In the UK the concept of people taking up space in coffee shops and not spending enough is not limited to people on laptops. You're just as likely to see an entire crowd of teenagers with one drink between them, or a group of mothers with pushchairs hanging about for hours (though I suspect the mother groups are good customers to have).
Personally I make sure I buy something at least every 30-45 minutes, and then relocate somewhere else if it gets busy. Cafes are rarely busy during the work day, so it's not like I'm depriving them of space.
But I've never come across a cafe with the approach of the ones in the article. Pretentious nonsense like that doesn't survive long here. If you want people to spend more money, ask them to leave if they haven't bought anything within the last hour. That's a simple rule that's easy to enforce, don't just blame a subset of customers.
Perhaps its not just about spending money. A coffee shop is (by some people's ideas) a place for folks to socialize. Those other 'offenders' are socializing, so are compatible with those spaces. Sitting in silence at a machine makes for a boring space, which drives away the other sort of customer.
I'd hate to be kicked out of a shop because I'm reading a book. Or not talking. As you said: maybe it's their right to require socializing, but that doesn't make it a good idea.
It changes the vibe and the mood.
If I come to a cafe with my date or friends, I'll feel more comfortable sitting among people with laptops rather than among noisy teenagers mentioned in the gp comment.
Many folks have a coffee shop because they want the community to meet there. A romantic notion, to be sure.
Its the same value as socializing at any other venue. Or taking it back further, whats the value in socializing at all? Maybe there isn't any value for you. I personally prioritize meeting new people and forming local connections, over virtual long-distance connections. A cafe is a good place to do that, if people are open to the idea. AFAICT people glued to their laptops, aren't.
> I'll feel more comfortable sitting among people with laptops rather than among noisy teenagers mentioned in the gp comment.
Those aren't the only two options.
>I listen to the conversations people have at coffee shops with random people and it's been pointless smalltalk every time so far.
That's how our conversation started too..
Don't most people just stop by, grab a cup, and then go on their way? I've never seen a cafe a-la 'friends' where people hangout and constantly buy things.
In my experience the only people who DO hang out at cafes and order multiple items are those doing work for extended periods of time.
Friends and Frazier are accurate portrayals of how cafe culture used to be. People used to go to coffee shops for hours, drink coffee and other stuff and just shoot the breeze. It was pretty great, and in a lot of ways better than a bar. The one by me growing up had a big leather couch in front of a fireplace that we liked to sit at, and it was pretty great in the Ohio winters.
In the DC area we have a big Ethiopian community. Ethiopians are big into coffee and coffee shops. If you go to a Ethiopian coffee shop, it's still like that. Some of the higher-end coffee shops that have sprung up in the area are also like that. We live by one that we often go to as a family every Saturday morning and get coffee and breakfast and just chat.
I have found the chain coffee shops have been taken over more and more by people camping out on laptops. It probably also depends on how much your area has actually coworking spaces.
I have also found that if a place offers more of a true cafe menu, you'll find more people talking. If a place can be something where you would realistically get lunch and coffee, it's much more likely to be lively. And for me, I'd rather be in a lively place regardless if I were there for lunch or if I wanted to work on my laptop a bit.
I feel really old...
I've had my entire social life based on hanging out like this at one point in my life. (Late 90's, early 2000's) It was in a walkable neighborhood, the kind where a friend might invite you to dinner because she saw you from her apartment balcony. I'd have to say those were some of the best years of my life.
I'm becoming an old, so I'll chime in with the others.
Before laptops and - maybe more importantly - before cellphones, the coffee shop was the place to hang out and meet up.
From 1993-2000, I practically lived in the coffee shop downtown. We had one main shop in a city of about a quarter million. We didn't get a Starbucks until 2001, of you don't count the Barnes and Noble.
It was awesome.
It was the nerve center of our music and art scene. It was the only place where college kids and lawyers downtown could get a latte. It was the only place where kids who couldn't get into bars yet could hang out, and the people who could go to bars would pregame there with a cup of coffee. There was a lot of cross-pollination.
I met every single one of my close friends at the time at that cafe. We would sit there all day long and talk, smoke cigs, play chess, venture out into the park or the rest of the city, then meet back up at the cafe.
And it was packed - in the summer, there would easily be a hundred people hanging out in and around this tiny place. We'd spill out onto the sidewalk. It was almost like a daily block party.
But back to the whole pre-cellphone pre-laptop thing - absolutely no one was there to work. It was where you went after work, to do your socializing.
And without cellphones, it was a rallying point - everyone got out of work or were at their home phones at different times, so if you wanted to meet your friends, you had to hang out at the coffee shop because the odds were high they'd show up there too, uncoordinated. This concept is foreign to anyone in their 20s.
The 90s coffee shop culture was real, it was awesome, and for better or worse, it'll never come back. Sometimes this makes me sad, but the upside is that I don't waste half of my day alone hoping to bump into friends.
But - so many good memories!
Some places have a policy that you can only use a laptop at the bar seating, which eliminates the issue of people on laptops taking up a ton of space.
Isn’t this the ideal outcome though? Your actions show you’re not the audience the business owner wants.
If someone wants to run and maintain a social space, they have every right to prevent it from becoming a cheap office or work space.
I imagine most coffee shop and café owners intentionally didn't choose to go into the office rental or co-working space business.
House of Pies in Houston will straight-up charge you rent if you don't order something.
I'll normally alternate coffee, soft-drinks, and snacks for a couple of hours, then bail out, grab lunch, and afterwards head to a different shop. It's not a hugely regular thing for me, as I mostly work from home, so I guess I can afford to spend a little more than the serial coffee shop dwellers.
Laptop users aren't seen very often in general though (and TBH with how noisy the shops are i doubt they'll ever be), although i live near a university and there is a coffee shop nearby with nice flat tables looking at the street and i often see students with laptops there. Also years ago, at my first gamedev job (although before i joined) on a startup, the team didn't had offices for a few months and the programming team mostly worked from laptops at the roof of a coffee shop :-P (and AFAIK generally all meetings with the entire team and everything were held in various coffee shops around the city).
Of course all that means that there are tons of coffee shops everywhere and i remember when i lived abroad, my landlord - who visited Greece - telling me how strange he found that there were so many coffee shops.
Personally i considered visiting a nearby coffee shop with my laptop a few times (there are 5 shops just 100m range, two right outside of my place), but i always change my mind because of the noise... and because i don't like working from a laptop :-P.
I also decry the loss of public spaces such as libraries (in my northern European city the main public library was rebuilt at fabulous cost and has less seating than the old one).
Is that a problem though? From my experience, at the library I frequent, while being well visited at all times has at most 20% of their seating occupied.
Don't live in northern europe though, so YMMV (maybe it's too cold outside to justify going to the library only for a short visit :D)
EDIT: The library I'm talking about is also a great social development. It's been built (about 10 years ago now) in the most densely-populated part of town, which was and still is considered by too many people as 'problematic' and it really lifts up the whole area.
I'm never bothered about "hogging a table"; if a certain coffeeshop happens to be full, there are at least three others within 5m of walking distance that will have many free tables.
Isn't that so in the US? I mean, the guys from Friends practically lived in that Central Perk coffee house.
I both work out of and hangout in coffee shops in the US, when working remote I make sure to always use the long community table if there are already a few seats used, or sit at the bar, or a two person table if I must. And if it is super busy and people are looking for seats I’ll go elsewhere.
Nah, the issue is, multiple groups of 2-4 people no longer have a place to hang out, meaning the shop earns less money.
The difference is probably in the fact that Greeks go to the cafés with their friends. You almost never see a single person sitting at a table with a coffee cup for hours on end- except in the traditional cafés (kafeneio, vs cafeteria) that have basically single-person tables.
It works for the café because if you have a parea of five that stay around for five hours, that's like having five single customers each hogging a table for an hour- except you can accommodate several groups at once so you sell many more coffees per table than you would if your clientelle were single remote workers and their laptops.
Maybe, if it became much more common for remote workers working from cafés in Greece, then the economics would change- and our (café) culture would be in danger :)
I have two very good friends that own cafes here (which seem to work similar to what you are describing) and he hates when someone uses a table for hours on end and ends up paying one euro or something, even groups. He always told me that his best customers are the ones that come in, have their coffee, pay the euro, don't care about receipt and leave after 10 minutes. Those are the ones that keep him in business (and yes, tax on a 1 euro coffee isn't much, but multiply by easily 500 a day, and it starts to add up)
The economy has also shifted. Lots of people are self-employed. And most jobs that people make money with only require a laptop and WiFi.
From my experience on Samos, this might be attributed to the current economic situation. At bars it's not uncommon to see a person drink a pint over 1-2 hours. Most of the people that I observed did more smoking then drinking at bars and coffee shops because cigarettes (especially hand rolled ones) are a lot cheaper then drinks.
So, yeah, it's a pretty easy habit to get into as a student.
These days, I mainly get my solo research in on weekends, and spend a few hours in a local coffee shop. I tip generously, and occasionally buy a pound of coffee to keep things on the up and up.
I don't know the answer in general, so I can only offer the anecdote that "I do it." I work a day-job and am working on a side-project, and I visit a coffee shop / cafe environment usually 2 or 3 nights a week after the day-job to work on my project for a few hours. And I typically do the same for up to 8 hours on Saturday and maybe 4-6 hours on Sunday.
I've tried a couple of times and I always feel like such a pretentious wanker when I pull out a laptop and start working on stuff, like I'm somehow broadcasting "oh look at me, I work remotely, aren't I special?"
Interesting. Such a thought has never occurred to me. But I live in a college heavy area and visit a cafe that's near UNC, Duke and NC Central, and there are always plenty of people with laptops out. A lot are clearly students, but I'm pretty sure there's a decent number who are working professionals as well.
On the OTOH, despite the prevalence of laptops there, there are always plenty of tables with people who aren't on laptops and who are socializing in-person.
My complaint would be people yapping on their cell phone for work. That's a big distraction, you blend in with a laptop, but nothing says "I'm important" yelling into your bluetooth for an hour.
People go to coffee shops to talk, to read, to write, to think. It doesn’t seem like much of a reach to think people would go there to do work. The common theme seems to be wanting to focus.
Oftentimes my partner would come home from school, work, and want to relax. I'd want to go anywhere. "Where?" "I dunno, even the mall." "Is there something you want?" "Not that I can think of."
But it was to be "social". Be around people, even with minimal interaction. She wanted to relax, had been busy and around people all day.
I'd been at home with our cat and our dog.
You can be "social", or at least "not alone", without having to talk to people.
This though can be turned around easily: that the one feeling that way is self-centered and believes unknown people in a cafe care about what he "broadcasts" when he uses his laptop. What makes he believe he is special enough to warrant attention for having a laptop out? Who even cares about what they do? (short of ritual sacrifice).
Determine your actions based on the imaginary judgement of completely random strangers is going to serverely limit the way you live your life.
A few people have been saying that. But, how can you possibly know? It sounds like a platitude one tells themselves in order to not feel self-conscious, rather than an actual discernable fact.
What I do enjoy in coffee shops though, is writing ideas and planning/brainstorming projects (by hand) in my paper notebook.
Besides which, the noise levels would drive me nuts. I have difficulty working with any kind of unstructured noise.
Sure, it personally makes me feel anti-social, but when I do hang out with people at coffe shops and see someone else work, I do know how they feel and won't judge.
And yea, I've done some pretty good "work" at coffee shops, where I didn't have the distraction of super high bandwidth and playing games at home. And as others have pointed out, being around people is fun, even when you're not interacting with them, though that doesn't relate to your point.
I'm not a full-time remote worker, but as mentioned above, I do work out of cafe environments quite often. Why? Well, in my case, I'm single, I live alone, and if the only place I'm ever at - besides my day-job office -
is my apartment, I'd get really bored and go stir-crazy. For me, the cafe is a "3rd place". That is helped by the fact that I drink copious amounts of coffee.
Also, sometimes (as somebody else in one of these threads mentioned) there's something satisfying about being around other people, but not being required to interact with them. And there's something about the hustle-and-bustle / hum of activity in a cafe that is comforting. See, for example, how some people working in an office will put on a "coffee shop noises" audio track while working, to attempt to partially simulate that environment.
$25 a week spent on breakfast and coffee plus a new environment isn’t really going to ding my budget, maybe that is different for other people depending on their field.
At least around here most people seem to be on laptops. Whether they're playing a game or doing actual work I don't know since I try to not peep at other screens, but nobody has given me any stare-downs or anything rude.
Sitting at a table for two with a laptop was fine. There usually would be at least one more. It would more often than not broadcast "student" than "pretentious remote worker"
If you feel like that, you just have to overcome that feeling. I have no problem doing what is my passion from anywhere. Except if it's too noisy or there's too much people. But then you figure out something else.
If you don't need your workstation for heavy lifting.
If you're mainly reading research papers or writing little scripts, to apply the documentation to your use case or something, then coffee shops can be great.
This is the best approach. (The "a staff member will approach the uninitiated customer whose laptop is open for more than a couple of minutes with a gentle but firm request ‘to finish up what you’re doing and close the laptop, please,’ approach is the worst. No sign, no explanation--just a demand.)
> the Rose doesn’t provide electrical outlets; a dwindling battery should be a sign that it’s time to go
This is also fine, albeit ineffective against my MacBook Air.
Cafes aren't your free all-day office offering complimentary wifi for the price of a $2 coffee, they're businesses trying to make money to pay their rent.
Agreed - I understand that cafe owners dislike people lounging around for free, but I'd be seriously pissed if someone came to hurry me along after a couple of _minutes_.
Then a some point, most chains started offering free wifi. Which was useless because many of the places only have 2-6mbs which is useless with anyone else using it.
Starbucks at least went with 'Google wifi' and have ~ 100mbs service which is really nice. But they are empty for some reason, the local Barnes and Noble is packed with laptops and unusable wifi.
You have to understand that cafés like churches or pubs or the town square have traditionally been designed as the "The Third Space" in people's lives behind home and work. It were community building happen. It's designed for that, not for work. Howard Schultz founder of Starbucks tried to bring this to the US where he felt people were loosing touch with those community spaces but still had/felt a need for them. It has been very successful for his company to tap into that need. But on the flip side lot of misguided notions have developed in peoples(cafe owners/patrons) heads about what that third space is for or why they need it.
It makes sense to me, because one of the tenets of higher education should be to serve in the interest of the community.
This, together with the fact that default TTL different OSes set for packets they send is well known, and virtually no user ever changes these defaults, means that if the ISP detects different packets with TTL for example 64 and 63 coming from you, you very likely have something tethered to your phone.
There are tools like https://github.com/p0f/p0f (it does much more, than just this, though) to make exploiting this technique easy. I remember we used p0f to detect unauthorized connection sharing in a certain university dorm network, and caught quite a few people.
I have one colleague who won't answer an email or whatsapp unless she's on free wi-fi somewhere. This is an extreme example but I know others who are not much worse.
It's the same way about going to the gym. On one hand, after I stopped teaching fitness classes part time and working out with friends, going to the gym became a chore. I like working out at home and converted one of our bedrooms to a mini gym. I love the convenience, but kind of miss just working out on the gym equipment around other people even if I never talk to them.
Maybe it's the sense of shared purpose?
We are social animals. At least most of us. If you go for a few days with no interaction/seeing other human beings you'll go crazy.
I've done solo backpacking trips for more than 'a few days', and I did not go crazy. I think there's a difference between choosing isolation and being forced into it (the later probably contributes to insanity, not the former)
Why do you still choose to use them today?
For the most part, I use RSS to read HN. Every now and then I will go to the home page to see if there is something I missed that didn't gain enough traction to make it to the feed.
- Don't work in a place that's really busy. If it becomes busy, I'll wrap up and move somewhere else.
- Buy something at least every 2 hours. If I've had too many coffees, then decaf at least, or a pastry. Spend around $5 each time.
- Tip! (Where appropriate). I like to add $1 for each purchase.
- Get to know the employees. Learn their names and greet them.
Yes, it is a bit more expensive (usually ~20$ for a day), but you get the same "coffee shop experience" and don't have to feel guilty or obliged to eat/drink (often not so healthy) stuff all the time.
Once you've worked from a few coffeeshops you can recognize the places that welcome remote workers - they go out of their way to provide lots of outlets and lots of 1/2 person tables. If a place has bright lighting, loud music, very few outlets - it's polite to find somewhere else.
Also, the amount to spend can scale with your budget; it seems more important to just to get up and buy something, just so you don't appear completely cut off from the rest of the world.
I normally get espresso drinks, but sometimes I'll get a normal drip coffee, which usually has a cheaper refill ($3 for the first, and $1 for a refill), and I'll tip on each refill.
People building their own gaming rigs aren't paying local computer stores' markup. Ski bums have cheap season passes, get way more than their money's worth, and pack a lunch rather than pay $20 for a cheeseburger; only tourists pay $120 a day for one-day-pass. And so on.
The number of people who just want kickboxing-cardio is much greater than the number of serious fighters. The number of casual skiers is much greater than the number of ski bums.
Mathematically, although a business owner might love the serious hobbyists, usually, there just aren't enough of them to pay the bills.
That's why really serious pro-level coaching and training is so expensive: they can't spread their costs among enough customers to make it cheap for everyone.
True, but then again the hallmark of NYTimes aspirational twee writing is to harp on some wannabe hipster psuedo-retro twee bs - "Cafes are too silent!! People aren't interacting in social old fashioned ways! Nobody makes 3-week brine horseradish pickles anymore except for this one Fort Point Hassid who only works on the 8th Tuesday of the Month!!!" while simultaneously ignoring the common sense factors (Cafe owners are losing $$ because people use their cafes as free office space, and horseradish pickles be gross).
Essentially, you are charged for your time and everything else is free. Presently I think it's about 7p per minute for the first hour, and then 4p a minute afterwards - there's also a cap.
While in there, coffee, snacks, etc, are all "free".
Perhaps this sort of model could work? Obviously if you're not willing to kick out all the remote workers. I guess this turns it into more of a coworking space though.
"Your $3 coffee doesn't entitle you to sit for an hour." First, perhaps I'm typically more than the average user, $3 coffee sounds either horrid or a miracle. Second: Why not? Isn't that the whole point? You're luring me to come in & buy your wares so that I get the benefit of sitting for a while and do my thing, whether it's read a book or work on my laptop.
To the people who see silence & laptops as bad in and of themselves: who are you to prioritize talkers over non-talkers? In my mind and those of many near-university dwellers, cafes are precisely for sitting, reading, working, not for having (sometimes loud) conversations that disturb those around you.
Finally, I'm not aware of "taking up space", as there are typically multiple empty tables at the (independent, non-Starbucks) coffee shops I go to. Maybe this article applies to high-volume areas & times, but I'm not interested in such places anyway.
TL/DR: If you ban people working and studying on laptops, that will just be even less revenue for your establishment, because that is the only reason many of us showed up. Ration out the wifi with time limits and access codes on receipts if you like, I'm fine with that, otherwise just be happy I'm there rather than having yet another empty table.
I find the idea that cafes are not for socializing pretty out there.
I'm sure everyone wants to be a real life Central Perk from Friends, but that's not coming back in the age of smartphones, laptops, and remote workers without some serious trade-offs like the alienation of a potentially majority subset of your customers in the first place.
Business owners of course are free to do as they please and I think it's interesting for them to experiment with cultivating a modern social experience in a cafe. Hopefully they are upfront about their rules, though. I would feel some resentment if I was blindsided by some of the behavior in the article.
Running a restaurant or cafe is pure social engineering. Because you control the environment you can influence the behavior of customers that occupy that space. Restaurants and cafes are a hospitality industry. You must treat your guests like kings and queens. But you also have to make money. Margins are razor thin.
You can change the mood and behavior of a place with music and lighting alone. If the customers are too sedentary crank up the music and make it a fast pace. Turn up the lighting. It gets people moving. Send waiters out and ask customers if they need any thing. Be nice, cheerful, and helpful. They will realize that this isn't an office.
If you have a problem with laptops you can kill the wifi and power. A better way would be to work with the laptops and devices. Give people an opportunity to spend. Make it work for you. Offer them technology to use! That's what I helped do.
Anyway, this is why coworking spaces exist.
If I was running a cafe, I'd expect that you'd be leaving within 5 to 10 minutes of finishing your coffee. The very few times I've worked in a coffee shop, I've done that myself. It's not a coworking space.
Read up on the history of cafes. This is what they historically were—places for people to be, not grab and go. If a coffee shop owner wants grab and go customers, they’re a glorified vending machine. (The article notes a conversation-versus-quiet dynamic that I can better empathise with.)
The problem isn't laptops, it's people being assholes.
Obviously independent coffee shops can't do that, so if you want to sit in a coffee shop all day working on your laptop, try to pick a large chain, instead of an independent.
I'm probably missing something obvious, but how does this work? What is the purpose of keeping the loss-making stores running?
A friend of mine is a middle manager at a retail kitchen goods chain you've probably heard of. I've heard from him that many of their stores are always struggling to break even, and that most of the business is supported by a small number of stores that do an outsized amount of business.
These sorts of submissions have made me self-conscious about going to non-Starbucks to get any work done, heh.
hah... Living in Spain right now.. That attitude wouldnt fly
It seems if you don't want people to hang out, then don't have seating?
How I see it this is a problem for the providers of the cafe service to solve, not the customers.
But we don't even have to guess. Big businesses that are very careful about monitoring things like this, such as Starbucks, actively encourage laptops (with tons of power, wifi, rows of single-person desk tables) so maybe your intuition about what is profitable is just wrong? I mean you've thought about it for ten minutes and were already coming into the situation annoyed because you want to sit down and someone else was there, and Starbucks are running this business full time with I would guess people dedicated to thinking about this kind of thing.
I'm more inclined to believe their reasoning on it.
Sorry, did I say something to offend you?
For reference, typical Switzerland prices are:
instant, homemade: $0.20
Keurig/Nespresso, homemade: $0.50
bakery/coffee-to-go-place in a train station: $4
nice café: $6
So what exactly would I be paying the extra $2 ($6-$4) for when ordering at your café? Assuming here that it all tastes the same to me - after all, if I really cared, I just made it myself.
Presumably the owner would actually have asked your mother or whichever other adult is with you, though.
If they had signs stating their policy clearly upfront I would accept it, but if not, in the cultures that I know the purpose of a coffee shop is exactly to sit there for quite a while. I'm in Germany and I used to live in the US for a decade. If I go to a real Italian coffee shop (i.e. the owner is an Italian), of which there are quite a few, I see people sitting and chatting for long times, an hour is not unreasonable at all. They don't order much after the initial purchase either.
Also, the entire history of coffee shops is that they are places of meeting people, not vending places. So if a particular coffee shop wants to have a "10 minutes only" policy I'm certainly fine with it, everybody can lead their business as they wish, but to what I know this is against all expectations, so it should be stated right away.
For laptop policy it depends more on the local context and I would not always expect to see a sign if they don't want it, but just the acceptance of larger amounts of time spent sitting there alone is a more global thing I would think taht cannot be easily deduced just from looking at a place.
I know coworking spaces (Betahause in Berlin comes into my mind) which combine a "cyber"-cafe with an optional regular coworking space which gives you flexibility for showing up only 1 day and buy a coffee for working some hours.
When I lived in Spain I managed to find an office for 150 euro a month (all inclusive), which was ideal. Now back in the UK I'd likely pay that a week for anything comparable.
Outside of London there is a dire shortage of accessible and affordable work spaces.
In the UK, it's reasonably uncommon to find people wearing earphones in cafes. Most cafes have a good selection of music. It's more common, at least around here, that those working on laptops are students doing work. Often they will meet their friends and work together.
However, there are workers in these cafes too - and their etiquette is atrocious. I often see people leave their computers at the table, and head out to do some shopping in the local shops. Often they would have loud telephone conversations or conference calls. One even came back with their own food. When the cafe staff said "sorry, you cannot eat your own food here", they replied "oh, it's okay" as if the cafe were apologising!
When I bring my laptop, I make sure I spend the same amount of time in the cafe as if I was using it as in any other way, and never over the lunch period when tables are at a premium. One drink per hour seems fair.
Why don't these people either work from home or one of these shared workspace places that have become popular in recent years? I presume they want to get out of the house but also don't want to pay what is surely a higher amount of money to get a shared space. The article mentions that it was $100 more than that one person spends regularly on their cafe budget. I find that hard to believe that it can be that cheap, but apparently it is based on a quick search I just did. But that extra $100 also comes with 1) a contract and 2) no food/drink.
But the co-working space is a 25 minute cycle which requires clothes and preparation and the coffee shops are 10 minutes. There's practically no one in the co-working space and it's not much difference to working at home.
Further I'm really focused in a coffee shop, stick headphones on and some how the noise helps me work constantly whilst there, for typically 2 hours max.
Almost entirely I'm the only one on a laptop. I come first thing in the morning when there's lots of empty tables.
But yeah I get kind of odd looks from one of the café owners, although he's the one who has the least customers.
And it depends a lot on culture / country / area as well. In Slovenia I have never asked as long as there were empty seats still available. It is common for people to hang at a place long after the last order. In my opinion it even adds to the atmosphere because the cafe or restaurant is less empty.
On the other hand I was in a group of 4 at a Tokyo cafe which was 90% empty and we were asked to make a new order or leave 30 minutes after the last order.
That said, I normally don’t stay longer than 3 hours at any individual coffee shop, particularly if there’s a lack of seats for new customers. I also generally tip $2-3 — more if I buy a pastry. You can typically tell which places are amenable to laptops because they have an outlet at every seat.
I think remote work will only increase over time, and I’m sure there are other people like me who focus much better in a coffee shop with strangers and music than in an open office. I’d really like to open my own coffee shop one day with ample seating and a sign that says “laptops and conversation both welcome”.
And for the café, I know it's not a perfect solution, but beyond solutions like obtrusive locking outlet covers, or turning off outlets at the breaker, you could also look at swapping the outlet out with an L5-15R. That's the same voltage & amperage as a regular 5-15 receptacle, but uses a circular plug that pushes in and turns. You'll see them (or a similar amperage) on certain Metrolink (in LA) and Caltrain Bombardier cars.
You could either get an adapter (NEMA L5-15P to 5-15R), or change out the plugs on the stuff you'd plug in (like vacuum cleaners). And no, it won't stop someone who is absolutely determined, and who is willing to go out and buy an adapter. But it makes it all the more obvious that this receptacle is not for people to use.
Here it's more common you leave the phone at the bar to be recharged if charging your phone is what you want.
Why should a cafe not offer that if it brings them customers?
If the cafe has plenty of free space, then people working on laptops is extra customers and beneficial. If it has little space, then a person ordering a coffee every two hours is taking away space from more profitable customers who eat, drink and leave in 30 minutes.
To me, when the battery gets low it means time to go. So I don't mind.
This is, of course your opinion. To me, a cafe is an ideal co-working space. It encourages deep thought, the chance to collide with other smart people in my industry, get out of the house, etc.
I don't mind being around other people but sometimes I just don't want to talk to them. I stopped finding "awkward silences" awkward long ago. Silence is ok.
FWIW, I'm not usually on my laptop in public.
Revenues seems the main objective of the cafe owners in this article.
In Paris is a cafe  that solved this by giving out access passes if you want wifi. If you did not spend enough at the end of your session, you have to pay something extra. I was there several times having lunch and staying most of the day without having to pay extra. Really liked the place, also because this system helps to not feel guilty ;-)
However, it does add to the atmosphere.
e.g. here is your table. its yours for $8/hour. House coffee free. Anything else, go to the front.
There's something so nostalgic about back in the early pc gaming days, when my high-school computer club would do a lockin and we would eat pizza and have surge or blue balls and game the night away.
More on subject, the real problem IMHO is most coffee shops just don't have much room. The Internet cafes were always pretty big and usually had half high cubicle walls for privacy.
That’s to say: I agree it’s not cool to squat a table 3hrs for 5$, but sometimes these situations happen because it’s the house that’s run by a hipster wanker...
I think I'd have called the police
Obviously, use common sense and courtesy. Don't take up a large table. Don't teleconference. Buy a something regularly if you plan to stay a while. Don't bring outside food in.
Having said that, I welcome coffee shops that choose not to have wifi. But frankly, I'm less likely to go to them.
I wonder why more places just don't employ this as a tactic?
Because they want to run a cafe, not a networking hub. Your typical owner isn’t going to be aware of turnkey solutions for this and would rather not spend money on a manager wifi provider to solve this.
A couple of years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend, after about 10 years of living far apart and only having very sporadic contact. We spent 6 hours talking about everything and nothing, after we finished our burgers.
I would have been extremely annoyed if the staff had decided to shoo us out of there after an hour.
But, the customer is always right. If it's not clearly signed that seating is time-limited, I will assume it is not.
I have been at (rather popular, busy) restaurants where a waiter will politely inform you that they have another reservation on our table 30 minutes later, giving us time to finish up without feeling rushed. Perhaps it's just a polite way to get rid of lingering customers, but we certainly didn't feel as if we were thrown out.
In a lot of cases, they'll even inform you beforehand that a reservation is for such and such time, usually 2 or 3 hours. That's perfectly fine and upfront, I certainly don't mind that.
I don't go out to just eat and get the hell out. Conversation is absolutely a part of going out to eat, and people don't appreciate feeling rushed.
Personally my feeling is that this is the wrong direction for society to go.
Each purchase earns 30 minutes of Wifi. After that, you have to pay like $0.008/minute for it. Just have them setup a credit card when they log online.
The example I'm thinking of is Philz in Sunnyvale. Starting some time around the new year, every time I've been there they've been playing much harder & louder music.
When I'm at a place, I prefer to be there without headphones, to show that I'm not completely disconnecting from the outside world. But with some of the music that's been playing, it's really hard to do, and so I've been avoiding it for the past month or so.
This is the trend across cafes in my city in Romania. It is not clear to me what the motivation is: the staff just say that they have been instructed to keep the music playing at all times and at a constant volume. Is it to discourage people from staying long? Or do the owners believe that you need to have loud dance music playing at all times in order to attract people? It’s just sad that we are losing the Central European tradition of cafes as quiet, intellectual places where one could stay for a long time with a book or pen and paper.
Either it's purely WTF or in some cafes it must be really bad with the people working for hours, I've hardly noticed them here where I live.
They also have a game cafe where you pay $5 an hour to sit and play board games. I’ve never seen anyone whip out their laptop instead but that would be a pretty cheap coworking option.
As I understand it they're quite successful. They have opened multiple new cafes in Paris' central neighborhoods.
Coffee shops has always been my favorite working places. Here in Niterói (sister city of Rio), I know basically all the coffee shops in walking distance from my home and their owners. We became friends after spending long long hours in their shops to the point that they routinely reach out to me and other frequent customers for opinions and health checks about their business.
I try to occupy a two-seat table if possible but in cases where none is available I will move to a larger table. I always buy coffee and usually something to eat, if I stay long hours, I try to keep ordering stuff every now and then. Sometimes I don't but since I go there multiple times a week, my orders average out as being a good customer they want to keep.
On my favorite place, which has the amazing name of "Dice'n'Roll Coffee Tales", they are a different kind of coffee shop. They have board games and comics, two of my passions, and attract a lot of "geek" crowd. They have a "pass" you need to buy if you're going to play games, there are multiple types of "passes" depending on if the game is theirs or yours, and if you pay a bit extra, all that amount of money is converted into food and drinks of your choice, so basically it is a commitment to buy food and drinks.
During weekends and Fridays, which are the times when the house is usually at full capacity, they ask that the remote workers also buy passes and if possible, group together in tables instead of one on each table. Mostly recurring clients are OK with this approach, those who are not, usually don't come back, but I have seen this happening only once. The pass we all buy costs USD 8 per day and all that becomes credit to buy stuff, so with that money, I usually get a couple coffees and one ice tea. Usually we all end up spending more than USD 8 at the end of the day and being grouped together on weekends makes for great networking (also every now and then, we pick a game to play).
All that story to tell one thing, that some coffee shops are about building community and getting people together. Not all places subscribe to the notion that you need $X customers per hour paying $M or we go bankrupt. I see these articles about coffee shops in New York that reduce everything to math. Let me tell everyone one advise, "if you do the math, you'd never open a coffee shop", those are really hard to maintain and keep afloat. I've seen dozen shops come and go, the ones that remain open are the ones that will make people welcome and cater to the remote workers, or groups of friends, or whoever wants to make those shops a part of their lives.
It also has something to do with atmosphere. A cafe should have light chatter and people socializing. If the majority is sitting around in silence, it takes away from the special feeling a cafe normally has. I could get coffee at home for a fraction of the price.
If people start using Cafes differently, why hold them to a forgotten standard? Cafes should see a business opportunity in that they can align themselves further with the needs of the consumer. Either that, or the consumer walks.
Open, unrestricted wifi comes to mind as an example.
Also it's somewhat off-putting for the people trying to have the leisure.
Please just leave generalizations like this out of conversation. HN is more than just the comments that catch your eye or those who choose to comment on a particular submission. You yourself choose to be a part of HN. Would you ascribe these same attributes to yourself? Or those that other commenters mention when they make similar generalizations? There are plenty of comments in the threads for this submission which indicate that there is no consensus around the topic.
Yes, but I'd describe myself as left-libertarian (to put it on the political compass), whereas a large part of HN is hanging out in the bottom-right.