using technology consider and look into BookCrossing.com [bookcrossing.com]. It's been mentioned here on slashdot before -- it's a cool way of using technology to share books (something a little less technical, and a lot more social).

  • by jhsiao (525216) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:34PM (#12650839)
    1. Give away WiFi

    2. ???? -> Take away WiFi

    3. Profit!

  • by tyagiUK (625047) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:36PM (#12650859) Homepage
    There's quite a few ways to get rid of Wi-Fi geeks:

    Firstly, open the curtains, turn on the lights, and turn the aircon up above 20 degrees C. Do this every hour on the hour and the shop will clear to cries of "Nooooo, the Day Star!"

    Alternatively, confuse them by putting herbal sleep powder in the coffee and cola. They'll feel more drowsy, so buy more cola and coffee. Problem solved. Every few purchases, give them one infused with Penguin Mints (for added caffeine)

  • I'm actually a bit torn on this issue. I understand the problems with squatters and would be frustrated if I were the coffee shop, but I love having the free wi-fi at our local coffee shops. I like the idea many are proposing with timed tickets and the like.

    Coffee shops are in a delicate predicament when it comes to users. My fiance was once asked to leave a coffee shop for playing a board game there. They had chess boards at the shop, and my fiance and his friends had each bought more than $10 worth o
  • by johndierks (784521) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:38PM (#12650874)
    I live just a few block from the Victrola, and they're right. Often times 75%-90% of the people in there have laptops open. Often time I'm guilty myself.

    It used to be a great place were you could go drink a great cup of coffee and probably meet a cute indy chick, but ever since WiFi, everyone is so buried in their iBooks updating their MySpace page [myspace.com] that no one talks to each other.

    The best part is watching the the Seattle Craigslist Missed Connection [craigslist.org] page fill up with "You are a cute 20 that something redhead sitting over there in the corner. Damn I wish you'd close your iBook so I could talk to you." posts.

  • by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:40PM (#12650886)
    to attract *paying* customers. Once again, the actions of a few spoil it for everyone else.

    Eventually, some sort of ettiquette will work it's way to the surface, as it has with bulletin boards or email. I make it a point to a) seek out coffee shops with free wifi (www.delocator.net) and buy something as a sign of appreciation for the free connection. Would it kill the freeloaders to buy a small cup of decaf at the very least?
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:53PM (#12650972) Homepage
      Would it kill the freeloaders to buy a small cup of decaf at the very least?

      That may not be good enough. In Hawaii there was a vote on outlawing smoking in buildings. One restraunt owner being interviewed pointed out that they had already done so voluntarily and it greatly improved business, contrary to the popular wisdom. They pointed out that they had much better table turnover without the smokers, and that the smokers were often only buying a coffee but occupying a table for a long time.

      Yes this is a restraunt not a coffee shop but the point is that wifi'ers, like smokers, occupy a finite resource, table space, disproportionately to their purchase. The wifi'ers can only be tolerated if table space is abundant.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomwhore (10233) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:40PM (#12650889) Homepage Journal
    We here in Personal Telco Project ( http://www.personaltelco.net/ [personaltelco.net] )country, that being Portland Oregon, have not seen this particular behavior go on. In fact we have seen the exact flip side in most of the cafes we help get nodes into.

    There are several coffe houses who can point to the day the PTP node went in as the day thier revenues went up, noticably.

    There are communities that can point to the day some one put up a neighborhood node to as the day folks started spreading the goodness.

    We have found that when folks put up a Free Wifi Node and all that it can entail (not just internet access but community based local content (web, daap, zeroconf, ftp, distro repositories , etc etc) the community of users are enriched and the people hosting the node are not abused to the point of wanting to turn it off.

    Maybe we are truly in the right place at the right time with the right mix of citizens, who are the riches of any city as b!x will tell you. Im not sure whats cooking up there in Seattle but i hope it gets better.

    -tomhiggins
    www.personaltelco.net
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by eggboard (315140) * on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:43PM (#12650909) Homepage
      When I wrote up this story, I tried to make it clear that Victrola is in a unique position: the majority of coffeeshops have tons of transient business, and many of them see most traffic between 5 and 9 am. They want to fill seats after that. Victrola is more of a community center masquerading as a coffeeshop in the sense that it's a place that community forms, and thus they have a lot of dwell traffic all day. This is quite rare outside of libraries.
    • Well, you have to understand that coffee is a premium product. If you just wanted caffeine then you could get it anywhere and cheaper than a coffeehouse. Before the big internet/starbucks revolution coffeehouses were a lot more social (the article goes into this). Sure some people would read books, but a stranger would come up to you and ask you if you want to play chess too.

      Or you'd find yourself involved into a conversation about philosophy.

      Not to mention, coffeehouses are image based, so some people
  • by ortcutt (711694) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:43PM (#12650911)
    This will all sort itself out when every cafe has free WIFI. Then you won't end up with some being busy while others aren't. I frequent a place that has WIFI and that is very laptop-friendly and I can say for sure that they do a lot of business because of it. Even the lingerers spend money because they want coffee and they get hungry and want donuts and bagels.
  • Buy something $10 or greater....authorize your MAC and/or receive a login/pass for 3 hours.

    Next problem?
  • Paying for access doesn't solve this cafe's problem, which is not so much the moochers as it is the environment where everybody just stares at a screen all day instead of socializing.

    I have come up with a solution that fixes both problems. An AP that does intermittent access, so that you can connect, but after enough time to do a basic session of E-mail or web research, it refuses you for 5 minutes.

    I outline more about the solution of intermittent wifi in this blog entry [4brad.com]
  • If the 2 hr token code on receipts is too much trouble, one thought would be a wifi router that takes note of the mac address and gradually throttles down bandwidth or puts up a nag message on port 80 requests after the mac address has been in use for too long. Could even be a variable sized time window so that on those busy weekends you only get 1/2 hr but on a slow monday afternoon you get 4 hours.

    I don't know of any wifi routers that do this, but it seems like an easy idea to implement and wouldn't req
    • You can change the MAC address you send. People will use MAC addresses like proxies.

      I know one Cafe that has internet access for customers only. It is all wi-fi. All you need to do is get a good sniffer, sit there a while, find a MAC address, clone it as yours, and you have free access.

      A better option is to kick all the bums out, make it known they are not welcome. Or have an area where the bums can sit, that does not take up customer space.

      You know what they do in France? To sit in a cafe, you must

  • by chia_monkey (593501) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:47PM (#12650942) Journal
    It's funny to see how everyone here is an expert in business, marketing, general human psychology, and the like. "Charge for this", "put up signs for that", "only allow this"...it's not that easy.

    There is a fine balance between welcoming people that will eventually turn into customers and attracting hordes of freeloaders, from enforcing a policy that keeps paying customers happy while they surf to appearing to be too harsh like you're running a police state in your store. Let's face it...each restaurant, each cafe, each location in a city has its own unique needs. The Panera Bread that offers free WiFi in a college town may need to have a monitor walk the store and ask abusers of the free WiFi to leave while the Panera in a DC suburb may have mindful users that monitor themselves as they come in, grab lunch, surf, and leave. Timed access codes may work for some places, purchase-required policies may be needed in others, and some may be able to offer it 24/7 without incident.
  • by bit01 (644603) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @09:50PM (#12650962)

    Just set up bandwidth shaping so that each MAC address gradually starts slowing way down after an hour. Slow, not stopped, means they have a chance to finish their work and log off cleanly. They'll get the idea. I've seen this in other contexts; it works well and minimises arguments and overhead.

    ---

    Copyright is a privilege, not a right.

  • Why would you willingly goto a place with lots of people sitting around on laptops?

    Those are the last people on the planet I want to be around to socialize with. That's my crowd for work or a confined to a LUG setting, and the upcoming WWDC of course :)
  • works for The Office [theofficeonline.com]. They even have enough to spring for aerons and bose noise cancelling headphones. and i don't have to be guilted/forced into buying a muffin every 20 minutes.

    for extra geek cred, joss whedon wrote 'serenity' there.
  • So I'm going to be a hypocrite on this one. I spent a lot of time writing my thesis on a laptop in a coffee house. But over time, I've started to really find the idea that you should turn up to a place that's (to some extent) meant to be a "third place" - that is, an escape from both home and work - and annex it as yet another place to do work. It's particularly annoying when people decide that not only are they going to camp out for 8 hours with their laptops, they're going to use the place as a mobile off
  • by spasm (79260) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @10:19PM (#12651118) Homepage
    i've noticed that most of the coffeeshops i still like to go to just to drink coffee and hang out with people have limited numbers of people using laptops. i've also noticed that the reason not many people use laptops is the shop has few or no publicly accessible power outlets. ie your laptop use is limited to the life of your battery - the kind of people who want to spend six hours hunched over their laptop are go elsewhere.

    i'm waiting to see how long it takes places drowning in the 'six hour wifi session and one cup of coffee people' to just blank their power outlets off. way less hassle than trying to enforce purchase per hour rules or other annoyances.

    i'm kind of waiting for if you want to use your laptop, you're limited to battery life
  • by whatthef*ck (215929) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @10:30PM (#12651188) Homepage
    A few decades ago, some restaurants and bars used to have prominent signs out front announcing that their premises were air-conditioned. Back then, not all places were, so on, say, a scorching July evening in a small town in the Kansas prairie, an air-conditioned bar or restaurant could reasonably expect to have an edge over the non-AC competition. I'm sure many proprietors noticed some of their "customers" lingering for hours over a half-eaten piece of pie or a single beer while they gabbed to their friends, obviously looking for a cheap or free way to escape the unbearable heat outside or in their homes.

    Nowdays, when virtually every place of public accomodation has AC, there are no doubt still people who might nurse a single latte for hours in the local coffee shop to escape an unbearably hot apartment, but they're not going to be numerous enough to be a burden on the system. After all, there are plenty of places with AC they can go to.

    The problem with Wi-Fi moochers is no doubt a real one now, but it will solve itself in time. Although it's not happening fast enough to suit me, the trends are toward free and ubiquitious Wi-Fi. When that day comes, and they're distributed among all of the bars, restaurants, coffee shops and libraries in a a given area, no one will worry about the one or two Wi-Fi moochers in their establishment at a given moment.
  • by Zlib pt (820294) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @10:42PM (#12651259)
    but can someone please give a free / simple way of doing that?

    Does anyone know one of those systems that only let ppl surf on the store webpage and to access the rest of the internet you have to put an username/password ?

    I've been looking for this for a long time, but haven't found none
  • by aquarian (134728) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @10:42PM (#12651260)
    ...seems to work for most places. Most people's computers only work for 1-2 hours (most batteries aren't in top condition). So unless people bring more than one battery (unlikely for broke WiFi squatters), you can get them to leave by just not providing plugs.

    Stupidly, some coffeehouses have plugs all over the place anyway. Often this is left over from a previous restaurant business, where they had a lamp on every table, etc.

    So if you want people to limit their stay, just limit the electricity!
  • It seems social problems beg for social solutions, and most of the solutions I've seen in the replies are different varities of how to make sure only paying customers get the wifi. That's not a bad idea, but it doesn't solve the problem of a lack of atmopshere. (BTW: rolls of tickets like fairs use come cheap. Don't let numbers be used twice, and lock out a MAC after a few wrong guesses.)

    Anyway, my solution: On the first hit to any page from a new MAC, or on a new token, go to a site for the coffee shop. Have a web-based chat there. Encourage your patrons to use it, post news there, etc. The idea is to get the geeks to come out of their shells for a bit. Try to get the "missed connections" stuff on there, and perhaps the cute girl on the iBook will see it in time.

    And if that doesn't work, well, perhaps turning off the wifi is a good idea.
  • by darthwader (130012) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @11:03PM (#12651387) Homepage
    They can't do that. Internet access WANTS to be free. It's evil to force people to pay for something of value.

    The world will be a much better place when everyone gets everything they want for free. These "businesspeople" are just greedy bastards who are trying to opress the masses.

    And what's this with paying for the coffee? I don't have to pay for my coffee at work, so why should I have to pay for the coffee at the coffee shop? Coffee wants to be free, too.

    Anyone who opposes the Open Coffee and Open Wi-Fi movement is clearly a slave of Bill Gates. They must be stopped. Someone should do something about them. Me, I'm too busy looking for free broadband internet access to liberate my mp3s, movies, and software.
  • Damn fine idea! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kimanaw (795600) on Thursday May 26, 2005 @11:14PM (#12651462)
    Summer is upon us, Seattle's best time of the year, sunny, warm, and green. If you're so hung up w/ that damn laptop that you can't shut it off, kick back with a tall iced sweet tea, and enjoy the weekend, you shouldn't be allowed to enter the cafe, much less bogart the wifi.

    More power to 'em. In fact, I'd suggest that anyone entering w/ any electronic info device (yes, including cellphones) on the weekend be shown the exit and visited with a hail of derisive boos and laughter.

  • How about a page... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vegaspctech (769513) <vegaspctech@yahoo.com> on Friday May 27, 2005 @02:21AM (#12652370) Homepage Journal
    ...with a password prompt and the message 'your server will gladly enter the password for you'? I'd wager that having to interact with the wait staff to get connected would dramatically reduce the number of leeches.
  • Free limited access (Score:3, Informative)

    by JungleBoy (7578) on Friday May 27, 2005 @09:13AM (#12654072)
    One of the cafes I spend time at has a really nice way of limiting WiFi use. They have a little tape printer with three buttons, one for 30, 60, & 90 minutes. When you make a purchase, you ask for some wifi time, they hit a button and hand you a recipt. It has a randomly generated username and password that lasts for just the requested time. I rarely need more than 90 minutes (I usually hook up there before heading to the office). It's nice becuase it's still free, but they can still keep it reasonable with their business needs (only with a purchase, for limited time). This is by far the best setup I've found. Totally free and unlimited is nice, but if it's only on DSL and there are a bunch of WiFi campers, the throughput totally slows down. On the other hand some places charge hourly for wifi, even with a purchase, this just pisses me off.

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