High Desert Bloggers,
Bodacious Bundts, Hesper
The High Desert has numerous coffee shops and cafes with Wi-Fi access. Starbucks, Panera Bread, Bodacious Bundts and It’s a Grind are a few. I have ordered many coffees, sandwiches, and pastries when utilizing these cafes because I needed to use their Wi-Fi. Some would consider me a laptop squatter. However, not all laptop squatters only order a small cup of coffee for an entire day while working on a project via a laptop. Many hours were spent working on the book I published, Phantom Seven. Thanks to the owners of It’s a Grind, later I held a book signing at their coffee shop, sold a few books, and met some wonderful people.
Who are the laptop squatters we’ve been reading about every day on the Internet? Students, laptop owners who may or may not pay for a monthly Wi-Fi service, bloggers, and entrepreneurs to name a few. Mention “laptop squatters” to your friends and coworkers. Notice their response. I mentioned the words to a couple of friends this week and received a quick response. WHOA! They left no doubt in my mind how they felt about it. They are so tired of going to coffee shops with no available seating because of all the laptop squatters or hobos that order one cup of coffee and sit there all day. One friend said they should get Wi-Fi at home, and that makes perfect sense. I have my own Wi-Fi that I carry with me. Sometimes, my Wi-Fi provider doesn’t provide good reception. Those are the days I camp out at a cafe or coffee shop with the assurance that if my Wi-Fi doesn’t get good reception there, at least I’ll be able to use their Wi-Fi. It’s definitely worth it for laptop users to purchase a Wi-Fi service. One of my laptop entrepreneur friends recommends using your own Wi-Fi even at coffee shops for the safety of your laptop’s personal information.
I am interested in knowing your opinion on laptop entrepreneurs who utilize Wi-Fi service at coffee shops and cafes. Should they be required to purchase something every hour that they remain there working on their laptops (like one of my friends suggests)? Share your opinion in the comment section below.
So far, the Starbucks cafes in the High Desert haven’t limited WiFi used by laptop customers like some around the country have done. Cafe and coffee shop owners in New York, Florida, California and probably plenty of other states have been discouraging “laptop squatters” from camping out all day. One cafe owner’s revenue increase of 30% since doing so has been reported repeatedly. Those owners who show their displeasure of laptop users by limiting WiFi access and available plugins may be seeing positive results of other customers. But laptop users are consumers who have needs as well as others. Why not find ways to cater to their needs instead of ousting the consumers from the cafes?
I have a blog meetup group that meets at various places including a bookstore, Panera Bread, and at some of the Starbucks cafes. The bloggers buy coffee, pastries, and other items on the menus, not just a small coffee for the duration of the visit. Panera Bread has a wide variety of lunch choices, and numerous times some of the bloggers have stayed for lunch.
Ideally, a section in coffee shops intended just for the laptop squatters would work well. Provide plenty of outlets, WiFi, and a specific number of tables and chairs. When that section is full, additional laptop users that enter would have to either exit or wait until a table comes open. This would leave the main section of the coffee shop available for all who do not have laptops. A couple of my friends who are not laptop users quickly voiced their opinions today when I brought up this topic. One recommended laptop cafes, and the other friend said the laptop users should have to buy something every hour. I agree with the laptop cafe. I don’t feel that the squatters should be forced to buy something every hour. I’ve observed other groups just chatting for hours at a time without computers and haven’t noticed them jumping up every hour to make another purchase.
What is your opinion?
Cafe and coffee shop laptop curtailment is on the rise with owners announcing revenue increases since they began limiting laptop users. But there are other cafe owners like John Kim, who feel differently about the issue. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune News, Kim is one of two brothers behind The Brothers K Coffeehouse in Evanston, a popular cafe for laptop squatters. Kim’s opinion? “I love it, as long as I have space for it, which is generally the case.” Instead of blocking electrical outlets and limiting laptop users, Kim placed plug multipliers at each electrical outlet and installed a counter along two windows where laptop users can enjoy the view.
There are approximately 20,000 coffee shops in the United States with combined annual revenues equaling almost $10 billion according to the Center for Economic Vitality at Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington. Two noteworthy factors mentioned in this coffee shop study are:
- Market research and understanding
- Non-Coffee Sales…”coffee culture”
Cafe owners can use a little ingenuity and add a possible 5 percent extra to their revenue by adding laptop culture merchandise to their inventory. It’s using simple marketing and understanding consumer needs like the Outpost Cafe in Brooklyn, New York has done in catering to laptop users. If a large portion of cafes and coffee shops are laptop users, sell merchandise such as flash drives and coffee cups with a picture of a laptop or a flash drive and a tech-savvy caption.
Try an out-of-the-box idea like a separate area with a couple of exercise machines such as a treadmill and charge $2.50 for 15 minutes or $5.00 for 30 minutes to use it. What’s this got to do with market research and understanding? It may prevent the laptop squatters from getting a blood clot from sitting too long and generate extra cash flow for the cafe.
WiFi access for laptop users is a consumer need that is not disappearing anytime soon. It’s better to cater to the laptop squatters than to lose them.