Local coffee shop under fire for disconnecting power outlets...

Local shop Coffee Slingers has taken heat over Twitter and the blogosphere for disconnecting the power to their electrical outlets. Here is what one such notable local blogger had to say about it:


I would absolutely love to get people in the industry to fill out some of the responses here and let him know what you think of the situation, or back him up and give your reasons as to why.

Is it wrong to combat squatters?

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Christopher,
Another great example of an owner who is way out of touch with genuine customer service. He or she must have come from a farm where you had to call in the cow hands with a dinner bell. Very glad you are not still working there. I do wonder though if this old boss of yours is still in business.
JoeR

christopher myers said:
Sorry to overpost, I just remembered something I had to share: the owner of the cafe I used to work for, feeling the overpowering frustration at the squatters, prior to covering all the outlets, hung a bell from the ceiling near the cash register. Every hour or so, we were supposed to ring the bell and say something like: "attention Nomad customers, this is a reminder that if you have been here for over an hour, we ask that you place another order, thank you." Eventually we all stopped doing it because it was just too tacky and embarrassing, but we still lost customers over it that never came back. Fail.

christopher myers said:
I have to say, I feel the sentiment in Slinger's move, as in the cafe I used to work at, and from a lot of people on this site, it seems to me to be a frustration that moves toward hostility, and I think is a bit of an overreaction on the shopowner's part. It seems like what happens is the owner/baristas see a couple people throughout the day pulling the whole "buy a cup of tea and take up valuable real estate all day thing", and in your mind everyone that comes in with a laptop becomes an annoying pest. Add to this the romanticized nostalgia of the cafe with no clickity noises, just people talking or reading and sipping coffee, and suddenly everyone wants to cut their wireless.

I understand the nostalgia, and annoyance at the techno squatter. But there really are a lot of people like that blogger, people who are sensitive to the fact that a cafe doesn't want to be an office space. But for one, we can't really limit the amount of time people hang out in your cafe, and you can't fairly enforce dollar amount per time spent per customer. We make cafes inviting and comfortable because we want people to stay longer in the hopes that they will buy more as time goes on. McDonald's looks the way it does because they want you to get the hell out the second you're done (ever "hang out" in a fast food place?). People can only go without food for a few hours at a time, so if you have some decent cafe grub, chances are good you'll sell some (no outside food is an easy line to draw. It's to be expected).

I know laptops take up slightly more space than just someone with a book, and people are more likely to stay longer because teh internets is more engrossing in our culture than books are. Yeah, it's sad, but let's not alienate people just because they want to use their laptops instead of talk politics. I stand by my original point; if you want no wireless, you better market the hell out of yourself as an "old school cafe" or something like that, and definitely give people fair warning before they show up with their laptops and leave pissed off, otherwise this seems like a really bad business move. You don't need to be a martyr.
Ok - New Kid on the Block here -

As a cafe customer for years, a career techie in a major way and hoping to open a shop here very soon, I'm confused.

There is a significant percentage of our population that is now working away from their offices - either occasionally or on a regular basis. Why do we not want them in our stores?

I understand if you have a 500 sq foot facility and 15 squatters you've got issues. But if you have a reasonable amount of space, isn't it better to have them in your shop than down the street?

There's a shop in my area that not only doesn't cover the outlets or cut off the power, but they actually ENCOURAGE people to stay. The seating is arranged specifically for people to work. There are outlets by every table that is near the wall and even 5 outlets in the coffee bar alone that circles around the roaster. Their wifi is killer fast and I've NEVER heard or seen anyone asked to leave. In fact the owner spends time chatting with the laptop folks seated around the coffee bar on a regular basis.

I spoke to the head barista at this shop the other day and he told me they serve on average between 400 and 450 espresso drinks a day (not including drip coffee or smoothies) plus soup/salad/sandwiches. If I plug those numbers into my business plan, I'm making a pretty good go of it.

Maybe it's just my market. We do have a large number of people who commute into Chicago and work from home once or twice a week. The shops that push people away - and there are several I know because I don't go there - are empty. The shops that provide what people are looking for are still in business.
I do not care how long someone stays they just have to buy something! I get frustated when they bring their own drinks than use my interent and space and get offened when I have the nerve to ask what can I get you.Like what I have should be ok to use just because. Also I am at my store seven days a week if you are a good customer and you just dont feel like coffee one day I am ok with that as well. Just do not like people to take advange just because they can. I think it is more a respect thing.

Eric Andersen said:
Ok - New Kid on the Block here -

As a cafe customer for years, a career techie in a major way and hoping to open a shop here very soon, I'm confused.

There is a significant percentage of our population that is now working away from their offices - either occasionally or on a regular basis. Why do we not want them in our stores?

I understand if you have a 500 sq foot facility and 15 squatters you've got issues. But if you have a reasonable amount of space, isn't it better to have them in your shop than down the street?

There's a shop in my area that not only doesn't cover the outlets or cut off the power, but they actually ENCOURAGE people to stay. The seating is arranged specifically for people to work. There are outlets by every table that is near the wall and even 5 outlets in the coffee bar alone that circles around the roaster. Their wifi is killer fast and I've NEVER heard or seen anyone asked to leave. In fact the owner spends time chatting with the laptop folks seated around the coffee bar on a regular basis.

I spoke to the head barista at this shop the other day and he told me they serve on average between 400 and 450 espresso drinks a day (not including drip coffee or smoothies) plus soup/salad/sandwiches. If I plug those numbers into my business plan, I'm making a pretty good go of it.

Maybe it's just my market. We do have a large number of people who commute into Chicago and work from home once or twice a week. The shops that push people away - and there are several I know because I don't go there - are empty. The shops that provide what people are looking for are still in business.
Kathy,
It is a respect thing. But it requires you to demand it or require it in your own way. The more lax you are with your business in general the more you will be taken advantage of. Sounds like you have it fiqured out. Keep up the great work. It's all about your/our passion and your loyal following knows it.
JoeR

Kathy Fadorsen said:
I do not care how long someone stays they just have to buy something! I get frustated when they bring their own drinks than use my interent and space and get offened when I have the nerve to ask what can I get you.Like what I have should be ok to use just because. Also I am at my store seven days a week if you are a good customer and you just dont feel like coffee one day I am ok with that as well. Just do not like people to take advange just because they can. I think it is more a respect thing.

Eric Andersen said:
Ok - New Kid on the Block here -

As a cafe customer for years, a career techie in a major way and hoping to open a shop here very soon, I'm confused.

There is a significant percentage of our population that is now working away from their offices - either occasionally or on a regular basis. Why do we not want them in our stores?

I understand if you have a 500 sq foot facility and 15 squatters you've got issues. But if you have a reasonable amount of space, isn't it better to have them in your shop than down the street?

There's a shop in my area that not only doesn't cover the outlets or cut off the power, but they actually ENCOURAGE people to stay. The seating is arranged specifically for people to work. There are outlets by every table that is near the wall and even 5 outlets in the coffee bar alone that circles around the roaster. Their wifi is killer fast and I've NEVER heard or seen anyone asked to leave. In fact the owner spends time chatting with the laptop folks seated around the coffee bar on a regular basis.

I spoke to the head barista at this shop the other day and he told me they serve on average between 400 and 450 espresso drinks a day (not including drip coffee or smoothies) plus soup/salad/sandwiches. If I plug those numbers into my business plan, I'm making a pretty good go of it.

Maybe it's just my market. We do have a large number of people who commute into Chicago and work from home once or twice a week. The shops that push people away - and there are several I know because I don't go there - are empty. The shops that provide what people are looking for are still in business.
I guess my issue is that I don't want to be known as that shop that has a ton of outlets with killer fast internet speeds. I couldn't give a $h!t how wonderful my Mbs/sec is.

I sell fabulous coffee. Appreciate my shop for that.

-bry
I think it is ridiculous for a shop to be angry at customers for using what they offer freely. I understand, of course that Internet is used as a bonus for patronage. Whenever I go somewhere to use internet, I always spend more than I would if I weren't using the internet. But too many business owners are silently harboring grudges against their customers for staying to work. I am a barista, a former manager, and a future business owner and I understand that going out for coffee is only way some people can get online. When you're living in poverty and can't even afford diapers for your baby, spending $50 bucks a month on coffee and WIFI sounds a lot better than spending $120 on cable internet and never being able to leave the house or see the light of day. What it comes down to is that people are either going to pay the corporate cable company based out of who-knows-where, or they are going to support a neighborhood coffee shop to give them great coffee and let them get work done while they are at it.
I think shop owners need to be up front about what they offer and what they don't. If they want to offer WIFI, they can. If they don't want to, they don't have to. They should not be doing immature things like randomly shutting off power to their paying customers.
Bry,
As long as your there pulling shots that will never be the case.
JR

Bryan Wray said:
I guess my issue is that I don't want to be known as that shop that has a ton of outlets with killer fast internet speeds. I couldn't give a $h!t how wonderful my Mbs/sec is.

I sell fabulous coffee. Appreciate my shop for that.

-bry
People who do not order are not customers, they should be treated accordingly. Either they are coming to enjoy the wonderfulness of what you offer.... or they are a-holes.

Kathy Fadorsen said:
I do not care how long someone stays they just have to buy something! I get frustated when they bring their own drinks than use my interent and space and get offened when I have the nerve to ask what can I get you.Like what I have should be ok to use just because. Also I am at my store seven days a week if you are a good customer and you just dont feel like coffee one day I am ok with that as well. Just do not like people to take advange just because they can. I think it is more a respect thing.

Eric Andersen said:
Ok - New Kid on the Block here -

As a cafe customer for years, a career techie in a major way and hoping to open a shop here very soon, I'm confused.

There is a significant percentage of our population that is now working away from their offices - either occasionally or on a regular basis. Why do we not want them in our stores?

I understand if you have a 500 sq foot facility and 15 squatters you've got issues. But if you have a reasonable amount of space, isn't it better to have them in your shop than down the street?

There's a shop in my area that not only doesn't cover the outlets or cut off the power, but they actually ENCOURAGE people to stay. The seating is arranged specifically for people to work. There are outlets by every table that is near the wall and even 5 outlets in the coffee bar alone that circles around the roaster. Their wifi is killer fast and I've NEVER heard or seen anyone asked to leave. In fact the owner spends time chatting with the laptop folks seated around the coffee bar on a regular basis.

I spoke to the head barista at this shop the other day and he told me they serve on average between 400 and 450 espresso drinks a day (not including drip coffee or smoothies) plus soup/salad/sandwiches. If I plug those numbers into my business plan, I'm making a pretty good go of it.

Maybe it's just my market. We do have a large number of people who commute into Chicago and work from home once or twice a week. The shops that push people away - and there are several I know because I don't go there - are empty. The shops that provide what people are looking for are still in business.
I guess I just have a different view on this. The average laptop today has a battery life of two hours minimum. A lot of netbooks get over five hours of battery life. I simply don't understand why people can't bring a charged laptop to the shop. Is it really necessary to have an outlet there? I wouldn't try to charge my cell phone at a coffee house, why is a laptop any different?
No Bones about John. To the point.
Joe

John P said:
People who do not order are not customers, they should be treated accordingly. Either they are coming to enjoy the wonderfulness of what you offer.... or they are a-holes.

Kathy Fadorsen said:
I do not care how long someone stays they just have to buy something! I get frustated when they bring their own drinks than use my interent and space and get offened when I have the nerve to ask what can I get you.Like what I have should be ok to use just because. Also I am at my store seven days a week if you are a good customer and you just dont feel like coffee one day I am ok with that as well. Just do not like people to take advange just because they can. I think it is more a respect thing.

Eric Andersen said:
Ok - New Kid on the Block here -

As a cafe customer for years, a career techie in a major way and hoping to open a shop here very soon, I'm confused.

There is a significant percentage of our population that is now working away from their offices - either occasionally or on a regular basis. Why do we not want them in our stores?

I understand if you have a 500 sq foot facility and 15 squatters you've got issues. But if you have a reasonable amount of space, isn't it better to have them in your shop than down the street?

There's a shop in my area that not only doesn't cover the outlets or cut off the power, but they actually ENCOURAGE people to stay. The seating is arranged specifically for people to work. There are outlets by every table that is near the wall and even 5 outlets in the coffee bar alone that circles around the roaster. Their wifi is killer fast and I've NEVER heard or seen anyone asked to leave. In fact the owner spends time chatting with the laptop folks seated around the coffee bar on a regular basis.

I spoke to the head barista at this shop the other day and he told me they serve on average between 400 and 450 espresso drinks a day (not including drip coffee or smoothies) plus soup/salad/sandwiches. If I plug those numbers into my business plan, I'm making a pretty good go of it.

Maybe it's just my market. We do have a large number of people who commute into Chicago and work from home once or twice a week. The shops that push people away - and there are several I know because I don't go there - are empty. The shops that provide what people are looking for are still in business.
As technology ages the batteries are the first to wear out and loose there capacity to take a charge to the point a cord is necessary.
Many folks out there got a good deal on a unit but it came with an old battery.
JoeR

James Doyle said:
I guess I just have a different view on this. The average laptop today has a battery life of two hours minimum. A lot of netbooks get over five hours of battery life. I simply don't understand why people can't bring a charged laptop to the shop. Is it really necessary to have an outlet there? I wouldn't try to charge my cell phone at a coffee house, why is a laptop any different?
Back about 2004/2004, my mentor John Sanders decided that he'd had enough of squatters and cut off the power to the outlets. It was a bit of a crazy move but it worked on keeping the squatters there a reasonable amount of time. Back then, the max battery time was two hours. Two hours seemed to be enough time to hang out and move on.

I agree with much that has been said in this thread but it sounds like much of the execution has been poor. A company needs to decide decisively what it is and what it is going to provide. Going to give away free internet? Then expect squatters. There certainly is a demand for free internet.

At Spro Hampden, we do not offer internet access, music or art on the walls. We offer coffee and supporting products in a clean, quiet environment designed for our guests to enjoy time to themselves or with friends. People come in asking about WiFi and we politely tell them we do not offer WiFi. Some are okay with that, others leave and I'm okay with that.

We want to be known as the place to come for great coffee and great service. Not for free Wifi.

The point is: if you're going to do it, then give it to them in spades. High speed wireless with all the doohickeys, plenty of seating with wide tables and an outlet at each station. Make it so that anyone considering a need for WiFi will immediately want to be there. Create a registry so that other laptop warriors can see who's there and connect. Certainly there's going to be a need for services and when that need arises, you've created the network to help your customers.

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