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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fighting back against wi-fi squatters

I was in a Starbucks in Belleville, Ontario a couple of days ago, sipping my latte and reading a paper copy of the National Post (I know - how delightfully old-fashioned) when a young woman in her mid-twenties walked up to my table and made a request. "Excuse me, sir," she said, "I have to use my laptop and you're sitting at a table near an electrical outlet. I wonder if you would move to another table?" I looked at her in slack-jawed amazement. The shop was packed, largely with young people hogging tables with their laptops and taking advantage of the store's free wi-fi while nursing a single coffee for hours and hours. I looked at her with one eyebrow raised to hopefully convey my annoyance and said "Are you going to find me another table?" She said "Well, there aren't any other tables." I responded "Well, I guess I'm not moving then." She sighed and shuffled off.

These wi-fi parasites are getting out of hand. Try getting a seat in the Starbucks in Indigo Books on Princess Street in Kingston - day in and day out the tables are full of Queen's students doing their homework just a few blocks away from a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art library on a campus where every building (including the residences where they actually live) has free wi-fi. And yet they camp out all day in a public coffee shop crowding out the paying customers while they incessantly update their Facebook profiles and tweet each other. I once had to eat a sandwich there while perched on a window ledge.

So, imagine my delight when I read that some Starbucks stores in New York are fighting back:
They’re called Starbucks “squatters.” You know, those folks with their laptops who take all the seats and never seem to leave.

But, as CBS 2′s Scott Rapoport, reports the coffee house giant has a plan brewing to fix that.

You know how some Starbucks customers and their computers like to make a permanent home in the coffee emporium, hogging up all the seats for hours, mooching off the free Wi-Fi and preventing you from sitting down and enjoying the latte you paid $5 for?

Well, now some Starbucks in New York City are reportedly pulling the plug on that idea, actually covering up their electrical outlets to discourage squatters.

“Customers are asking (for it). They just purchased a latte and a pastry and there is nowhere to sit down in some of these high-volume stores,” Starbucks spokesperson Alan Hilowitz said.

“People actually live here. You know what I’m saying?” added Alan Glowko of Astoria.

It is a move that has some Starbucks regulars saying … it’s about time.

“If there’s no more space to sit, they should get up and leave,” said Katie Krug of Burlington, Vt.

“I mean, you can’t use their electricity for like eight hours. I mean honestly,” Glowko added.
Memo to Tim Horton's management: the day you install free wi-fi in your coffee shops is the day when civilization will finally collapse.


Kriilin said...

The libertarian in me says "Who cares if they're squatting, Starbucks allows it, it's their business". As more people like yourself get annoyed (rightfully so), you'll go somewhere else that doesn't tolerate that crap, and they'll either change their policies, make money on the squatters (likely not), or go out of business. True free enterprise will look after it. Having said that, why did chickie-poo think she had a right to your spot? Entitlement culture I guess.

don muntean said...

Hey i cannot see the logic - if one goes for a coffee there without the computers will they still be permitted to sit there for hours sipping the coffee? I think it's a little too bold to plug into the AC outlets!

Frances said...

There's a simple solution for Starbucks - change the chair design. There are seats out there specifically designed so that noone sits in them very long. Fast food outlets tend to have them.

Anonymous said...

I could care less about Starbucks. It's not my kind of place and I don't like their overpriced crappy coffe.

As far as the little adventure you had with the snotty chick? ROTFLMAO!x2.

Thank you.

Look I know your gay buddy. I'm straight but tell me. Was she hot? Because I'm from a rural community (all my life) and a few years ago a moved to a large city for work & training. I was astonished at the arrogance, rudeness, self important, self absorbed behavior of the women in the city. This attitude is incredibley prevalent in the younger, good looking ones. They simply think that the world should serve them whatever their selfish little hearts desire immediately.

Thankfully in the years I have been here I fell in love with a wonderul woman who did not possess such an attitude and now we have a little girl of our own.

We are getting our little one the FUCK OUT OF HERE before she starts school and is infected by theis this bullshit attitude.

As for Starbucks. Fuck 'em. There are many other shops. Go to a place where your treated better sir.

BTW. As a soc con I disagree with some of your views (SOME - NOT ALL).

But what I DO find interesting is thee fact that you are a physicist. This is true - right? If so please post more about your thoughts on this subject. The other ones you posted (too rarely) have been interesting.

Thank you for bearing with my overly long posting.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easier to limit internet access to 2 hours per day per device ?

Eric said...

Anonymous (10:47):

"I'm straight but tell me. Was she hot?" Is that all you straight guys think about?

Seriously - It's been my experience that many young women (and men) out in the country are just as self-absorbed as city folk - they may live in rural areas but they absorb their cultural references from the same sources (TV, movies, music) as their urban peers. Young people are so connected now to wider society that country kids are exposed to the same negative influences that city kids are.

I think though that one big difference is that rural areas have more of a sense of community - families have often lived in the area for generations, institutions like schools, churches and service clubs are still important in the life of the community. In rural areas people are more likely to keep an eye (or outright spy) on their neighbours, so there are more chances for intervention when a kid seems to be going off the rails. (This of course can be a double-edged sword - some my neighbours are exceptionally nosy, which can be annoying).

Regarding Starbucks, I do tend to take my business elsewhere (usually Tim Horton's) but once in a while I venture in to sample a more "urban" experience. I should probably know better.

Thanks for your comments about the blog - we can disagree on some things and still be civil about it, and still call ourselves conservatives.

Although I do work in a physics-related field, I wouldn't call myself a physicist (although I do work with many actual physicists) so I guess I'm a physicist by osmosis. I will try to write more on that subject when I have the time.

Thanks for reading - I enjoyed your comment.

Anonymous said...

---Was she hot?" Is that all you straight guys think about?"

LOL! I suppose it seems like that. :D

But really, there is the sort of stereotype of the snotty hotty and that came to mind when I imagined your encounter. I think you handled it perfectly though.

Anyhow, I hope I didn't come across as sounding like I though rural morals or values or lifestyle were superior to urban. That really wasn't my intention. It's just the lifestyle I grew up in and I miss it terribly. Now that my wife & I have a little girl I would like her to experience such a lifestyle.

But enough. Take care.

Eric said...

I can understand why you miss it - probably for the same reasons that I left Toronto and moved to rural Eastern Ontario 25 years ago. Life is good out here. I hope you get a chance to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Good response to the girl. Reminds me of a guy I knew: whenever he was looking for a parking spot in an area where they were scarce and he saw somebody pulling into one, he'd yell at them "Would you mind not taking that spot so I can have it?" He was joking, but the girl wasn't! Yeesh.

Otherwise, it's sort of a toughie. Nothing like the coffee house atmosphere for getting some work done. I think covering up the outlets or cutting off the wi-fi after 90 minutes are the best way to do it, since you can't simply dissuade people from something so pleasurable.