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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Jay,
I was hoping you would chime in on this topic. Although we have never met, through your website and postings here on BX, you have made your position clear on what kind of business model you use. Let me say this Jay, even if you did provide free wifi you would never be know for that. Your high caliber of your staff and product you provide will always stand miles above any free services like wifi.
It is always good to hear your take on some of these hot topics. Many of us here do not have the time in service to make clear calls on this. After two years open it still works for us to have wifi on site but I would change in a heart beat if conditions demanded it. I will never turn off power to outlets though. I would rather use a more direct method of explaining our policy's to my very loyal clientele
May your mornings first shots be silk on your tongue.
Cheers,
Joseph

Jay Caragay said:
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.
Thank you Joseph for the very kind words.

With all due respect, I feel compelled to posit that my/our approach is not for everyone. Spro and Spro Hampden have taken progressively narrow business models for coffee service. Our position today is one of progression that started out in 2002 with six different brewed coffees (including flavored) from a basic Bunn-O-Matic double brewer.

Another shop operator asked me several months ago if I though he should pursue the multiple roaster model similar to Spro Hampden. He's a first-time retail coffee operator and I told him "no" - that he should stay exclusively with the one (very good) roaster he's working with and get his feet wet, develop systems and really understand what it takes to make good coffee in a service environment.

This wasn't because I was concerned about his operation competing with mine (he's in a different city) but rather because one needs to crawl before walking. I regularly tell people and my own crew that we (meaning our company and myself) would not have been able to execute Spro Hampden four years ago when we started the original Spro. We just weren't ready and most probably would have crashed and burned (not to say that isn't a real possibility in this economic environment).

Our operations today are a result of study, experience, relationships, more study, more experience and a general tendency to risk everything on this project, which is why I try to offer thoughts based on building experience and customer service.
Katherine said:
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.

So, you're OK with taking up a four-top and getting to pay the coffee house less for the same service that you should be buying at home because you're got cash-flow issues?
This is a tad illogical, and smacks of the rampant entitlement that has been remarked on so many times.
Why is it up to the coffee shop to subsidize your poverty? I mean, yeah, it's nice, but using that as a reason that they should do it is just wrong.
To be clear; there is no reason OTHER THAN TO TURN MORE PROFIT, either by getting you to stay longer and buy more product, or by getting you to come in the door, for a coffee shop to provide wi-fi or electricity. If you're not part of that profit, you're stealing. If your being at the table means that they lose customers, you're stealing.


Katherine said:
They should not be doing immature things like randomly shutting off power to their paying customers.

Tell it to the folk that have had their registers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop that had their fridgers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop owners that have had people come in and move the couch and bookshelves to unplug the lighting to plug in their laptops.
I'm going to go out on a limb, and suggest that the selfish, snobbish, myopic and oh-so-special entitled folk that were visiting this shop were guilty of more than just squatting to get to the ends that they had to resort to. I'm guessing, like Paul Harvey used to say, that there is a rest of the story somewhere.
these are two extreme examples/views of the situation. As a business, owners shouldn't have to feel that they need to provide internet for people who can't afford diapers (but can afford a laptop, apparently) as a community service, nor should you tolerate people who unplug your equipment to plug in their laptops, or plop down with a starbucks cup and fire up their laptop without buying anything, of course. Business owners should respond to either the general community, or whatever demographic you want (laptop users, non-laptop users, or a business-healthy mix of the two). Point being, there are respectful people and disrespectful people, and it has nothing to do with whether they use wireless or not. And whether or not you offer wireless, there will occasionally be disrespectful people, and they should be dealt with on a case by case basis (bluetooth orderers, loud conversationalists, full volume youtube listeners, non-tippers, ghetto latte-makers, cup-stealers, excrement non-flushers, non-table-bussers, etc etc etc.

Chris said:
Katherine said:
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.

So, you're OK with taking up a four-top and getting to pay the coffee house less for the same service that you should be buying at home because you're got cash-flow issues?
This is a tad illogical, and smacks of the rampant entitlement that has been remarked on so many times.
Why is it up to the coffee shop to subsidize your poverty? I mean, yeah, it's nice, but using that as a reason that they should do it is just wrong.
To be clear; there is no reason OTHER THAN TO TURN MORE PROFIT, either by getting you to stay longer and buy more product, or by getting you to come in the door, for a coffee shop to provide wi-fi or electricity. If you're not part of that profit, you're stealing. If your being at the table means that they lose customers, you're stealing.


Katherine said:
They should not be doing immature things like randomly shutting off power to their paying customers.

Tell it to the folk that have had their registers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop that had their fridgers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop owners that have had people come in and move the couch and bookshelves to unplug the lighting to plug in their laptops.
I'm going to go out on a limb, and suggest that the selfish, snobbish, myopic and oh-so-special entitled folk that were visiting this shop were guilty of more than just squatting to get to the ends that they had to resort to. I'm guessing, like Paul Harvey used to say, that there is a rest of the story somewhere.

The point of my comment was not to say that customers are entitled to any kind of charity.

It is more profitable for many customers to use WiFi at a coffee shop than to buy it themselves, just as it is sometimes more profitable for people to enroll in car-sharing or for businesses and farmers to participate in facility or equipment co-ops.

The point of entrepreneurship is to offer a service to fill a demand, after all.

If you are a coffee shop that offers free WiFi, then that is what many of your customers are paying for when they buy your coffee, and is therefore, a part of your service.  Naturally people will be using it.  It is ridiculous to assume otherwise.
You are perfectly entitled to run a coffee shop sans WiFi.

Jay Said:
"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."
If the expectations are articulated as clearly in the shop as they are in this paragraph, I see nothing wrong.  I have a lot of respect for a business that chooses to make the coffee the focus of their business, rather than the WiFi they offer or the events that they host.  This sets them apart from their competition and gives them more freedom to create and perfect their product.

Many shops have set up ways to deal with the over-usage of free WiFi while still managing to be honest with their customers by placing signs on large tables asking for solo customers to surrender larger table-tops to larger groups.  Other businesses have the WiFi turned off on weekends or rush times and have this clearly indicated for their customers.  If you outline your expectations clearly to your customers they will usually respect them, and if they don't, they have no reason to be surprised when you confront them about it, or even ask them to leave.


If you create an atmosphere of honesty and respect in your business, your customers and your employees will respond in kind.  If you are caddy and passive-aggressive, then everyone that walks in your door will be also.

Chris said:

Katherine said:
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.

So, you're OK with taking up a four-top and getting to pay the coffee house less for the same service that you should be buying at home because you're got cash-flow issues?
This is a tad illogical, and smacks of the rampant entitlement that has been remarked on so many times.
Why is it up to the coffee shop to subsidize your poverty? I mean, yeah, it's nice, but using that as a reason that they should do it is just wrong.
To be clear; there is no reason OTHER THAN TO TURN MORE PROFIT, either by getting you to stay longer and buy more product, or by getting you to come in the door, for a coffee shop to provide wi-fi or electricity. If you're not part of that profit, you're stealing. If your being at the table means that they lose customers, you're stealing.


Katherine said:
They should not be doing immature things like randomly shutting off power to their paying customers.

Tell it to the folk that have had their registers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop that had their fridgers unplugged by laptopians. Tell it to the shop owners that have had people come in and move the couch and bookshelves to unplug the lighting to plug in their laptops.

I'm going to go out on a limb, and suggest that the selfish, snobbish, myopic and oh-so-special entitled folk that were visiting this shop were guilty of more than just squatting to get to the ends that they had to resort to. I'm guessing, like Paul Harvey used to say, that there is a rest of the story somewhere.

Three Years? That's gotta be some sort of record.

Hello again.

Wow, it's funny to look at my response from so long ago now.  I seem to be more in line with Katherine now.  I think you have to either offer wifi or don't offer wifi full-stop.  Anything in between will lead to confusion which will lead to people crossing you off their list of possible places to get coffee, if wifi is something that's important to them.  By all means, advertise as a "no-wifi zone" if that's what you want, but you can bet you'll lose a certain percentage of customers.  But hey, the ones that come just for the coffee or the conversation or to read a book will be super appreciative.

Just everyone stop whining about people using a service that you clearly provide.  Trying to police it will only end in customer dissatisfaction.

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