Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

Summary: Coffee shops and other businesses are battling a a long-time problem of people hogging a table all day for the cost of a $2 cup of coffee by banning electronics. Doesn't that seem backward? Sounds like those restaurants need time limits

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TOPICS: iPad, Laptops, Tablets
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I know technology has this way of taking over our lives, of captivating our attention to such an extent that we can't even enjoy a cup of coffee, crack open a good book or just soak up some summer sun without firing up a laptop or fiddling with a mobile phone.

Nick Bilton's tale in the New York Times' Bits blog shows how some business owners may be taking the pursuit of an unplugged world a bit too far by forcing a no-tech policy on to their customers, banning the use of computers or other electronics during certain hours or in certain areas.

The story isn't new. Some news outlets were reporting it last summer. But as the weather warms and more people look for an escape of the dreary office setting, the stories of "no-tech-here" encounters are popping back up, as well

Clearly, a business owner can impose any rules he'd like on his place of business and those who don't like it can find someplace else to buy a cup of coffee or a sandwich. But, in an age where technology moves quick but the economy recovers slow, it's hard to imagine that business owners would do anything to discourage customers from coming in and spending money.

With that said, I can see restaurants and coffee shops wanting to keep tables clear during busy hours, not occupied for eight hours by some iPad-carrying geek who will nurse a $2 cup of coffee - and tie up a table in the process.

Still, Bilton was told flat-out that his Kindle - technically an e-reader and not a computer - was not allowed in the coffee shop. Period. It was the same story when he pulled out an iPad at a Brooklyn sandwich shop. If it has a battery and a screen, it's not allowed.

From there, Bilton's post went into this rant about e-books and pixels vs. paper and the outselling of digital goods over traditional ones. That was all interesting stuff - but I'm still blown away by this trend of banning electronics, as opposed to setting time limits for a table or requiring a purchase for a seat.

Anyone who's ever strolled through a Barnes and Noble knows that there are plenty of people who find a book in the store and then curl up on one of those comfy chairs, occupying it for hours (and then not buying the book.) What about if you wanted to sit and turn the first few pages of a book before deciding whether or not to buy it - but there were no open chairs.

You get where I'm going with this, right? Why ban the electronics? Why not just find a way to ban the inconsiderate behavior?

Topics: iPad, Laptops, Tablets

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55 comments
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  • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

    But, if they put up a minimum, per hour, of spending to take a table you'd whine about that too.
    hornerea
  • a low minimum

    Something like "A minimum $2/hour purchase required per table." sounds very reasonable to me.
    Spats30
    • Thoughts

      @Spats30

      1. The owner can of course do whatever he wants

      2. Free Wi-Fi attracts business

      3. Owner cannot afford to have a table occupied for hours over a cup of coffee.

      Given the above, I would think that a MAC address based management of connections, say half hour or 1 hour automatically free, depending on time of day (how busy). After the system cuts you off, you cannot reconnect with the same MAC address (device) for say 3 or 4 hours. No human intervention required. The customer goes there for a quick meal or cup of coffee with free Wi-Fi and the owner gets rid of the freeloaders.

      I am not a programmer nor network specialist, but is seems to me that the solutions to this problem are rather trivial.
      Economister
    • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

      @Spats30

      Hey why not. Other businesses do this type of thing. Most if not all strip clubs require you to have a drink in front of you @ all times if you set next to the stage. And no you cannot milk a $6 jack and coke for 4 hours the bouncers pay attention. So i say get you big bouncers @ barnes and noble and starbucks then your problem goes away.
      MLHACK
  • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

    If I lived in an area that had this problem, I would go to the small Bus owners and suggest setting up network with passwords that expire after a certain amount of time. (Start a side business for myself)The other day my wife and I drove an hour to a bigger town so her and her friend could go shopping. I went to a chain restaurant that has free wifi. Sat there for three hours with my net book, only spent $12, but I did leave the waitress $8 tip for "taking up space". I also watched the room and as long as 5 tables were free I stayed. If they would have gotten busy or anything I would have either left or went and sat at the bar.
    jcm996
    • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

      @jcm996 I think you are considerate .
      alex6500@...
  • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

    Buy your damn coffee and get the hell out. No problem. Don't like it? Buy from some where else. Don't see a problem with it myself.
    marbo100
  • go to the library

    The Panera I go to always has most of the tables taken over by people with laptops, either doing homework or business work. There is always some jakcasz sitting in a booth with his laptop and all his work spread out, while a party of four has to fight to squeeze in a small table for two. . Its a restaurant, not a library. Just because you buy something doesn't give you the right to camp out and treat the place like your own personal office.
    smartin007
    • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

      @smartin007
      I've seen this as well. I usually get my food to go because the Panera around here is always packed so I bring it back to the office but there are a dozen or so people with laptops and papers spread out. The funniest thing is the one guy trying to find a seat near the power outlet.
      Loverock Davidson
  • One place I frequent started putting one hour limit

    Student would come in and stay all day hogging up a certain section of the restaurant (Panera Bread). Then they began limiting your online session to one hour. Personally I don't mind, one hour is perfectly suitable for me to come in, grab some coffee and breakfast and read the days news on my iPod Touch (soon to be an iPad).
    dave95.
  • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

    I will have to agree with the shop owners here. They are trying to make money in their small business. Barnes & Noble is a national chain with a lot of income. The coffee shops are small business, every person that is just sitting at a table taking up space is one less seat for another customer and one less sale. Why turn 5 tables an hour when you can turn 20 tables an hour?
    Loverock Davidson
  • same ol'

    this is just an extension of how rude people have become. they talk and text while driving (risking all kinds of mayhem), they'll talk on their phones or on a bus or in a subway as though you're really really interested in their conversation.
    they'll be out with friends and take calls or browse the web, pretty much telling their friends where they stand (hey, you guys are fun and all but, right now, i prefer my friends on facebook).
    and they'll sit all day in a coffee shop after spending $2 like it's their right.
    sportmac
    • I'm not talking on the phone on a bus or subway because...

      @sportmac: <i>they'll talk on their phones or on a bus or in a subway as though you're really really interested in their conversation</i><br><br>...I care if you're interested in my conversation. I'm doing so because I want to talk to the person on the other end of the phone. And I don't see why people think doing this is rude.
      ye
      • RE: Banning electronics: Can't coffee shop owners find a better way to keep tables free?

        @ye It is rude. Very rude. The problem is, because of the way the brain works, its very difficult to "tune out" half a conversation, even if you don't care what's being said. Paradoxically, its easier to tune out a full conversation -you simply don't notice anymore. But half a conversation is annoying all the way through, it prevents others from reading, or concentrating on anything. Have you noticed how people complain about others talking over the phone but not about two other persons having a conversation? Now you know why.
        ImaGremlin
      • I see nothing rude about it.

        @ImaGremlin: [i]The problem is, because of the way the brain works, its very difficult to "tune out" half a conversation, even if you don't care what's being said.[/i]

        I have no problem tuning people out.

        [i]Have you noticed how people complain about others talking over the phone but not about two other persons having a conversation?[/i]

        Yes, I have. And I can't think of any other reason other than they don't like it. People just complaining because they can. That's it.
        ye
      • @ImaGremlin

        I agree it's rude. I also find a lot of cell phone talkers don't modulate their voices properly. They are speaking loud and clear to compensate for the phone performance and not the ambient noise level as two people talking face to face would. I have noticed the behavior substantially decline in my area the past few years as, I suspect, people are finding text messaging a more manageable communication method while on-the-go.

        As for Ye, I am glad you find that you can tune out distractions easily, you are probably aware that skill is not applied evenly in all individuals.
        oncall
      • That's not my problem.

        @oncall: [i]As for Ye, I am glad you find that you can tune out distractions easily, you are probably aware that skill is not applied evenly in all individuals.[/i]

        You're just another one of those complainers. You don't like something so therefore it's rude. There's nothing rude about it.
        ye
      • I don't care what your conversation is about either.

        @ye

        But just for fun, I usually record people like yourself and then play it back at maximum volume while watching the video once the conversation ends.

        It's truly amazing how many people take exception to hearing <b>themselves</b> babble on when they're trying to have a few quiet moments of reading their newspaper, or eating at a restaurant, or actually talking to someone else that's physically present.
        Letophoro
      • Yeah

        @ye
        "You're just another one of those complainers. "

        I think we all got that you feel your behavior should not be of concern or a distraction to anyone else no matter how annoying. A blissful lack of awareness and consideration for others. I guess that's how rude behavior works doesn't it?
        oncall
      • Are you serious?

        @Letophoro: [i]But just for fun, I usually record people like yourself and then play it back at maximum volume while watching the video once the conversation ends.[/i]

        This just reinforces my point that you're complaining to complain. You don't like it so therefore you feel the need to record someone else's conversation and play it back to them? Seriously?
        ye