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U.S. coffee shops reserve tables for the ‘laptop free’ Add to ...

I often wonder what they are doing in there: young men with scruffy beards under floppy tuques, young women in vintage booties and the requisite Hudson’s Bay stripes, lounging all day in my local coffee shop. When I race in for a takeout tea, all eyes raise from the glow of their MacBooks to stare at this panting interloper.

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Beautiful Wi-Fi vultures, these people sip Americanos, type type typing away. What are they all doing? Writing the next masterpiece? Graphic designing? Looking for work or a chaise longue on Craigslist? How about these crop tops from American Apparel, available online? More often, it’s good work being done on Facebook and Gmail – maybe it’s the end of the month and mom’s being tapped for the rent cheque.

“Get movin!” I think to myself in envy, trudging to the office.

Maybe I’m not alone: The Coffee Bar in San Francisco is reserving a number of tables with cards that read “laptop free,” during peak lunch service.

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias elucidates the issue here: “Coffee shops all across America struggle with the Wi-Fi question. Giving people a place to sit and work that’s out of their house … is a great way to drum up business during non-peak times. But it slows turnover at peak business moments and can cause you to lose customers.”

A Slate reader described a similar coffee shop in Davis, Calif., (a university town) that had set aside six tables for folks without laptops and who also weren’t sprawling out with their textbooks. That also includes you, corporate types spewing off skill sets over glowing spreadsheets. Must “productivity” infect every corner of public life? Scram.

“To make it even more appealing, these tables were … set apart by a short wrought iron fence and were near the windows, so they were quite pleasant,” the Davis commenter wrote.

Another reader described her local’s no-Internet rule during weekend brunch hours. Now that would be bold: setting your laptop down in the thick of a Sunday brunch war, people rounding the block, children screaming, everyone caked by the smell of artisanal sausages as you tap tap tap away.

At a time when patrons are making themselves supercozy during peak hours, restaurateurs are fighting back, be it by passive aggressive tweet or handily placed sign.

But for those who must siphon Wi-Fi from their local all day, commenter “The Coffice” offered these basic etiquette tips. (The guiding principle is to “self-regulate.”)

Take up as little space as possible (one chair, half a table).

Offer up your empty space to someone else looking to sit.

Buy something throughout your stay.

Mix up your location destinations every so often.

Besides multiple purchases, clean up after yourselves, be nice to staff (always), tip well.

Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

 

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