We’ve all seen coffee shops and cafes that are overrun with people using the tables are their own personal offices. You know what it’s like: a four-seat table is taken by one person with a laptop and a printer, and no coffee or other purchased food is visible. This is almost always because the store provides free wireless Internet access and people are abusing it by camping for hours on end.
I understand that the owners of those stores are in a bind. They want to provide great customer service, but don’t want their real, paying customers to be run off by people taking undue advantage of those services.
May I suggest putting the electrical outlets around the dining areas on a switch, and posting hours when they’ll be turned off? Customers and other visitors could still use the free Internet access but would be unable to steal a table for half a day straight unless they’re carrying heavy batteries around in their messenger bags. Owners could put individual outlets on separate switches so that they could make exceptions for regular customers or the occasional visitor who needs to plug in their medical equipment.
I understand the reasons for free Wi-Fi. I’m less clear on the reasons for unlimited free electricity. After all, no coffee shop I’ve ever visited will fill up my car with gas, and if they did, their parking lot would soon be overrun with non-paying visitors dropping in for free energy. Why is electricity different?