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

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
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

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?

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