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Wireless Networking

Some LA Coffee Shops Are Taking Wi-Fi Off the Menu 312

Posted by kdawson
from the cup-of-bits-to-go dept.
As New York is putting Wi-Fi on wheels, reader Hugh Pickens notes a counter trend in Los Angeles coffee shops. (We remarked on a similar backlash in Seattle in 2005.) "Coffee shops were the retail pioneers of Wi-Fi, but Jessica Guynn reports in the LA Times that now some owners are pulling the plug after finding that Wi-Fi freeloaders who camp out all day nursing a single cup of coffee are a drain on the bottom line. Other owners strive to preserve a friendly vibe and keep their establishments from turning into 'Matrix'-like zombie shacks where people type and don't talk. 'There is now a market niche for not having Wi-Fi,' says Bryant Simon. After Dan and Nathalie Drozdenko turned off the Wi-Fi at their Los Angeles cafe, the complaints poured in, but so did the compliments: Lots of customers appreciated a wireless cup of joe at the Downbeat Cafe, a popular lunch spot in Echo Park. 'People come here because we don't offer it. They know they can get their work done and not get distracted.'"
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Some LA Coffee Shops Are Taking Wi-Fi Off the Menu

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:21AM (#33187272)
    'People come here because we don't offer it. They know they can get their work done and not get distracted.'

    This is something that I suspect will be lost on about 95% of the slashdot-reading population -- net access isn't necessarily critical to everyone's ability to do their work.
  • Terminology error? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:24AM (#33187288) Homepage Journal

    Lots of customers appreciated a wireless cup of joe at the Downbeat Cafe, a popular lunch spot in Echo Park. 'People come here because we don't offer it. They know they can get their work done and not get distracted.'"

    It was wireless before. Do you mean 'connectionless' or something? :-)

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:25AM (#33187292) Homepage

    WiFi at these places is a privilege, not a right. You don't get to just buy a $2 drink, take over a table and hog it for hours during the busier part of the day. These cafes should have made it clear that if you want to stay during the busier time, that's fine and welcome, but you WILL be buying food and/or a steady supply of coffee.

    It'd be painful in the short term because they'd have to tell some of these entitled hoity-toities that it is a privilege, not an entitlement and if they want to complain they can just GTFO.

  • interesting flip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:26AM (#33187298)

    Indie coffee shops used to have free wifi as a differentiator, while Starbucks charged. Now Starbucks has free wifi, so they're going to no/limited wifi as their differentiator. I guess it doesn't matter how it's different, so long as they just do something different.

  • by cualexander (576700) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:28AM (#33187310)
    Cutting off wireless access is pretty pointless. The better solution is to give 2 free hours and then give a code when you buy something else that gives you another 2. That at least keeps the freeloaders at bay. Caribou does something similar to this already. You aren't going to keep people from sitting there and surfing the internet though just by cutting off wi-fi. I like to take my iPad to coffee shops and read the news and it's tethered to my phone so I still have free internet regardless. I think had you done this in the early 2000s yeah, you would have stopped people from turning your coffee shop into an internet cafe, but in 2010, it's a little late.
  • Odd... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:28AM (#33187312)

    How is surfing the internet different from 'just getting work done', as far as shop atmosphere is concerned?

  • Wirelessless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 6031769 (829845) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:29AM (#33187318) Homepage Journal

    I think they mean "wirelessless". Note wirelessless != wired.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:35AM (#33187354)

    Bandwidth is cheap

    For now... :)

  • by TobascoKid (82629) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:36AM (#33187370) Homepage

    " you WILL be buying food and/or a steady supply of coffee."

    They need to make it easier to keep buying coffee and food. At the moment, people have generally 3 choices when it comes to buying more:

    1) Leave your stuff (including laptop) at seat while you get more coffee (and risk theft)
    2) "Decamp" then buy more stuff (and risk losing your seat)
    3) make a cup last as long as possible to avoid options 1 & 2

    Basically, if coffee shops want to make more money from the WiFi hogs then they should look into something like table service, at least for people who have already been to the counter once. It gives people an easy way to spend money and the "nagging" effect of somebody asking if the hog wants to order more will make most of them either pay up or move on. It shouldn't be that much of an extra burden on staff as you need to have people going around and cleaning up tables anyway.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:38AM (#33187382)
    If they require you to purchase food for a limited amount of time, then it's not free. That's subsidized or possibly included in the purchase price.
  • by icebraining (1313345) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:38AM (#33187384) Homepage

    I can understand not requiring internet access to work, but then internet access should be irrelevant. It's only prejudicial if you suffer from ADHD and can't stop refreshing your Facebook status if you do have net access.

    Personally, if I don't need net, I just don't use it, I don't have to physically restrain myself from it.

  • by rotide (1015173) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:51AM (#33187466)

    Versus having people come in and just mooch without pay or paying so little it costs you money? There are obviously pro's and con's on both sides, but if you think you can just go in and pay $2 and sit there for multiple hours surfing their internet, you need to wake up.

    But I don't equate "customers only" to "fee". I understand that bathrooms in nice restaurants are for their customers only. I understand that those call in numbers on receipts for a "chance to win" isn't simply given out and you need to be a customer. Wifi should be the same way. You can use it proportional to how much of a customer you are. The problem with a fully open system is what they are seeing now. People who simply leech off their good will, take up space and create a less than enjoyable atmosphere.

    "Not free" might be technically true. But totally free doesn't seem to be working as well as hoped and I understand, no, suggest that they lock it down a bit. Simply put, if you're going to Joe's Coffee Bazaar merely to use their internet and not purchase anything, you shouldn't be allowed to mooch their WiFi all you want. Purchase something and you're free to use their services.

  • by cycleflight (1811074) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:59AM (#33187512)
    But when's the last time you lounged in a chair in torn jeans and $150 dress shoes, a dress shirt covered nicely with a sweater vest, horn rimmed glasses and just-greasy-enough hair, looking up casually at the passers by before returning to one-handedly surfing for the latest website for wholly organic silica gel packets, at your local Burger King? That kind of policy just doesn't have the right flow, man.
  • by HAKdragon (193605) <hakdragonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:03AM (#33187536)
    ..except that wi-fi at Starbucks is now free.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:07AM (#33187558) Journal
    If you are talking "basic WPA2, with an easily human-rememberable password that we hand out to customers on request and change from time to time" probably at least one per location, possibly more. Average employee age is relatively low, setting up an ordinary wifi router isn't exactly an uncommon task in that demographic.

    If you are talking "radius authenticated captive portal integrated with unique one-time-codes generated and printed by the POS system, complete with analytics and so forth", obviously virtually none, unless they just happen to have an unemployed software engineer on staff. Which is why, being a huge chain and all, they'd just contract out the integration project and have the routers shipped to the franchises in "plug in, press 'on'" condition.
  • by mark72005 (1233572) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:07AM (#33187560)
    Yes, children are pretty much the world's biggest market.
  • by lollacopter (1758854) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:08AM (#33187572)

    ...but our cantennared friends are also not taking up valuable seating in the cafe and as has been stated previously, bandwidth is cheap

  • by mark72005 (1233572) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:12AM (#33187598)
    I'm not going to care, as a business owner, if ultra cheapass wants to mooch wifi. I don't care about the wifi. I care about the sloth who isn't making me any money taking up a chair or a sofa or a table for hours on end.

    Paying customers walk in, see that the wifi slugs are taking up all the places to sit, and just leave. That is the problem. It's not about the wifi. It's about getting the douches who think all businesses are charity operations designed to give them what they want for free that are the problem.
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:18AM (#33187652)

    Safe to say she will be happier with your $1.50 in business taken across the street, freeing up a table.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:19AM (#33187666)

    Wah.

    Here is a news flash for you. the Coffee shop is not your office. if you are one of those douchebags that set up camp in a booth then you deserve the risks involved. If the place is so busy that as soon as you get up to get your next coffee that someone takes your spot, Then you are leaching off them. Sorry, but grab another spot, it's not yours, you dont own it. Wah!

    as for risking loss, ever heard of a laptop lock cable? oh wait, you have at least 80 pounds of other crap there.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:22AM (#33187704)

    If you've ever worked from home in a small city apartment, a coffee shop can seem like a very pleasant place to work. You are right, though... not for the easily distracted.

  • by maxume (22995) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:22AM (#33187714)

    Do you somehow think that the free wifi offered by stores is not included in the purchase price?

  • Look - security is a pyramid. At the peak of the pyramid are like national spying organizations, and at the bottom are literally animals. You usually only need to stop part of the problem to be effective. A doorknob stops feral cats or raccoons from getting in, but not criminals. A padlock stops hooligans, but actual criminals can break it. A deadbolt is better, but can still be picked by higher-end criminals. Vault doors and lasers stop all but the most professional of criminals or spies in their tracks.

    But I don't need to worry about "what if Michael Westen or James Bond wants to raid my cash register?" because the odds of that are so low, I'm just not a target as a coffee shop. So if all I've got is some expresso machines and a few bucks in the register, I get a normal lock and some insurance, not armed guards.

    This is the technology equivalent. I'm not worried about "what if he spoofs his MAC" or "what if he's war-driving from a remote controlled helicopter". I can solve 95% of my problem (people mooching off me) for 10% of the cost/effort, so I'll probably stop there.
  • by Threni (635302) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:36AM (#33187836)

    Makes sense to me. Some pubs in the UK have no music. Makes a nice change to be able to hear the people you're talking to, and not have to shout over the `atmosphere` induced by piping in crap pop/rock music. Ditto for tv (especially sports tv).

  • Applause (Score:3, Insightful)

    by assertation (1255714) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:51AM (#33187952)

    I highly applaud this move.

    Some nice places were starting to have a similar problem in Washington D.C., so the owners decided to cut WI-FI access off during the weekends. Seating was limited. Some people would come up, set up their lap tops and camp out at a table all day despite seeing that people who bought food had no place to sit. Some of these people would even put their feet up on other chairs and refuse to share their table if asked.

    Rude and as some of the owners figured out, bad for business.

    I like to go and read a book in public places sometimes, but if I see people not getting seats I pick up and go.

    When I got online my surroundings vanish, so I don't see a point in going out somewhere nice to get on the computer. I can do that at home. If I am going to be somewhere nice, I want to be there.

  • by Nevynxxx (932175) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:51AM (#33187962)

    If you are with your date *turn you WiFi off*...

  • Yes, that was only a tad judgmental. It really needed to be a lot more judgmental to reach the correct amount.

    Seriously, people, it is not acceptable to wander around in public dressed in sleepwear. Your dorm common room, fine, a business, no.

    No, it's not an issue of how 'modest' it is, and the joke here is I'm one of the most informal persons I know...I barely own any shirts with buttons on them, and I spend my entire life in a t-shirt plus shorts or blue jeans. But just because an outfit is 'legal' doesn't make it reasonable clothing. If you want to start some new trend, or you're trying to change the types of clothing people think is okay via sheer force of will...whatever, I'm not the clothes polices, and styles change. Perhaps some day in the future we will all wear pajama-style pants.

    But failing to put real clothes on is not a 'trend'. And it isn't being 'non-conformist', which I'm sure some people will claim. It's just being a lazy ass. You want to be non-conformist or something, show up in a skirt or with a giant Mayan headdress, don't try to pass laziness off as it.

    Likewise, it is not acceptable to just plop yourself down and take over entire areas with books and stuff, unless you're in a library or something. That's just basic courtesy.

  • by jayspec462 (609781) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:42AM (#33188702) Homepage

    It's like espresso, except with less caffiene to calm the frayed nerves of internet pedantics.

  • by Kabuthunk (972557) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <knuhtubak>> on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:42AM (#33188710) Homepage

    If my boss tried to ask me why I didn't do the work he emailed to me while I was on lunch, I'd reply "Because I was on fucking lunch!"

  • Not buying it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:07AM (#33189136)
    I really doubt that these shops are actually getting customers actively coming to them and saying how much they prefer lack of wireless. It is an invisible service... if you do not actively use it then you have no idea if it is there or not. The only case I can really see is complements from those people who bitch and moan that other people are online rather then audibly socializing with each other, since some people seem to be obsessed with the idea that a noisy/chatty environment is high grade social interaction.
  • by webdog314 (960286) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:16AM (#33189302)

    If you want to seriously reduce the freeloaders then just simply remove or lock the electrical plugs around the shop. Whenever I'm in a coffeehouse and someone comes in for a serious session on their laptop, the first thing they do is look for a table near an electrical outlet and plug in. Most laptops will get between 2-4 hours of battery life doing mundane stuff, and less for anything more serious. No plug = self imposed time limit.

    Better yet, put all the plugs over on one side or a specific section of your coffeehouse to keep the geeks away from your [cough] premium customers.

  • by carpefishus (1515573) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:22AM (#33189356)

    douches who think all businesses are charity operations designed to give them what they want for free that are the problem.

    It's like those douche internet slugs who think music is free.

  • by q335r49 (926045) on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:58AM (#33189936)
    This is idiotic because it assumes wifi-users are animals with no responsibility and no thought for others. I've seen polite signs that work wonders:

    "Please limit your time to an hour if you are just browsing the internet, during our peak hours of -----------

    Thanks,

    Management"

    The "atmosphere" of the coffee shop is the atmosphere of mutual communication -- the customers listen too. There is no need for these weird "receipt" codes, or things like that. I'd simply go to Starbucks. I mean, I've refused to go to a coffee shop because they fired a barista I've known for a long time -- if they suddenly said -- "Hey, you're not welcome here, freeloader" -- without a polite explanation, as above -- then there would definitely be backlash.

  • by acedotcom (998378) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:00PM (#33191104)
    doesnt seem that hard....if you are running a business and you see ANY kind of squatter, walk up to them, tell them (or maybe post a clear set of rules or time limits AND ENFORCE IT) and kick people out when there time is up. every Panera Bread has free Wifi and they also have a clear set of rules posted. Honestly, TFA talks about being "disconnected" but they wont even walk up to these squatters and kick them out. instead of trying to preserve "the atmosphere" maybe they should be more concerned with maintaining services AND evicting deadbeats. Just eliminating a service seems like a lazy and spineless way to claim that you are being "unique" and preserving an specific atmosphere

    What do they do about people like me that bring their own modem (and then turn on its router) and use my own UNRESTRICTED network? would they let me sit there all day and nurse a coffee for hours because they dont have have the balls to tell me to leave?
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:16PM (#33193490) Homepage Journal

    2 Free hours so that you can sit there occupying a table for 2 hours on 1 cup of coffee? :) OK, let's see how that business survives THAT. 15 minutes is more than enough for a single purchase.

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