Should You Allow “Internet Squatters”?

It’s the hallmark of any coffee shop: the lone writer, off in the corner, writing his grand masterpiece as he slowly sips away at the one coffee he bought three hours ago. The drink is cold, the caffeine is working, and he may or may not be back at the counter for a refill. 50 years ago, he was there with a pen and paper. 15 years ago, he may have been there with a newfangled “laptop”. Nowadays, he’s there with an iPad and a bluetooth keyboard or his Macbook. The cafe offers free WiFi and makes the coffee he likes to drink anyway; why would he work from him when he can work at your coffee shop? He gets the attention he secretly pines for, he gets the drink he wants, and he gets his work done without paying for the Internet. It’s something he didn’t need 50 years ago at all, could go without 15 years ago (as he was just writing in Microsoft Word), but desperately needs in 2013 as he types away into the cloud that is Google Docs.

While it may seem inoffensive, coffee shops like The Wooden Spoon have found themselves finding customers blaring YouTube clips and being largely disruptive to other customers, all while not engaging in the actual purpose of coffee shops: social interaction with other people in front of you. A few bad customers have obviously ruined the mindset of the “Internet Squatter” in the eyes of the ownership.

Should you continue to allow these people to stay in the shop, and on your Internet connection?

Benefits

  • Repeat customers, easily. If an Internet user is a guaranteed sale, they’ll return each day and buy something, even if the cost isn’t substantial.
  • Good will, as people will want to return to the shop and bring their friends because of the nicety of the owners.

Negatives

  • If you find yourself running out of seats for customers, the people will end up taking up space without allowing others to sit down.
  • While you can always have a rude customer that never touches a laptop, you might have some people that abuse the Internet, or even table space. Someone may dedicate their entire table to their laptop and bag (when it can fit two to four people), or not be aware of how loud they are playing clips or watching movies.

How To Rid Yourself Of Them

  • Changing your WiFi password every two hours allows for people to get their work done and not stay around.
  • Covering up power ports will limit them to the battery life that they have on their device, preventing them from recharging.
  • Just outright banning laptops or turning off the WiFi will solve most problems.

At the end of the day, these “Internet Squatters” may be bringing business into your restaurant, despite any possible disruptions from it. In any situation with a customer that causes a problem, it may be best to talk it out with them instead of possibly losing their sales. Maybe a small conversation will reveal that they don’t know their audio was turned on to loud, or were too engrossed in their work to see how much space they had taken up on the counter. A simple nudge and a wink may keep your business afloat and the freelancer smiling.