Laptop Hobos vs. Coffee Shops

One of the top news stories today was titled "Coffee shops look to oust laptop 'hobos'." Basically, coffee shops and wifi-offering restaurants are tired of patrons who stay all day, use the free electricity to charge their laptops, and only buy the minimum of coffee/food. So they are cutting them off by turning off the wifi and covering the wall outlets.

I can certainly see both sides of that story. I owned a small coffee shop for a year and saw first-hand the laptop "hobos." But in the small town where I had my coffee shop it wasn't a problem because there were only a few people who made the coffee shop their office-away-from-the-office. I happily provided free wifi and plenty of electrical outlets to encourage folks to stay awhile and have some coffee and baked goods.

On the flip side, I was a laptop hobo quite a few times over the years for very good reasons:

1. I worked from a home office for years and unfortunately sometimes the high speed internet service I used would go down. Or the electricity would be out because of bad weather or a transformer had blown. At any rate, I needed to get my work done. So on those days, I would take my laptop to the nearest coffee shop and stay there for hours so I could get my work done. But I made sure to purchase enough coffees and food items to compensate the shop for my use of their wifi and electricity.

2. I travelled many times over the course of my career and while away from home, the local coffee shops were my office. When I stayed in hotels, I could of course use the hotel wifi and work areas. But sometimes I was between flights or on the road and needed a coffee shop so I appreciated the use of their space and internet.

3. Sometimes I was so bored out of my mind with working all alone in a home office that I just had to get out and be around real people. But the work still had to get done so off to a coffee shop I went!

4. While at the coffeeshops I ran into other people working and would occasionally strike up a conversation with them. I met people who were between jobs and simply couldn't afford to have internet at home so they used the local coffee shop wifi. I talked to students who were also too poor to afford internet. So I know the coffee shop wifi has been lifesaver for many people who needed it.

Reading through the comments on the original post finds many people who view the "laptop hobos" as a bunch of moochers who've messed up a good thing for the rest of us. And yes, I saw a good bit of blame foisted on bloggers!

Do you have reasons to use the wifi and electricity at a coffee shop? Do you agree with the coffee shops about covering the outlets and turning off the wifi?

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