This article was published 15 years ago

How local coffee houses deal with wi-fi hogs

The Wall Street Journal published an article two weeks ago about coffee houses discouraging people using their shops as a third office (home as the first and work is second) and not buy anything.  One coffee shop in New York posted a sign stating that notebooks are not allowed during lunch hours and select hours on the weekends.

Starbucks Coffee, the nation’s largest coffee retailer, also got into the discussion.  Their message:  we don’t mind people coming to stores and not buying our over-priced coffee.  “We strive to create a welcoming environment for all of our customers. We do not have any time limits for being in our stores, and continue to focus on making the Third Place experience for every Starbucks customer,” the statement said.  The company does offer free wi-fi if you qualify for the service.

We talked to coffee houses in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and wanted their take on the discussion.  The vibe we got was that are corporately owned didn’t see a problem and the independently-owned ones do see a problem.

Celton Hayden, Jr, general manager of retail operations for CC’s Community Coffee House, tells ControlAltTV that they have no plans for charging for wi-fi access.

“CC’s has never charged for its Wi-Fi access. We are proud to offer this amenity to our customers, Hayden said in an email interview.  “We felt that as the internet became more and more a part of all of our lifestyles, CC’s should be at the forefront of businesses that offered it as ‘lagniappe’ to the best coffee and an already great service environment.”

Even though corporately-owned coffee houses use free wi-fi as a way of getting customers into their stores, independently-owned coffee houses struggle with dealing with wi-fi poachers and keeping customers happy.

Clarke Cadzow of Highland Coffee, located on the north side of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, has noticed customers coming into his store and using the wi-fi system without buying items.

“I have been noticing more and more people coming into Highland Coffees to use the free wireless without buying anything,” Cadzow said in an email interview.  “I still feel surprised and aggravated every time I see someone come into the shop to use the free internet access without buying something. The issue for me is not just with the use of the wi-fi. I get irritated with customers coming in to enjoy my shop and not buying something, regardless of what they are doing.”

Cadzow also address that his store can deal with those that don’t buy coffee.  “We are fortunate to have a very large space, both inside and outside with a big courtyard,” Cadzow said.  “The spaciousness of our shop gives us some leeway as to how we handle people who do not buy something.”

Continuing: “The vast majority of our customers do in fact buy something. We have wonderful customers who are generally very respectful of each other and of the shop,” Cadzow wrote.

A representative from PJ’s coffee could not be reached for comment.