Coffee Shop Squatting

What immediately comes to mind when you think of Starbucks? For me it’s good but expensive coffee and a free wifi hotspot. The free wifi amenity that Starbucks is quite famous for has transformed the industry completely to the point where many of their local competitors now offer the same thing. Thanks to Starbucks, most local coffee shops you come across will have free wifi for you to use as you please. But like any new and innovative practice, the law of unintended consequences is destined to give you new problems you never quite anticipated. One such issue for local coffee shops are customers who treat their coffee shop as their office without the rent and with free internet.

The benefit of a shop providing free wifi is that customers will be more likely to stay longer, spend more money during their stay, and be more likely to be repeat customers. The downside is that the shop only has a finite amount of seating for customers when they have more customers than seats. In these cases the people linger on their laptops an hour after their initial purchase is crowding out the tech-free customer that just wants to buy and drink their drink and then leave when they’re done.

One locally owned coffee shop in San Francisco seems to have solved that issue with some creative thinking. During the store’s busiest hours, about one third of the shop’s seating is reserved for people without computers and come with a 30 minute time limit. Laptop-wielding patrons still have plenty of room to peck away for free but customers like myself who don’t stay as long can have a place to sit down too. It’s very much the same philosophy as the express line in grocery stores (that always seem to be used by people who can’t count to ten). The end result has been that the shop’s sales have increased about 15 to 20 percent since the policy was implemented. It may be a very new first world problem but I love seeing the creative ways of how we solve the new and unanticipated problems we face.

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