Coffee Shops Start Turning Wifi Off On Weekends
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Some coffee shops are starting to tell their customers to “drop in, turn off, and tune in”. Only unlike Timothy Leary, who uttered the original and infamous “turn on, tune in, and drop out”, the coffee shops are talking about free wifi, not drugs.

While the number of customers who stake out and squat at a table as strongly as if it were the last piece of land by the creek during the gold rush, camping at the table with laptop for hours, buying only one drink – if that – and you know who you are, has certainly negatively impacted the bottom line of many a coffee shop, it’s really more about atmosphere and ambiance, says Jen Strongin, co-owner of the Seattle coffee shop, Victrola.


Strongin says that after adding free wifi service at Victrola, “we noticed a significant change in the environment of the cafe,â€? adding that before they had installed the free wifi “people talked to each other, strangers met each other.”

And now? “Over the past year it seems that nobody talks to each other any more,” says Strongin.

Instead, people sit with their faces buried in their laptops for hours on end, not only not buying anything, but precluding new patrons, who would buy something, from having anywhere to sit and enjoy a purchase.

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“It’s just really really difficult. We’ve had so many heated debates about it. We want people to linger at the cafe. We’re not a fast-food coffeeshop. We want people to feel comfortable staying here as long as they please,” explained Strongin.

But neither do they want the atmosphere at their shop to be library-quiet, with everyone computer-facing and nobody interacting.

So in an effort to strike a balance, Victrola has started turning off the wifi on the weekends. They have done this now for the past two weekends, and while they have received a couple of snotty complaints by email (come on people, you’re complaining that a service which you probably hogged – in fact you were probably one of the reasons for this new move – a service which Victrola offered out of the goodness of their hearts – and for which you were never charged, is no longer available for you to take advantage of on the weekend? Well boo hoo hoo – cry Aunty a river)…they have also had customers come up to them and thank them.

 

And they’ve seen the best weekend revenue they’ve seen in months.

So good on ya, Victrola. It’s time to take back the coffee shop!

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4 thoughts on “Coffee Shops Start Turning Wifi Off On Weekends
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  1. I just got back from fixing some common wifi problems (customers get a signal but can’t connect) at a local coffee shop which was interested in setting a time limit as well. It looks like prepackaged solutions start at a couple hundred bucks and up. I know I can do it with OpenWRT on used gear for $100 a pop if that, and thankfully the owner is happy to have me use her cafe as a testbed.

    When they first asked about anti-camping timeouts, I was a little miffed (hey, I’m a geek, though I always make sure to spend a few bucks an hour on food and drinks if I’m camping) but after reading all these articles, I can see it’s a real problem. I’ll be developing a service – with or without timeouts to dissuade campers – around the Portland area over the next couple months now that I’ve seen some of the negative impacts.

  2. One good idea for the business owner is to add the feature of a timed internet session. So a web page will pop up requiring the user to log in and pay, or simply be on a timed session…
    I build these systems for cafes and internet shops. This gives the business owner a fair chance to capitalize on the wifi. Free wifi is good, but not when you notice a drop in business profits.
    Contact me if you are interested :)

  3. Since I bought a new laptop with wi-fi I now visit a couple of coffee shops I have not in the past just to be able to get online. However, I know they provide this service so I will spend money in their place of business. And I do just that. It is so convenient to be able to go somewhere between meetings or tasks and get some personal time to research or just play that I am more than glad to spend my money with those merchants.

  4. Hmmm…free wifi and people having their faces buried in their laptops for hours on end, not talking to each other anymore. Excuse me if that seems a little too obvious to me. I’ve been saying the same thing for what seems like years with computers taking away from people just being able to sit down and enjoy a normal conversation with another human being. Way before the days of free wifi. These coffee shop owners are just now figuring this out??? No. Not really. No one can possibly be that dumb.

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