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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 @07:20AM (#33187270)

    Yeah, like that "novel" they've been "working on."

    • by TheLink (130905) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:33AM (#33187336) Journal
      http://www.heraldscotland.com/how-jk-rowling-has-us-spellbound-1.852126

      "The setting where Rowling penned the last of the Harry Potter series is a far cry from the Edinburgh cafes - The Elephant House and Nicholson's coffee shop - where she famously began the first of them 10 years ago as a single mother living on benefits. Then, she struggled to find an agent and was turned down by eight publishers. A decade later, she has been credited with transforming the publishing world and changing our definition of what a children's novel can be."

      Many people may not think much of her work, but since she's a billionaire I guess there must be people who like her stuff :).
  • Coffee culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:22AM (#33187274) Journal

    I have not been too keen to spend my day hanging out in the coffee shop just to browse the internet. It always has seemed like an odd fit to me, similar to fishing and collating.

    Now if they had someone playing light jazz and maybe a collection of weird art books that would be really cool.

    • It's a combination of addictive activities and addictive substances. Internet. Coffee. It's like a perfect storm.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by StikyPad (445176)

        Yeah, coffee's super addictive. I remember when I was homeless, I used to scrape together any change I could find just to get my next java fix. When things were really bad, I'd break into coffee bars and steal bags of their strongest brew. Fortunately, unlike heroin, the price of a cup of coffee is only loosely tied to its strength. A strong cup of sludge may not taste as good, but honestly, that's like complaining that your china white is too clumpy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          You joke, but the one time that an office I work in has ever been broken in to, the only thing that was stolen was the coffee. All the expensive computers, monitors and printers were untouched.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Piff, noobs just can't handle the power of wireless freedom.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:14AM (#33188282) Homepage Journal

      They have wifi at Felber's, a neighborhood redneck bar in the ghetto (Springfield is wierd), and I take my netbook there all the time. Talk about distraction, drunk construction workers can get pretty loud. But the biggest distraction is people seeing me use the computer. "You can get on the internet with that? How do you do it? Do you have to have internet at home? That's the smallest computer I ever saw. What did you pay for that? Hey, can you get pictures of naked women?"

      This isn't much of a coffee-shop town, especially my neighborhood. TFS looked like the coffee shop owners said the computers were distracting... I don't see how unless they're not using headphones and have the volume turned all the way up on youtube.

  • 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? :-)

    • 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 Sockatume (732728)

        Because I know many people will start speculating without bothering to click a link, that flub appeared in the original submission, and is not hypercorrection by the editor.

      • by macbeth66 (204889)

        wouldn't that be a state of wirelesslessness?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      You can always choose to not be connected, being wifi there or not. The main problem is people staying hours there during peak hours buying only a coffee, so reading a book, working offline or browsing online is more or less the same. You have to decide if you want to have the customers there for more time (having wifi available would be the same to let them pick books or the newspaper and read them while there), or a fast rotation of them. If you get usually full without having a lot of long staying custo
  • 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.

    • by rotide (1015173) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:35AM (#33187352)
      Entirely agree. They should lock the wifi and your receipt comes with a code for a free 30/60 minute wifi key. They do this at the local Burger Kings in my area. Wifi is free, but you have to purchase food to get a limited amount of time to use it. The problem here is the trading/asking for receipts. I guess the local Burger King does this right too, they only print the code on the receipt if you _ask_ for it. It's sort of like asking for no pickles on your sandwich, there is no charge or deduction, just a note that you want no pickles.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        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 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 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 ErikZ (55491) *

              Oh, that's easy.

              Have less comfortable chairs. The place I go to I can stay about 2 hours at the max, before I lose all feeling to my legs.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by tehcyder (746570)

                Have less comfortable chairs. The place I go to I can stay about 2 hours at the max, before I lose all feeling to my legs.

                McDonalds do this pretty well, between the sharp plastic furniture and the food, I generally last about five minutes before seeking fresh air or the toilets.

            • by Webcommando (755831) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:35AM (#33188596) Homepage Journal

              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.

              I'm not a business owner, but a very regular customer for a local Starbucks in my town. I use to go there after my daughter's violin lessons and have a treat, coffee, and some nice father-daughter time while we ate.

              This was before a group of scrap-bookers decided that Starbucks was their personal workshop. They take up almost the entire store and parking lot, bring in all their equipment, and (from what I've seen) buy only a few drinks between the group.

              I've stopped going to the store and take my girls someplace else. So your moral is true: it isn't wifi, it is the free loaders who have no consideration for other patrons that cost the business owner. At least if I have to have a coffee, there's the drive through...something the little shops probably don't have.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by mariox19 (632969)

                In the Barnes & Noble I used to work at, it was the nursing students that were the most egregious offenders. They would grab all of the review books off the shelves, buy one cup of coffee (some individuals seemed not to bother even with this), plop themselves down in the cafe, and spend the entire Sunday afternoon studying for their exams. When they were done, they just left all of the review books they had spent the afternoon paging through on the table. Heaven forbid they purchase one.

                Once, when we ha

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by carpefishus (1515573)

              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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)

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

          • I run a coffee roasting operation and do some consulting for other coffee firms so I can tell you that in a lot of cases it isn't. What are the costs here? There's the cost of Internet access, which the business would have been paying anyway because they're using it to order from some suppliers, check bank account balances, and so on. There's the cost of a wireless router, but that's a pretty cheap one time cost that amortizes to 0. There's the cost of the electricity needed to run the router, but if that's significant on a per-cup-of-coffee basis that shop has bigger problems than wifi moochers.

            The trade journals have been covering this trend for a while, but wifi is really just a convenient scapegoat for the real problem of a lack of customer engagement on the part of staff. While wifi might bring in a different demographic of moocher, this isn't really a new problem. Some years back I went into another coffee shop, ordered my single espresso, a large coffee, and some food, then found no indoor seating available at all. The seating area had been completely taken over by students. You'd see even at the largest tables, one student with their stuff spread all over it. I was later in a meeting with the owner of that shop and I told him about this. I also told him about my customers who also like to take over a big table and spread things out, but when the place gets busy, they pack up and move to a smaller table. He was impressed as his customers never thought to do that. This was a place that didn't offer wifi at the time, but it was the same problem with the same solution. Get to know your customers and when seating starts getting scarce, get out from behind the bar and suggest to the person using the largest table that he could move to a smaller table so the family of 4 that just came in can sit together, introduce customers to each other and ask if they'd mind sharing a table, things like that.

            My policy on wifi is the same as when I put it in (and customers know this policy). It's free, it's open, but if it starts causing problems I'll get rid of it. So far it's been beneficial. Customers who spend a lot of time in the shop (but keep buying things while they're there) are there longer (and buying more) because they no longer have to run home just to check email. It's brought in more customers. It's also made it easier for me to make certain workflows data-aware (for example, the computer in the roasting area communicating with a database keeps inventory figures current and makes the roasting log both more detailed and easier to use, see my homepage for more details) without running ugly cables all over the place. That said, the coffee market in many major American cities is such that some independent shops can afford to pick their customers and if your customers think you have the best coffee in town, they'll be willing to deal with the minor inconvenience of lacking access, or rather, instead of laptops, they'll be on their cell phones. Personally, I'd rather have the laptops, but then again, my customers talk to each other.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:49AM (#33187456) Journal
        I suspect that there are two problems with this granular, technically sound solution:

        1. BK is a major chain corporation, economies of scale and whatnot. Per retail establishment, the cost was probably near peanuts to integrate the code printing into the POS software, and the code verification into the captive portal on the wifi, and so forth. For Jimmy's Indie Brewz, locations 1, the wifi is probably just some router on a DSL line. Integrating a code system would either mean forking over $$$$ to his POS vendor, if they even offer that, or hoping that his cousin is one of those "linux hackers".

        2. Indie coffee shops obviously aren't immune to economics, and need to make sales to survive; but part of their appeal is "atmosphere". Any system that mires the customers in codes and makes explicit the subsidy of the wifi by the coffee has the potential to degrade the perceived atmosphere. What they really want is for freeloaders to feel social pressure, from disapproving patrons that surround them, and move along. Unfortunately for them, either the freeloaders don't care about nasty looks, or the availability of an open AP creates a critical mass of freeloaders that impose their own social norms, rendering them immune to other customers. BK isn't aiming to give you the warm and fuzzies, they just want you in, eating, and out, so they needn't be as concerned.
        • by RMH101 (636144) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:55AM (#33187488)
          D-link used to sell a product that was ADSL router, small till-roll printer and embedded software that managed printing out each user a unique access code, and a no-cat-auth style login web page for access. Cost was under 200 dollars as I recall.
          I'd imagine as well as the points in the rest of this thread another reason for wifi decline is a) the economy means that any business cost that doesn't bring in a profit gets squeezed, and also the risk of an unidentified customer doing something naughty with the internet connection and the coffee shop being prosecuted for it.
        • by szquirrel (140575)

          For Jimmy's Indie Brewz, locations 1, the wifi is probably just some router on a DSL line. Integrating a code system would either mean forking over $$$$ to his POS vendor, if they even offer that, or hoping that his cousin is one of those "linux hackers".

          If Jimmy doesn't know how to run his WiFi then why is he trying to sell it? I know nothing about coffee; if I tried to sell coffee I would go bankrupt. Even if you "sell" WiFi access for free as a loss leader, it's still a product. Stick to products you understand or hire someone who knows the product you're trying to sell. That's Business 101.

        • by DavidTC (10147)

          Plus, BKs tend to be a lot larger than coffeeshops.

          There are plenty of coffee places where there is literally just one row of tables, maybe eight or so. When four of those tables have freeloaders with laptops on them...

          Whereas most fast food places are rather bigger than they need to be, and it's really not important.

          When i go and see a movie somewhere alone, I often stop in some fast food places, order some food, and eat it and, sit and keep reading a book until the movie is near, sometimes for an hour

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cycleflight (1811074)
        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 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 Nevynxxx (932175) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:46AM (#33187440)

        Or instead of the "you have x minutes left" counters that get displayed in a web page on some hotspots, have a "more coffee" button, that places your order at the till to be delivered to you at your table. I like this idea.

      • It costs even more money than free wifi.

        Having someone walk around asking for orders takes more time away from making orders, cleaning the equipment, grinding the coffee, etc. The biggest expense of any US business is it's payroll. Plus in a coffee shop environment, some people might find it annoying because those people have come to expect that they won't be bothered every 15 minutes. In an upscale restaurant where I don't pull my laptop I expect someone to visit my table regularly. At a coffee shop I

      • 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.

        One of the few things that British teashops get right and American cafés get wrong, is that in a teashop you almost always get waitress service, whereas in an American café you almost always don't. Teashops are one of the very few British places where waitress service still persists.

        I can't stand waitress service in pubs (bars), but in teashops it is required. In a bar, the beer is already brewed; just stick it in a glass, there is no need to delay. In a teashop, the tea needs to brew, there is no

    • Sure, but I fail to see the difference between the guy on WiFi for 3 hours and the old dude reading the 3 papers he brought with him, or the woman reading a novel. Mooching is mooching, WiFi or not. Also, because the WiFi for most independent coffee shops is the same connection they need for credit card auths and running their business there is no additional cost to the business.
  • interesting flip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <(gro.hsikcah) (ta) (todhsals-muiriled)> 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 DavidTC (10147)

      If they want to do something different, why don't they try making their coffee reasonably priced?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Everywhere else in the world they have temporary tokens (Usually just a card with a number or they just tell you a number) which lasts for a certain period of time until expiring, you get one per purchase or whatever. This shit isn't hard.
  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You can't(legally) stop 3g without an expensive retrofit(the FCC can nail you if you are jamming, they can't stop you from building walls with horrible RF propagation characteristics); but I suspect that the numbers are still such that cutting off the wifi makes a major difference.

      At least it the US, smartphones with internet access aren't at all uncommon; but(in part because of their increasing endurability as access devices) tethering them is less common, and dedicated WWAN cards for laptops seem to b
    • by Eraesr (1629799)
      Seems like a sensible solution. I was thinking the same kind of thing.
      2 hours may seem a little long IMO. Buy a cup of coffee, get 30 mins of free WiFi. Should be enough to get your coffee downed.
    • by houghi (78078)

      2 hours? I would have thought something like 30 minutes per consumption. Also I would say it is needed to ask up front. Still free.

    • I doubt that it's necessary. WiFi freeloaders are in the coffee shop because that's where the WiFi is. If you're using 3G in a coffee shop then chances are you're there for the coffee.

    • If you can afford an iPad and a tethering phone, you probably aren't the problem demographic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      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.

  • I can only agree... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geogob (569250) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:29AM (#33187316)

    Going to a coffee shop to find every place being used all evening by single persons with their laptop and a cup of coffee (that's most likely cold by then) is really frustrating. It's probably even more frustrating to the owner who sees is investment monopolized by clients that bring only little income to the place.

    But I think the summary went totally off track by associating wireless network access in coffee shops with global city-wide wireless network access. Once you have global wireless networks, the need for local public networks is obviously much reduced. Furthermore, having a global city-wide network may even limit the problem forcing coffee shops to removed their local wireless network. On the other hand, it may then affect establishments the willingly refused to have wireless network access. In the end, it's really difficult to state that one is a counter-trend to the other.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:31AM (#33187324)
    "I'm sorry boss, how was I supposed to know you'd sent me the big file by email to work on during lunch? The coffee shop didn't have WIFI so I couldn't connect and see my email!"
  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:32AM (#33187330)
    When a customer buys a coffee their receipt should contain a unique PIN which is good for X amount of minutes from the time of purchase. The customer would have to enter the PIN to get through the firewall. Seems like a no brainer solution, one which discourages freeloaders and still allows coffee shops (or anywhere else) to offer wifi.
    • I think this is a fair compromise.

      Another solution I had once considered was having times when you could use wi-fi freely and others when there are more customers you have to chip in either by buying a coffee or paying for the connection. It may work, but some people I have spoken too worry that this may end up being too confusing to actually work.

      On the subject of PIN based wireless internet, with time limitations, are there any solutions out there that are either available off the shelf or via something l

  • by wickerprints (1094741) on Monday August 09, 2010 @07:40AM (#33187394)

    The greater Los Angeles area is huge. If you looked up "urban sprawl" in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of LA. Consequently, services like WiFi and GSM/CDMA are not as heavily concentrated as they are in cities like San Francisco or New York, where the population density is higher. In general, I find the idea of being able to drive around the city and expect to find open access points to be laughable. So where does that leave those annoying Hollywood hipsters and aspiring screenwriters? They can't be "discovered" if they stay at home, but they can't write their next big screenplay if they go out. That's why you see them crowding around the Starbucks and Coffee Beans plaguing nearly every street corner, trying to strike some self-imagined balance of trendiness and importance.

    If more shops shut down their WiFi, that would further concentrate these pretentious jerks in those shops that still offer a connection. Maybe that's not such a bad thing--you'd know which places to avoid. There's nothing wrong with spending a half hour in your local coffee shop having a drink and a snack while checking up on news or whatever floats your online boat. But really, who has nothing better to do with their day than to spend all of it huddled over their laptop, browsing the web, in a noisy and crowded coffee shop? I see students use coffee shops like it was an annex to their dorm room--wearing pajamas, headphones on, textbooks sprawled everywhere. That's just beyond sad.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      I see students use coffee shops like it was an annex to their dorm room--wearing pajamas, headphones on, textbooks sprawled everywhere. That's just beyond sad.

      A tad judgmental, are we?

      • 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 paiute (550198) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:09AM (#33187580)

    Surf the web? Mike's Deli in Brookline has only a few tables, so they don't even let customers read while sitting and eating.

    I always get take out, because I am physically incapable of not reading while eating by myself.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      The coffee shop I used in New York just yanked the router at peak times. They even had a sign on the door telling you exactly when free Wifi was available.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday August 09, 2010 @08:10AM (#33187588) Homepage

    If all you added was a Linksys wifi AP then you deserve to have a freeloader there in your store. Quit being a cheap bastard and buy a Real captive portal setup that when the customer buy's their Double caf-decaf soy latte they get a code on the receipt that gives them 1 hour. That's more than enough time. Now your freeloaders have to buy something once an hour to stay online.

    Problem is most of these coffee shop owners are cheap bastards that balk at the cost of a proper setup that would work fine for the next 5 years. If they cant cheap out with a $59.00 toy and have cousin timmy who is handy with 'puters do it for free, they dont want it.

    They will discover what many here have... Drop the wifi they lose a lot of customers.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:14AM (#33188284) Journal

      True, but you'd be surprised how unrealistic or clueless the POS vendors can be.

      One of my best friends worked for one of them for a couple years, and he was shocked to find what a little niche market they'd carved out for themselves. Basically, of all the bars, restaurants, coffee-houses and nightclubs in town, they were all supported by 1 of 4 POS vendors (ignoring the random oddball shop that might have set up their own system with a USB cash drawer, a PC and software like Quickbooks).

      Each of those 4 vendors had airtight hardware support agreements locked in for the product lines they offered. So basically, anyone buying one of their solutions had no hope of getting support (firmware updates, etc.) after the sale, if they didn't keep up their maintenance agreement with the original supplier. In the case of the vendor my friend worked for, they told customers flat-out that they had no interest in supporting their computer or network issues. They simply sold the POS systems with requirements certain network and electrical specifications were met in advance. A large number of those customers expressed at least some interest in setting up wi-fi, but his firm (stupidly, IMO) wouldn't address those needs for them.

      At least one of the other POS suppliers used very costly systems, so add-ons like wi-fi integration with the receipt printing was prohibitively expensive if you weren't a big restaurant chain.

      So when you say "Quit being a cheap bastard and do it right!", you might not realize the extent of the financial commitment some of these places have to make to do that. There's probably still a LOT of room for someone to start a competing business as a POS supplier using open-source like Linux, and offering flexible, reasonably-priced support packages. The biggest barrier to entry, really, is one of having BOTH a technical background AND a good background in restaurant accounting and economics. You'll never get far selling your solutions to these places if you can't understand their budgets, economics, profit-margins and business overall, from their perspective. These people know how to serve a good meal or run a pleasant bar or club. They're NOT usually remotely computer-savvy people.

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      And if you don't walk around in type IV body armor you deserve to get shot by small arms and if you don't drive a heavy armored vehicle you deserve to get shot by anti-materiel weapons.

      Or people could just not be jerks. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should do it.

  • Who could have known that coffee drinkers were rude. Well, butter my biscuit...
  • On my Nexus One (or substitute your favorite Android phone running Froyo 2.2) and keep on surfing. Ho hum.

    Personally, I don't abuse the privilege. I will take my notebook with me when I go to a Coffee Shop, buy coffee and a snack and enjoy reading Slashdot (and others) while I sip my cup. I suppose they could ban anyone bringing in a notebook computer, but then they would lose me as a customer.
     

  • 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.

  • There was a story on Slashdot several years ago now about a Coffee shop that got rid of its free wifi and saw it's profits jump as table cloggers didn't buy one cup and then block up the shop for the day. It seems like other places are coming to a similar conclusion.
  • A month or so ago, I ran across an article, pitched to small-business operators, about how to make the best use of free WiFi at Starbuck's, for your business. and while I found the article itself reasonable enough, a few of the commenters in the comment thread made me very glad I don't operate a coffee shop. There is evidently an entitlement sub-culture out there that really believes that, by providing free WiFi, coffee shops have effectively invited people to come in and operate their business full-time, h

  • by salesgeek (263995) on Monday August 09, 2010 @09:21AM (#33188386) Homepage

    Every time I see a restaurant cut Wi-Fi, they go out of business in six to eight months. Most often it's because the owners are delusional about how many turns a WiFi camper is preventing. By delusional, I mean 10-15 turns (which amounts to about $150-250 in revenue) instead of 1-2 turns (which is about $10-$20). The rest of the time, it's because something else has gone incredibly wrong, and the hired help is blaming WiFi instead of their toxic customer service and/or bad kitchen management.

    So instead of focusing on why traffic is down, the owner attacks the WiFi using regulars, who never come back, and never bring their friends, and never will say anything good about you. WiFi campers are regulars, so it's a lot like tossing Norm, Fraiser and Cliff out of Cheers because they aren't drinking enough. Regulars are important because they bring in others.

    Also, where camping is a real problem, all that is required is a manager willing to have a polite conversation with the customer: "Would you mind coming back when we're not as busy? I've got six groups waiting for a seat, and well, I hate to ask... but we really need your table so we can get the line down. Would you mind?" The answer is nearly always, "Sure, and I really appreciate you having WiFi."

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by macbeth66 (204889)

      Every time I see a restaurant cut Wi-Fi, they go out of business in six to eight months

      I have never seen such a thing happen.

      I have ONLY seen the opposite happen here in NYC. As a matter of fact, many customers are so happy that it is gone, they started talking again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lowrydr310 (830514)
        The problem in NYC is that if a restaurant cuts their free wifi, the chances of you finding another open access point from within the restaurant are pretty good. One of my favorite coffee shops (which sadly is no longer in business) never had free wifi; when I asked about it, their response was, "We don't offer free wifi here, but there are at least 5 open access points from our neighbors that you could connect to."
  • 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 Wolfger (96957) <wolfger@@@gmail...com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @10:24AM (#33189382) Homepage
    There's nothing even remotely resembling this in any of the Matrix movies (or animes).

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.

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