Against a "Sea of Laptops"

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And so begins the great climb-down from wi-fi mania. One Seattle coffee shop (no, really) opts to shut down its wi-fi access on weekends and sees revenue jump.

The owner says she thought the place was turning into a haven for laptop leeches who never talked to each other. Notice the insight that coffee seems to go better with conversation than with communication along with the fact that various demand and timing issues are always part of good marketing.

There will be more fine tuning of the 24-7, all-you-can-eat wi-fi model in the future, perhaps with the first hour free and nominal charges after, that kind of thing.

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  1. Tryst here in Adams Morgan, from which I sometimes work, adopted the same policy. I remember thinking a while ago something like that made sense–the chief benefit of WiFi is to pull in people who want a change of scenery while they work… and since they’re there to work are probably going to hang around for a while and only drink a few cups of coffee. Which is fine on a weekday afternoon when it’d otherwise be empty, but not so useful on Saturday evening.

  2. I’ve often noticed that the people using laptops in coffee shops look and act like the undead.

  3. Julian,
    If you are ever in Old(e) Town Alex. stop in at Misha’s. Not only do people actually converse with each other there, they SMOKE (gasp). Laptoppers have the bazillion other Starbuck’s to enjoy. I’ve never seen a laptop there.
    They also serve a seriously dark roast coffee that is delicious.

  4. Getting rid of wifi on weekends altogether seems like a less than optimal plan, compared to charging for it. Just do it like hotels & airlines do: charge more for something when the demand is greater, or when you know you’ll have more customers anyway. Lower the price when you know you’ll have less demand/less customers.

  5. stop in at Misha’s.

    Rt 66 is delicious. Great place.

    Just do it like hotels & airlines do: charge more for something when the demand is greater, or when you know you’ll have more customers anyway.

    Ah…there’s a beatiful suggestion: charge like the airlines. Can we model customer service after the DMV while we’re at it?

  6. The owner says she thought the place was turning into a haven for laptop leeches who never talked to each other.

    [Getting red around the collar]

    I am caught. Yes, I do stop in at Victrola’s for a little web surfing from time to time. No, I don’t talk to anyone. I don’t talk to anyone at Starbucks, Tullys, or even Victrola’s main competitor, Cafe Ladro. I saw Victrola’s wifi offer one day and stepped in for the first time. I found that they do have wonderful coffee so it has become a place where I like to surf the net and drink a coffee. In fact, I have posted to H&R many times from Victrola’s signal. With that, they own the business so they call the shots. I’ll see them on the week days then.

  7. The takeaway from this story is that, if coffee shops shouldn’t be expected to subsidize other people’s wi-fi internet access, then why should taxpayers?

  8. Ironically, if Seattle implements city-wide free wi-fi, expect (some of) that crowd to return to the coffee shop. Sitting, not talking, and not drinking.

  9. Kip, I took it more of an example of a businessperson tweaking their model in the face of first-hand evidence — much the same way they might set up no smoking sections, or opt to go utterly smoke-free. (Now in a coffee house that’d be death, but you know.)

    Message: people correct stuff on their own, meet needs, etc.

  10. “The owner says she thought the place was turning into a haven for laptop leeches who never talked to each other.”

    Um, I don’t go to coffee shops to talk to people I don’t know. (That’s what H&R and other forums are for.) I go to coffee shops to drink… well… coffee. Having wi-fi service in a cafe is a great plus since it helps facilitate my desire not to talk to other people, especially when I’m enjoying my coffee.

    So spare me the “community” bullshit and keep the java and the broadband coming or I’ll take my money elsewhere.

  11. Akira you’re an anti-social jackass. No one will miss you.

  12. [I]Akira you’re an anti-social jackass.[/I]

    Sigh, you butcher a few sacred cows and you become a pariah.

    [I]No one will miss you.[/I]

    I’d miss me.

  13. I don’t bring my laptop to coffee shops, but I sometimes read from magazine while sipping a latte or eating one of those little cakes. Fortunately, none of the places I go to have decided that I’m a “reading leech”. But then, I never really notice people talking to other people in these shops except when they arrive together.

    This may vary.

  14. Ironchef,
    Even if the city goes WiFi, the coffee shop could install a blocker, or jammer.

    I intend to get a cell phone signal jammer installed in my car when I get back. I’ll have an on/off switch on it so I can make calls if I need to. I get irritated when I am driving friends and they are constantly on their cell phones.

  15. I echo kwais’s irritation. It seems that the first-order experience of the people you can touch should be given priority over second-order communication. I kind of stop spending time with friends who are on the phone when they profess to be spending time with me.

    Coffeeshops, local ones much moreso, seem to be about “community”, which in the minds of the lefties in most of my area shops, means neighbors in arms-length interaction. If you want to communicate at a distance, hang out at the library, where nobody gets to talk anyway. Still, each shop owner can make their own rules to fit their vision and market. Maybe local shops shut down the free access on weekends, while SBUX is always available for those who want to isolate their flesh for a small hourly charge.

  16. I’d miss me.

    Don’t look in any mirrors, man, you’re already gone.

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