The customer experience touted by Starbucks and others that gave them a competitive point of difference from McDonald's, delis and other establishments selling coffee was that they provided a place to hang out for long periods of time engaging in both social and work activities. Signs announcing free Wi-Fi access are pretty common sights in shop windows.
But lately, as a Wall Street Journal piece points out, some coffee shop owners have begun discouraging the use of laptops during certain periods of the day. It seems that laptop users that take up space nursing a latte for hours are not so welcome because they're keeping paying customers who want to sit down and eat a meal from being able to do that. It's simple a matter of space. It's also a matter of lost sales if the needs of paying customers can't be satisfied.
Naidre's, which has two small coffee shops in Brooklyn, NY, has a sign, according to the Journal that reads: "Dear customers, we are absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day... (but) people gotta eat, and to eat they gotta sit."
To make sure people have room to sit, Naidre's has a ban on laptop use at its shops between 11 and two during the week and 10 to three on weekends. The only exception is if a person is eating while using the laptop at the same time.
Norm Elrod, who writes a blog called Jobless and Less, said he understands why shops are putting locks on outlets. "I used to be one of the abusers, sipping a two-dollar cup of coffee in a to-go cup for hours."
Discussion Questions: Are coffee shops shooting themselves in the foot by preventing laptop use? Are there alternatives that would allow laptop users who nurse their coffee to remain while making space for those coming in during meal hours?
How much will coffee shops be helped or hurt by preventing laptop use during certain hours of the day?