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Coffeehouse Campers


mame11
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I know there have been discussions about camping at restaurants, but here is different example of camping that I think is worthy of discussion. I frequent one coffee shop more than any other. It is an independent coffee shop that offers free wireless. On the weekends I have noticed a terrible pattern:

Patron comes in, takes a table. Sits. Starts working.

Wait, what is missing from my analysis: Patron comes in, takes a table. Goes to the counter and orders a drink and/or food. Sits. Starts working.

Another pattern:

Patron comes in, orders the least expensive drink on the menu (a shot of espresso or cup of joe). Takes a table. Sits. Works. Time passes. Drink is long gone. Works. TAKES OUT FOOD FROM OUTSIDE. Works.

By the way, I have seen people leave because there are no available seats and I have seen patrons with drinks and goodies in hand unable to find seats.

Now, I understand that my local coffee shop does not have an official policy about squating but come on people R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I really think they need a policy.

(By the way I don't throw stones. If I am here for more than 2 hours at a time I get a new drink or snack, doesn't happen that often but on the weekends I sometimes end up at the place twice in one day)

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I know there have been discussions about camping at restaurants, but here is different example of camping that I think is worthy of discussion.  I frequent one coffee shop more than any other.  It is an independent coffee shop that offers free wireless.  On the weekends I have noticed a terrible pattern:

Patron comes in, takes a table.  Sits.  Starts working. 

Wait, what is missing from my analysis:  Patron comes in, takes a table.  Goes to the counter and orders a drink and/or food. Sits. Starts working.

Another pattern:

Patron comes in, orders the least expensive drink on the menu (a shot of espresso or cup of joe).  Takes a table. Sits.  Works. Time passes.  Drink is long gone. Works. TAKES OUT FOOD FROM OUTSIDE.  Works. 

By the way, I have seen people leave because there are no available seats and I have seen patrons with drinks and goodies in hand unable to find seats. 

Now, I understand that my local coffee shop does not have an official policy about squating but come on people R-E-S-P-E-C-T.   I really think they need a policy. 

(By the way I don't throw stones.  If I am here for more than 2 hours at a time I get a new drink or snack, doesn't happen that often but on the weekends I sometimes end up at the place twice in one day)

You missed the inevitable need to settle in at the LARGEST available table to accommodate all of their work gadgetry, thus depriving the LARGEST number of people seating opportunities. Also, the STUPIDITY to VOLUME ratio of indoor cell phone users (already pre-selected for a high STUPIDITY quotient) and the related INANITY-OF-CONVERSATION to URGENT NEED-TO-BLATHER ratio.

Shogun can digitize this in a program of such startling complexity that even he will be forced to admit "I have no idea what the fuck I am talking about." Those for whom the last four digits of the resulting rating exceeds a certain amount will be forced to join Assholics Unanimous and attend meetings held at (Left Intentionally Blank).

All of this can be tidily summed-up in an intricate RUDENESS/ENTITLEMENT equation which I currently am working on, soon to be published as my Special Theory of Assholitivity. Once this is peer-reviewed and accepted as regretable fact, I will publish a more in-depth treatise titled "The Assholivilization of Man, or An Assholistic Approach to Life", thus ushering in and announcing the New Age of Modern Man, which will most undoubtedly be known as The Assholocene (with apologies to Max Frisch), or in its Pynchonian iteration, The Ass Hollow Scene.

Putting the "rude" in erudite (with no apologies to DCVist Adam),

Michael

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If I recall correctly, this problem has gotten so bad at Tryst recently that they were considering shutting off their WiFi on weekends. I say more power to 'em. I'm almost afraid to imagine what will happen to these places when municipalities start installing omnipresent free WiFi. If I were an owner, between that and all the damn cell phones, I'd be thinking about turning the joint into a giant Faraday cage: I think there's even a company that does signal-blocking paint now.

I mean, I've hung out at Tryst or the Amphora similar places for a few hours myself - but only with a group of friends, and only when we're continuing to order food and drink as time passes. Otherwise y'all should be hanging out in someone's living room, y'know?

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I walk by the Starbucks on the north end of Dupont Circle (the one near Kramerbooks) almost every day. Not that I'm sad about people freeloading Starbucks, but I bet if you had been plotting the number of laptop-toting patrons sitting near the southernmost bank of windows you would have seen an off-the-charts spike sometime around when the Dupont Circle free WiFi initiative began.

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Now, I understand that my local coffee shop does not have an official policy about squating but come on people R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  I really think they need a policy. 

This situation has similarities to the early days of Borders, when they provided lots of comfy upholstered armchairs, in the hopes that their paying customers would sit briefly to peruse a book that they would then purchase. The unintended outcome of this largesse was that college students, homeless people and other assorted schnorrers would come in when the stores opened, park themselves in the chairs to study, sleep, and read best-sellers all day, leaving no place for paying customers to sit down for a few minutes. Barnes and Noble was pretty much the same. You don't see many, if any comfortable chairs in bookstores anymore, or many places to sit except in their cafes.

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If I recall correctly, this problem has gotten so bad at Tryst recently that they were considering shutting off their WiFi on weekends.
One coffee shop in Seattle did that - shut off the juice on weekends and took back their shop. I like the idea of wiring chairs to provide an increasingly strong electric shock. :)
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This situation has similarities to the early days of Borders, when they provided lots of comfy upholstered armchairs, in the hopes that their paying customers would sit briefly to peruse a book that they would then purchase. The unintended outcome of this largesse was that college students, homeless people and other assorted schnorrers would come in when the stores opened, park themselves in the chairs to study, sleep, and read best-sellers all day, leaving no place for paying customers to sit down for a few minutes. Barnes and Noble was pretty much the same. You don't see many, if any comfortable chairs in bookstores anymore, or many places to sit except in their cafes.

Actually Zora, the marketing research behind the big comfy chairs is well established and tried and true for both Borders and Barnes & Noble. Each time a new store opens, they populate the store with comfy chairs and stuff. After a period of time (which is probably proprietary), they begin to remove the comfy stuff little by little. They replace some of the comfy stuff with stuff that looks comfy but is not, others with wooden chairs and some they just don't replace. The concept behind the method is that consumers will become comfortable with a "neighborhood" bookstore initially and then be used to the big store aspect.

Pretty interesting engh...

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I thought this was an interesting article in the Austin Chronicle about how people taking advantage of free Wifi in coffeehouses affects the bottom line, and the ambience, of these independent businesses.

I know that Buzz restricts computer use at most of their tables during the weekend. Are other places doing the same thing?

(harking back to the discussion that's going on in the Mid-City Caffe thread, one of the owners quoted in the article says they can't afford to give free refills since some people will camp out for 8-10 hours and nurse a single cup of coffee.)

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It's super easy to manage this problem, but few places seem to implement the solution.

You can give away the Wi-Fi for free without it being open. Make users have to log in to a portal, and give away cards with 60 minutes or so of access on them. This way, every hour, users have to come up to the front for another card. If you want to be restrictive, make them buy something to get the card. But at least the person sitting all day has to come up and ask for the card each hour, which does discourage the sitting all day without buying anything.

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It's super easy to manage this problem, but few places seem to implement the solution.

You can give away the Wi-Fi for free without it being open. Make users have to log in to a portal, and give away cards with 60 minutes or so of access on them. This way, every hour, users have to come up to the front for another card. If you want to be restrictive, make them buy something to get the card. But at least the person sitting all day has to come up and ask for the card each hour, which does discourage the sitting all day without buying anything.

that may be super easy, but it isn't super cheap. They're not making their money off of wifi so anything that adds cost to it doesn't really make sense.
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I believe that Tryst in Adams Morgan started turning off their wifi during prime drinking hours. Given that their clientele for both coffee and booze is far more drink-in than carry-out, assume that squatters would be a dramatically larger pain in the neck for them than for a Starbucks or something a little more cash-and-carry oriented.

that may be super easy, but it isn't super cheap. They're not making their money off of wifi so anything that adds cost to it doesn't really make sense.

I suppose that depends on the cost of the card system v. the increased revenue of making the cheap bastards pay for another latte (or clear out for another customer).

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I have to admit that I am all for whatever coffehouses can do to discourage campers. As a non-camper myself, it is really discouraging to wander into a coffehouse and find EVERY table and seat occupied by people who are clearly spending the entire day there. If there is nowhere for me to sit, I am not going to buy coffee or anything else at that establishment.

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I've been known to camp in coffee shops, certainly not all-day, but maybe for 3 hours or so while I was in graduate school. I often purchased drinks or food twice during a 3 hour stay. Is that enough to cover regular table turnover? I do understand the frustration of non-campers, and of management who may want to discourage it. But I've also noticed that, say, the fine folks at Murky Coffee or other shops I've been to did basically nothing to stop people from sitting there all day.

Except one place. When I lived in Amherst, MA, a new coffee/sandwich shop opened up that had a camper problem. The owner put up a rather poorly worded sign on the front door demanding that "students who come here to study for many hours" limit their computer time to 45 minutes. It was a reasonable request, just inelegantly worded to sound sarcastic and derisive. It got them a lot of angry regular customers.

Another place in town had the same issue, but they got a large group table next to electrical outlets and "kindly requested" their computer-using customers use that table during peak hours. Worked like a charm.

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