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Great WSJ article. I agree that there's etiquette that should be exercised with laptops in a coffee shop or other business. Certain behaviors should be common courtesy to the establishment:

1. BUY something. If you're there for a number of hours make multiple purchases. Maybe a beverage an hour? (I don't know, just throwing out a number.) Eat. Drink. Purchase.

2. If you've been there for hours and see people circling like vultures for a seat (as often happens at my local Aroma), vacate. It's nice to the people who are looking for a seat, and nice to the business who will get their money.

Establishments with free WiFi are businesses. They need to make money. If you're going to use their free WiFi you should be respectful of that and either spend money or give the table to people who will. Of course I mean the general "you" here, not Esther "you".

I don't know about New York and LA but there's a growing trend in Toronto for coffee shops to open up with free WiFi, plenty of outlets and big communal tables along with smaller ones and where people are encouraged to stay for hours and interact with each other. Sadly, the one closest to me closes at 6pm, which I expressed disappointment over when I went in yesterday for the first time. This is a niche, and I don't think that the model would be so successful if every coffee shop was doing it.

I still like Aroma best for free WiFi and great food and drink and since they opened two more locations in the city it might be easier to get a seat now.


I read an article a few months ago about how a small coffee shop popular with laptop commuters increased their sales by changing the name of their network multiple times throughout the day to push sales.

Example: "Today only! Soup and Salad special for only $7.99"

"Muffin and coffee only $2.99 until 11:00am"

I thought this solution was incredibly creative and was a gentle way of nudging people to spend money without alienating them or creating tension.


Thanks, Andrea - great ideas for a set of "coffee bar squatters ethics..." - I've learned and will continue to live them.

Harry, you're right that it's a genius way to remind people that they're hungry and that they're basically renting the space and should in some way pay for it.

At Coffee Bean, they give you two hours free, then log you out for a mandatory 10 minute break, reminding you it's a good chance to buy an iced coffee. Then after 10 minutes, you get another two hours. And repeat. A good solution, I think.

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