August 27, 2009
Outlawing coffee shop squatters
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal wrote about an interesting war being waged in some of New York's independently owned coffee shops: Tired of freelancers and telecommuters camping out at their tables all day -- often nursing one cup of coffee for hours -- owners have begun chasing away laptop users or covering up their electrical outlets during peak hours.
It may sound extreme, but if you were a cafe owner losing prime lunch crowd business to non-paying digital nomads, you'd probably do the same.
So far, this seems to be a trend unique to New York, where carving out a comfortable working space in the cramped 300-square-foot studio you share with a roommate can be tough. I haven't found any evidence of cafes shooing away laptop users in Seattle yet. (If someone can prove me wrong, please do.) In fact, the Wall Street Journal cites Seattle Coffee Works as a cafe that welcomes laptop users because it makes the establishment look busy.
Back in New York, according to the Journal, some customers are crying foul about these laptop bans. "Where are we supposed to work?" seems to be the rallying cry. I find this laughable. Business owners are entitled to boot clientele who take up space for hours on end without coughing up the cash. It's a coffee shop -- not a hotel. If you want to work outside your home for free, go to the library.
Other cafe patrons interviewed by the Journal seem to be in favor the laptop bans. This point of view I can understand. Although I personally don't have a problem seeing laptops at my favorite neighborhood cafe, I'm no fan of sitting next to the guy who's loudly chatting up client after client on his cell phone. There's a place for that. It's called your home office. And if you don't like working from home, a number of local coworking facilities will be happy to rent you a desk.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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