For many writers and novelists, cafes are their second abode. They have long served a generation of writers who strutted in their neighborhood coffee shop to get away from homely distractions and submerse themselves in the white noise of tableware clinking together, people murmuring their daily chants and guzzling their favorite coffee. A great many writers even found inspiration for their literary works in the coffee shop they went to. J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series chose a quaint café, Elephant House with a view of the Edinburgh castle, to write her early novels.
The view of a majestic castle may not be every café’s offering but free Wi-Fi comes close. A growing number of coffee shops, restaurants, and even bars offer access to free Wi-Fi to attract customers who can check their email, browse the web, work on their laptops, or even write a book while getting their daily fix of caffeine. But often free Internet access, like everything else that is free, has its downfall. Consumers of free Wi-Fi are slowly taking permanent residence in coffee shops. They sit for hours on their laptops occupying a seat far too long than if they only went there to eat or drink.
A swarm of laptop squatters has taken over places that provide free Internet access and business owners are not happy. The New York Starbucks has gone as far as blocking the electrical outlets to force out some laptop jockeys after they’ve overstayed their welcome. At Café Jumping Bean in Pilson, Wi-Fi access is blocked during peak hours in the afternoon and all day on weekends. Its owner, Eleazar Delgado is even considering eliminating it. Panera Bread limits Wi-Fi access to 30 minutes daily during lunch rush. “Sony is even developing an electrical outlet that can read a user’s identity and set limits on electricity use.” [Source: The Chicago Tribune].
While such moves may be labeled as passive-aggressive, they come at a time when tables are occupied with one cup of coffee ordered for over three hours, there’s a long queue of office crowd during lunch hours, and just a lot of Internet noise.
So what should you do when your favorite coffee shop is giving you the cold shoulder? Make laptop squatting more tolerable for them. Here are five ways to get the laptop squatter in you on leash and get your work done without working up anyone.
1. Order Appropriately
Ordering something every hour is a good practice when you’re squatting at a coffee house. It doesn’t have to be something you have to eat right away. You can pay for food or drinks to go in your second hour till you build your appetite for a light snack later on. Businesses are trying to balance profitability and hospitality. Help them achieve that balance. At a local coffee shop, (that’s not Starbucks), spending close to $15 for squatting for 4-5 hours is ideal.
2. Don’t Move In
Some squatters practically live in coffee shops and get too comfortable. Taking your shoes off and putting your feet up on the furniture is a big no-no. Also, when you’re heading to a coffee shop to settle down for a few hours, do not pack for an apocalypse. “If you’re going to squat at coffee house, and you bring so many items that an airline would have to charge you a baggage fee, then you know you have to reevaluate your logistics.” [Richie Frieman, from Quick and Dirty Tips]
3. Share Your Table
When you’re working alone through an important project in a coffee shop at rush hours and notice someone looking for a table, offer them to join you. This does not mean you have to engage in a conversation. A simple nod and a smile will do.
4. More Power to You!…Not
It’s a good idea to enter a coffee shop with your laptop and phone batteries charged, that is if you’re heading there from home. The idea is that you should have enough juice to have two hours of work time available. If you’re sitting close to a power outlet and see someone looking to plug their laptops, offer to plug in their cord for them or ask them to join your table if it’s big enough.
5. Keep It to Yourself
You do not need to educate everyone around you of the music you’re listening to. Watching a video, talking to a friend on Skype, or anything that leads to forced eavesdropping should be avoided. Put your headphones and keep the conversation discreet.
While laptop squatting is a choice for some, for others it is a means to survive when deadlines are closing in and using home Internet is beyond affordable. The current economy has turned many into freelance workers and controlling Wi-Fi access is looked upon as a harsh move against them. But then again, businesses cannot survive on one cup of coffee. Read more here on how people feel about laptop squatters.