Email Delivery

Receive new posts as email.

Email address

Syndicate this site

RSS | Atom


About This Site
Contact Us
Privacy Policy


November 2010
Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30        

Stories by Category

Basics :: Basics
Casting :: Casting Listen In Podcasts Videocasts
Culture :: Culture Hacking
Deals :: Deals
Future :: Future
Hardware :: Hardware Adapters Appliances Chips Consumer Electronics Gaming Home Entertainment Music Photography Video Gadgets Mesh Monitoring and Testing PDAs Phones Smartphones
Industry :: Industry Conferences Financial Free Health Legal Research Vendor analysis
International :: International
Media :: Media Locally cached Streaming
Metro-Scale Networks :: Metro-Scale Networks Community Networking Municipal
Network Types :: Network Types Broadband Wireless Cellular 2.5G and 3G 4G Power Line Satellite
News :: News Mainstream Media
Politics :: Politics Regulation Sock Puppets
Schedules :: Schedules
Security :: Security 802.1X
Site Specific :: Site Specific Administrative Detail April Fool's Blogging Book review Cluelessness Guest Commentary History Humor Self-Promotion Unique Wee-Fi Who's Hot Today?
Software :: Software Open Source
Spectrum :: Spectrum 60 GHz
Standards :: Standards 802.11a 802.11ac 802.11ad 802.11e 802.11g 802.11n 802.20 Bluetooth MIMO UWB WiGig WiMAX ZigBee
Transportation and Lodging :: Transportation and Lodging Air Travel Aquatic Commuting Hotels Rails
Unclassified :: Unclassified
Vertical Markets :: Vertical Markets Academia Enterprise WLAN Switches Home Hot Spot Aggregators Hot Spot Advertising Road Warrior Roaming Libraries Location Medical Public Safety Residential Rural SOHO Small-Medium Sized Business Universities Utilities wISP
Voice :: Voice


November 2010 | October 2010 | September 2010 | August 2010 | July 2010 | June 2010 | May 2010 | April 2010 | March 2010 | February 2010 | January 2010 | December 2009 | November 2009 | October 2009 | September 2009 | August 2009 | July 2009 | June 2009 | May 2009 | April 2009 | March 2009 | February 2009 | January 2009 | December 2008 | November 2008 | October 2008 | September 2008 | August 2008 | July 2008 | June 2008 | May 2008 | April 2008 | March 2008 | February 2008 | January 2008 | December 2007 | November 2007 | October 2007 | September 2007 | August 2007 | July 2007 | June 2007 | May 2007 | April 2007 | March 2007 | February 2007 | January 2007 | December 2006 | November 2006 | October 2006 | September 2006 | August 2006 | July 2006 | June 2006 | May 2006 | April 2006 | March 2006 | February 2006 | January 2006 | December 2005 | November 2005 | October 2005 | September 2005 | August 2005 | July 2005 | June 2005 | May 2005 | April 2005 | March 2005 | February 2005 | January 2005 | December 2004 | November 2004 | October 2004 | September 2004 | August 2004 | July 2004 | June 2004 | May 2004 | April 2004 | March 2004 | February 2004 | January 2004 | December 2003 | November 2003 | October 2003 | September 2003 | August 2003 | July 2003 | June 2003 | May 2003 | April 2003 | March 2003 | February 2003 | January 2003 | December 2002 | November 2002 | October 2002 | September 2002 | August 2002 | July 2002 | June 2002 | May 2002 | April 2002 | March 2002 | February 2002 | January 2002 | December 2001 | November 2001 | October 2001 | September 2001 | August 2001 | July 2001 | June 2001 | May 2001 | April 2001 |

Recent Entries

In-Flight Wi-Fi and In-Flight Bombs
Can WPA Protect against Firesheep on Same Network?
Southwest Sets In-Flight Wi-Fi at $5
Eye-Fi Adds a View for Web Access
Firesheep Makes Sidejacking Easy
Wi-Fi Direct Certification Starts
Decaf on the Starbucks Digital Network
Google Did Snag Passwords
WiMax and LTE Not Technically 4G by ITU Standards
AT&T Wi-Fi Connections Keep High Growth with Free Service

Site Philosophy

This site operates as an independent editorial operation. Advertising, sponsorships, and other non-editorial materials represent the opinions and messages of their respective origins, and not of the site operator. Part of the FM Tech advertising network.


Entire site and all contents except otherwise noted © Copyright 2001-2010 by Glenn Fleishman. Some images ©2006 Jupiterimages Corporation. All rights reserved. Please contact us for reprint rights. Linking is, of course, free and encouraged.

Powered by
Movable Type

« Canada's Sluggish Market Unites (a Little) | Main | Who's NOT So Hot Today? Tempe, Arizona »

May 26, 2005

Coffeeshop Turns off Wi-Fi on Weekends

Pic CafemenuIt's too early to say whether it's a trend, but Victrola Coffee & Art in Seattle shuts down its free Wi-Fi on Saturday and Sunday: I spoke to co-owner and co-founder Jen Strongin today after a colleague tipped me to the fact that this lovely, single-shop coffee establishment had decided to experiment with taking back its culture by turning off the Wi-Fi juice on weekends.

Strongin said that the five-year-old cafe added free Wi-Fi when it seemed their customers wanted it a couple of years ago. It initially brought in more people, she said, but over the past year "we noticed a significant change in the environment of the cafe." Before Wi-Fi, "People talked to each other, strangers met each other," she said. Solitary activities might involve reading and writing, but it was part of the milieu. "Those people co-existed with people having conversations," said Strongin.

But "over the past year it seems that nobody talks to each other any more," she said. On the weekends, 80 to 90 percent of tables and chairs are taken up by people using computers. Many laptop users occupy two or more seats by themselves, as well. Victrola isn't on the way to anywhere; it's in the middle of a vibrant stretch of shops and restaurants on Capitol Hill's 15th Ave. It's exactly the kind of place that you want to sit down in, not just breeze through.

Worse than just the sheer number of laptop users, Strongin noted, is that many of these patrons will camp six to eight hours--and not buy anything. This seemed astounding to me, but she said that it was typical, not unusual. The staff doesn't want to have to enforce the cafe's unspoken policy of making a purchase to use the space (and the Wi-Fi), and on the occasions that they approach a non-buyer about a purchase asking, "Can I get you a beverage?" the squatter often becomes defensive, explains they've bought a lot in the past or just the day before.

"It's just really really difficult. We've had so many heated debates about it. We want people to linger at the cafe. We're not a fast-food coffeeshop. We want people to feel comfortable staying here as long as they please," Strongin said.

They've gone two weekends with no Wi-Fi, and so far, they're pleased with the results. The staff "loves it," she said, and regular customers are "coming up to us and thanking us." They have received a few nasty emails. But Strongin said that last Sunday was one of the best revenue days they've had on the weekends in a while. "It was kind of a bold move."

Strongin says that Victrola isn't interested in charging for Wi-Fi as a tool to limit or moderate use, and still thinks that free Wi-Fi is a great amenity that they can offer their customers at the right time. They have no plans to remove it entirely.

But, she said, "I don't like going into a cafe, any cafe, including my own, and just seeing a sea of laptops and people not interacting."

Update: Tonx, Victrola's roaster, posted his own insider take on the matter. He notes, "A few customers were in painful enough withdrawal that they stayed home, finding time to send email about how upsetting it was. But the overwhelming response was positive."


It sounds like they might get the best of both worlds if they could hand out tokens that authorize the user of the WIFI for a fixed period of time. They'd give them out for free with any purchase. The user would be directed to a web page, type in the number from the the token, and be granted access for whatever time period. Then they'd have the best of both worlds, free wifi to paying customers without having to really enforce their rules. Does anyone know if a system like that exists?

There's a Subway near my house that does that. They use a system from that gives you a code on the receipt good for a half hour of free wifi.

We also have a Taxi's Hamburgers restaurant that tried posting a WEP code at the front, but people had trouble using it (!) so now the restaurant doesn't even require WEP.

I think people who use an establishment's wifi without purchasing anything, especially those taking up more than one seat, are just rude. It's like not tipping the waitress. They have no excuse for complaining. Even if they "bought something yesterday" they should get a Danish or a cup of coffee of something, even if they're not thirsty. I mean, really!

Problem is there's an amazing jump in cost and complexity from an open network (which just involves slapping a $40 access point onto an existing network) and an access controlled network, which requires the web server to be up at all times to do the access control, possibly a fancy access point and more. And that makes it impossible for non-laptop devices to use the network (wifi phones etc.) and often causes trouble for even ordinary users.

So there isn't a great answer unless some standard develops for conditional access. Moochers on the one hand, pointless cost and complexity on the other.

Good for them!
Nothing worse than having a freeloader taking over a table. Only half of what a coffee shop is about is the coffee, the rest is the comfort feeling you get when in there .. lots of nerds hogging tables and ignoring everyone is not comfortable for the average unnerd person wanting to relax and chat with unnerd friends :-)

I must admit, I am somewhat curious as to if this solitary wi-fi browsing is merely a technological modification of coffee house culture. Late 19th/early 20th century Vienna was known for its coffeehouses, where many of the popular writers (such as Peter Altenberg, Karl Kraus, Hermann Bahr...not all in the same group of course) would gather. The coffeehouse was a place for dialog and arena for the exchange of ideas and opinions.

Perhaps technology is just allowing this to a greater extent? No longer limited to the involved patrons of a coffeehouse, laptops and wi-fi perhaps now give the individual the ability to interact with others on a worldwide level. While the discussion between two people within a coffee house may no longer be as important, perhaps the knowledge production and interaction that results from internet access is just as important.

I can definitely understand this particular establishment's desire to limit wi-fi though. Especially if non-patron users of it are creating an unwelcome atmosphere for those truly desiring the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee.

I was at a coffeeshop in Seattle today that used a token system: Caffe Ladro in downtown. The last few times I've been there, I've been able to jump on a free access point located somewhere in the apartments above the coffeeshop, but this time I had to get on the Ladro network. Okay, no problem. But it sent me to a login page with no method of getting a new login name, account, pay them for the service, etc.

I asked the barista about it, and he did exactly what the last poster mentioned: printed a receipt that had a 10 digit number that I typed into the login and password fields. After that, no problem. I was there for a little more than an hour and wasn't cut off, so I don't know if it had a time limit or not. But it's not a bad idea to discourage folks from camping without buying something... if you have to get something from the barista, you're more likely to buy something at the same time.

I dont know of any commercial place that does that, but this is what my university implements with its internet policy. If you want to use the network, you simply login either w/ a guest account or your school login. And it lets you stay on for about 45 minutes before it asks you for the information again. The technology is out there.

I think some of the posted comments miss the point: the culture of the cafe has changed due to excessive WiFi use. Regardless of the technical logistics of putting in place a system that limits usage, the feel and vibe of the cafe suffers due to the reclusive nature of the computing experience. The establishment turns into something like a library instead of a slightly noisy, unique, completely-Seattle cafe where people find random ways to relate to each other.

Another cafe suffering similar culture-corrosion is Zoka's Cafe near Greenlake. Good luck getting a spot to sit back and enjoy the environment there.

Just kill the wireless, wire for RJ-45, and hand out patch cables with any purchase...

Instead of re-engineering the technology why not re-engineer the social experience?

Simply reserve some tables (e.g. in the middle of the shop) for non-laptop use and relegate some wall-facing tables for laptop users.

Or if this seems too drastic just inform customers that some seats/tables are preferably for non-laptop use and that laptop users will have to stand up for others no-questions-asked if the other party so wishes.

On the rare occasion there's disaggreement employees or the manager might intervene.

This way you also avoid giving the laptop users the feeling they're somehow second-rate customers because of the "ON or OFF" Wi-Fi solution.

I helped a small coffee shop in Atlanta with this very same problem. We used this free system: Free linux based solution which boots off of a cd, no hard drive necessary. All you need is a floppy or usb pen drive to save your config. I was very impressed with it.

M0n0wall ( has a feature called captive portal that requires you to enter some authentication details before you can access the internet, these are authenticated via a radius server (the documentation has how to set this all up).

I went into a local coffee shop earlier this spring for an old fashioned pen and paper conference with a professor/mentor, but every table was covered in laptops, their silent owners clicking away. We ended up huddled in a corner with our papers in our laps.

I love Wi-Fi, but in this hurried age, I hate to miss any opportunity for comfortable, face-to-face interaction.

Just put a sign that reads:


netxt to the one that reads:


I think the last one worked :)

Should check out PlaceSite a final project of some friends in SIMS @ Berkeley, which talks about "Project PlaceSite introduces a new way of using wireless networks -- to create a digital community service by, for and about people who are in the same café together" as well as the "zombie effect" of everyone at a vafe staring at their computers.

users hanging out is definitely an issue. Check out
Suited for places that want to give say a certain amount of time for customers who buy from the menu or you have the option to charge an access fee.

I have seen a system that sounds like it could be beneficial to you. It's an experiment called PlaceSite, I'm not sure how they are running the experiments, but It'd be worth checking it out.

Their potential solution to fix the social ethos of the cafe - dampened by the wifi campers, is to allow everyone whom logs in to the wifi network to be displayed on a portal-like page - they can upload their pictures/profiles and you can see at any one time, who is logged in, within the cafe.

May be useful to you.


I don't have internet access at home, and use my iBook at the university (Where I am enrolled, and thus have the authentication codes) and in coffee shops.

Frankly, I don't see a problem with lack of interaction. Folks using laptops are probably interacting on a different level with different people, then the ones chatting. I've been in coffee shops frequented by teenage girls, and it's bloody annoying - endless stream of consciousness interjected by slang, "like" is every 3rd word, and seems like what they are trying to do is just verbalize emotions. Maybe they care, but I for sure do not.

A bunch of coffee shops here (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) started partnering with wifi providers (most common ones being and ), which for a while were free. Now Rogers started charging, asking 0.15 CAD/min. Boldstreet is about to follow suit. Where would a student (who can't even afford 30$/month inet access) jack in? I am not asking for high speed broadband (Although streaming mpeg2 MSRI math lectures off is just cool!), and generally while working on math problems at the coffee shops I drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee.

Simple solutions, like nocatsplash, that can be integrated into the flashable firmware of commodity Linksys/Broadcom routers (WRT54GSes, for example, I wrote plenty of firmware mods for those), that intercept the web requests, and accept one time codes would handily solve the problem. Ideally, the codes would just get printed on the receipts.

Another solution (Which actually infuriates me, so it's probably rather effective) is to disable power jacks, making them inaccessable to laptop users. Then people can't hog the table for longer then the lifetime of their battery (After about a year and a half of use, my iBook is down to ~70 minutes on battery at full charge. I dread the time it will die, as I can't afford the replacement).

But frankly, no purchase - no service is the easiest way to deal with the freeloaders. As far as I am concerned, folks who come into coffee shops for the vibe, are welcome to the vibe as long as I am not involved, and am allowed to continue doing math problems/programming on my computer. I'll enjoy my cup of coffee with headphones in my ears, as the kind of crap that is played in coffee shops here "for vibe" just annoys me - cheezy top40 and bad 90s pop.

Especially in the comments, you folks are talking about what we call the Zombie Effect: []

I'm told that 2 San Francisco cafes (Samovar Tea Lounge and Canvas Cafe) now nix the wi-fi on weekends.

Jerry the manager at Canvas kicked out a guy who repeated the following routine for several days: he'd set up office, taking over a large table (even with a stapler), then he'd type and talk on the phone all day after buying 1 cup of coffee.

Lee at A Cuppa Tea in Berkeley kicked out a woman who came in with a coffee from another store, sat down and got going on her laptop w/ zero purchase.

But remember, these are extremes and exceptions. A minority of people will be pricks anywhere, using whatever technology is available.

Now we'll refine social and technological techniques for discouraging antisocial behavior. Same old saga...


I think this is going to be a short term problem. It's due to the fact that WiFi access points are so rare, and cellular internet access so expensive. As the former spread and the price of the latter goes down the phenomenon of laptop users camping on WiFi points will seem as quaint as crowds of people huddled in front of TVs in store windows.

^^ to the post above, that is exactly what I do. I own a coffee shop and I force my customers to talk to a barista before they use the wifi. I give my customers a code for free to login for an hour, then they have to speak to me again in an hour when it expires. Allowing me another chance to get them another mocha or latte or what not. I love this system so they just can't randomly walk in and just use my connection, or sit in the parking lot and use my connection to spam the world.


At my local shop I helped set up a system. IT was about $400 and requires you get a 10 digit code from the barista. We give it away with any purchase but it is really handy because the average barista can figure it out and the customers can use it easily as well. The system is a Zyxel 4000B. Its about the size of a standard router and does all of the fancy authentication and some other nifty features.

We don't have the same problem I am guessing because we are in a smaller town with several wide open wifi spots elsewhere so we still have our atmosphere.


From the article, it seems they don't want the wifi users to have to buy anything. They would really like it but they aren't going to enforce it. Turning it off on the weekends is a great idea. If people want to do work out of the office, go home and do it or go to a library. A coffee house is a place of business and is in business to make money.

Good for them!

While I am an avid coffeehouse WiFi user, I'm tired of all my fav haunts, where I'd like to read old-school things like newspapers and books, taken over by laptops.

I'd prefer a system that says you get 30 min max per visit/purchase to encourage not only patronage but also turnover. This thou seems a very easy, if not eloquent, solution.

Why not try something like this: If you buy something, you get a token for 45 minutes or an hour. If you don't want to buy something you get a 15 minute token. If you want to keep leeching, you need to come back to the front and ask for another free token. Every fifteen minutes.

I'd guess that this is going to be embarassing enough that the leechers will stop after a short while, and either buy stuff, or leave.

Agreed, it is rude to buy nothing... Usually the first thing I do is buy a coffee when I walk into a place!

Just thinking out loud and perhaps this is too geeky (I am a Software Engineer by trade) but what about a web chat site that is comprised of only customers in the Cafe. You either buy coffee occasionally or are forced to be sociable (if only by text chat).

I can imagine the guessing games as to who is sitting where? One could be required to connect to the web site chat before being allowed external web access (on any port)... And the ice is broken somewhat if its a rule of use.

I think it is kinda rude to hang out in an establishment, and taking up space, without buying anything. Stopping in quick to check email is one thing, hanging out all day is something completely different.

I am a big advocate of free Wi-Fi in places, but non-customers acting like this makes some proprietors TURN OFF THE NET -- go figure!

I've lived in New York City all my life, and have spent a lot of time in all kinds of cafes - the dives, the bookstores, the pastry shops, etc. I've never noticed anyone talking to each other, ever - except when boys and girls try to flirt. The closest I ever came was the bar at in the east village where I would sometimes chat with the coffee dude who I knew outside the cafe anyway.

A cafe is *not* a good place to meet people. Not in my experience anyway. Wifi is not the problem.

An open-mic is probably the most effective way of establishing a reliable system of idea sharing, but then you only get the folks who like to get on a soap box. You could also try special interest groups or town halls.

[Editor's Note: Thank you for that ringing endorsement of the Big Apple! In Seattle, people talk...sometimes.--gf]

how 'bout "frequent customer" accounts. the more you buy the longer you can stay on w/ rollover.

Novel idea: ask them to leave. For all this silly ranting about how people don't talk anymore, which is BS by the way, it seems ironic that nobody had the gumption to simply say: get out of my restaurant. This isn't a public restroom. It's pretty straightforward. Just ask people to leave. Amazing results will follow. None of this malarkey about shutting it down and all the silly commotion around this little stunt was necessary.

[Editor's note: It's a culture issue. The cafe wants to not have to create and enforce rules for reasonable behavior. It worked before Wi-Fi and it seems to work with Wi-Fi turned off. So it's just the collision of some people with asocial behavior coupled with their use of Wi-Fi that appear to be the problem: not just rude people nor just Wi-Fi users.--gf]

Perhaps ironically, I'm reading this post while camped out in a coffee shop, not talking to anyone, my laptop taking up a table. I did, however, buy both a mocha and a bagel. In fact, I come here all the time to do work and always buy something. My work doesn't always require wifi, though I certainly use it, and probably wouldn't come here if they didn't have it. The problem is not wifi specifically, it's people hanging out, in whatever form, without buying stuff. Maybe we just need bigger cafes, or smaller tables (and hence smaller laptops).

Good for them.

I use WiFi in coffee shops frequently; but as a business-owner I always remember why it is there.

They are providing a convenience to customers to provide loyalty, and to increase sales.

Financially, coffeeshop-laptop users must be the lowest-margin customer demographic outside of groups of high school students who just got out of class and the homeless guy who came in to nap in the comfy chair.

Culturally, these same folks are destroying the same (un)natural resource that makes a cafe a place you want to go to in the first place. So many coffee shops have become out-of-office cubicle farms (the lighting is better, it smells nicer, etc. but it's still a bunch of people on computers ignoring each other).

I'm (honestly) waiting for the amusing day when a WiFi user yells at other patrons because they are trying to work. (I will laugh my *ss off).

Get over it. WiFi is NOT a right. If the other patrons of the coffee shop annoy you, then get your own internet access. If you can't contribute to the small business that is providing you with a warm place to sit and provide you with tools for your education, work or entertainment, then you are always free to go to Star*ucks and pay for T-Mobile access.

I appreciate that these small-business owners give me an environment to work in that is much more comfortable than the office. I pay that respect in kind by purchasing plenty of coffee, tea, slices of pie, etc. And I participate in the culture that makes up the coffee shop.

Where else in the world can you have an office equipped with good coffee, conversation, interesting (sometimes strange) people, available members of the opposite sex, etc. all for the rental price of coffee and snacks ($5-9) an hour?

Its a bargain at twice the price.


too bad no one has a wifidog auth server you can hook up to down there.

Bravo for Victrola Cafe! Don't get me wrong... I work in I.T.and I have a wireless network at home. But sometimes it's not about MORE technology *gasp*. I like their solution. Simple human human interaction is what this world needs more of.

Even fee-based locations will have users taking up a lot of space.

We've setup large and small WiFi solutions and this is a service that attracts different types of people. Some users just like to get out of the office and may bring work to a hotspot. Some users are very mobile and depend on hotspots to work. Some users don't even have broadband at home and will use free hotspots to keep-up on emails. And yes, some are just free loading.

Free access should be offered in exchange for a purchase with a username and password for access.

If a business wants to create a more social atmosphere with people sitting around looking at each other rather than a laptop, don't offer WiFi.


well done! this is a stronger message than just better for business, its about improving the atmosphere of the coffeehouse, and its working. wifi is becoming so saturated that it could soon be available anywhere, and may require shops to just say no to laptops all together. this may seperate the wifi shops from the culturally richer tech-free cafes. i know which i choose. bless victrola.

I feel I have to speak up as I was one of the Victrola Wireless users and I predicted that there would start to be some wi-fi backlash in our near future (not just here but all over).

I would come in for a few hours, order a coffee, maybe something else and do a few hours of work. I did start to feel guilty after awhile, not for disturbing the vibe but for sitting there and taking up space. Not long ago Victrola posted a policy asking people to make purchases but this of course, doesn't address the vibe issue.

I also wonder how much this is due to just wi-fi and I feel people are forgetting the mere laptop issue (which are certainly more prevalent these days than years ago. When I was in college, it was about a getting a new desktop. Now its a laptop). I think having free wifi will draw more of a crowd but not completely eliminate the laptops, students will still come in to do work, programmers don't always have to check their e-mail, people will use their laptops but those places with the free wifi will draw more because we'd rather chat and have access to our e-mail than not.

Needless to say, for those some of my own guilty feelings and others I eventually found a shared office space which works out well. Only on occasion do I choose to take a morning off and work in a coffee shop and its made things a lot more pleasant for me because now I don't have all the work associations with the local shops (It got horrible at one point... I didn't feel I could just go and relax, because I was there all the time). I say they need to start frequenting more of the bars with free wifi, then at least after a few beers you'll feel more sociable! ;)

Best of luck to Victrola, great coffee, great vibe, great people. The only other solution I'd offer (which I think I saw one other person post) is to remove the plugins. Nothing easier to limit the laptops IN GENERAL (as opposed to those just coming for the wifi) then limiting their ability to stay for a long time.

There's another issue here.

I've been an appropriate user of WiFi in coffee shops since the beginning. However, as owners begin to realize that laptoppers are taking up space without an accompanying purchase, I've watched as they concomitantly shut off the router. Fine. But now when I go to grab a cup of coffee and check my email, there's no way for me to know whether or not access is on or not, even though the sign in the window proudly proclaims "WiFi access point". In my mind, that's false advertising. My solution? They no longer get my business.

The owner of a coffeeshop I frequent here in Tempe is facing the similar problem.

What if the wifi folks had settled at this shop and the revenues went UP? The owner would have to think twice before wishing to bring back "people having conversations," when there would be less money in doing so.

This article is more about a sensible business owner making a business decision that enables them to stay in business and thrive. We wifi users have gone from folks to attract to folks to repel? I guess so. It turns out we didn't have all the money or class they thought we did.

as jeff points out a couple of comments upthread, different cafes use different models to handle the issue, and it's as much a business model problem as a customer culture problem. the ladro solution sounds good to me, and i will definitely check out their service soon.

people are going to hate on me for this, but here goes nuthin: if you're from seattle, you are probably aware that victrola customers are notorious for putting an outrageous level of demands for cultural support on that business. i love victrola and think it's one of the great cultural mainstays of seattle, but i freakin' hate a lot of victrola's regular "i've been going here for years and you owe me a place to feel safe to whine blah blah blah" customers. of course, as you might be able to tell, i used to work in several coffee shops myself, so i know firsthand how nerve-wracking those sonsabitches can be. it's the price you pay for having a strong relationship with the community you serve: a hell of a lot of whining. the better the cafe, the better the relationship with the surrounding community, the worse the whining gets. it's unfortunately a common syndrome among hipoisie urban dwellers. don't even get me started about berkeley...

Daryll Strauss asks if there are systems that have time-limited user accounts for their free wireless service. Larry Borsato blogged today about a coffee shop in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada that dispenses a userid with each purchase:

He doesn't say whether the userids expire after a set amount of time.

It blows my mind to read that people go into a commercial establishment, especially a small coffee shop, and sit there for hours without buying anything. Thats not ok. And whats more they get defensive!?! Whats up with that? Shame on anyone who does that.

here in Ann Arbor wifi connectivity downtown is so dense that if you can't get a seat at one cafe there are half a dozen cafes, restaurants, and bars that you can go to as an alternative.

the real problem is no place to sit Sunday afternoons, and that's not from laptoppers, it's from people socializing.

nearby my house there is a sports bar and a bowling alley that both have wifi.

Having taken my laptop to Victrola on occasion, I've often wondered if it was like some new form of corporate office, since it seemed like most everyone there was in work-mode on their laptops. I mean, it wasn't really a cafe any longer because there were so many people working.

Otherwise, Victrola is a great cafe--and it's great that the owners want to keep it a great cafe. I think they're right to give their patrons more of a great cafe on the weekends.

This is awesome news and it was only a matter of time before it happened. I'm a professional developer. My bread and butter is the world of technology. But I am completely baffled by the trend towards substituting an outside life with the artificial world of tech communications.

While I tend to agree with people who say that before the WiFi cafe craze people didn't interact much, I do think there is something horribly unnatural about the laptop zombies I see at cafes all across this city (NYC).

While someone reading a newspaper on their own or a book are in their own world, people who sit there staring at the screens and often wrapped up in blog/chatroom debates and even work frustrations creep me out. They are beyond isolated. They are in a 'virtual reality'. And they seem to be so self-focused they don't realize when they outwardly act like jerks. Such as taking up space. Pounding fists on tables. Just basically pretending nobody is there but themselves.

If I'm going to a cafe it's going to be for a calm atmosphere and relative peace from something else. A place to unwind. There's no way I would feel comfortable sitting next to a bunch of telecommuters or freelancers frustratingly tapping away at keeyboards.

Mark this blog entry folks. I'm sure this is the beginning of a trend against the worst antisocial aspects of new technology.

I say bravo & commend you on your desire to "take back the vibe" of your establishment.

Too many times I've witnessed places with limited seating capacity get "taken over" by hoardes of laptop-weilding dolts who can't be bothered to buy anything (thus vailidating their presence & occupancy of valuable realestate) &, when confronted with a paying customer who NEEDS to sit someplace, dismisses a friendly question ("May I please use the chair your computer bag is sitting in?") with rudeness.

Invest in a minimal authentication server that prints a username & password at the top of every receipt. Paying customers get XX minutes of WiFi access before the Authentication Server cuts them off. Non-paying customers get nothing.
That way, those who wish to purchase & sit down, can do so, accessing WiFi or not; those who can't be bothered to subsidize your WiFi with even a minimal purchase of a single cup of coffee don't get the benefit OF your WiFi.
I know it's a little harsh, but in the long run, the atmosphere of your establishment will be better for the enforcement of the rules.
"Yes we have WiFi for our paying customers. If you'd care to buy something, your access codes will be printed on your receipt. If you don't feel like buying anything, feel free to just sit & chat with our regulars!"

Your regulars will thank you, and the freeloaders will stop being such a PITA.

((Bright smile))

I don't have a laptop, but all along I thought all places required people to purchase something before using the WiFi.

Rather than shut WiFi off on weekends -- why limit what a customer can *do* at a table? -- limit how long they can sit there, and refuse WiFi to anyone who hasn't purchased.

I discovered this cafe the week before it adopted the "no wifi on weekends" policy, which I was not aware of at the time. The next weekend I walked for 30 minutes, with laptop, to enjoy their atmosphere, coffee and to chat with other cafe patrons. Yes, that's right. I DO buy things, and I DO socialize.

Upon arrival, I was extremely disappointed to learn that the network had been turned off. So were several other customers who had bought coffee and pastries, and had brought their computers.

There are about 100 other cafes in this city, dozens with excellent service, friendly staff, and prgressive management.

Victrola, I won't be back.

P.S. If you have more tolerance for this nonsense than I, and want wifi at Victrola, sit near the windows. There are at least two other networks that you can to connect to. And if you live on 15th Ave and have an access point, please aim your antennas at Victrola.

The HotSpot Gateway Router is actually the ZyAIR B-4000 - 802.11b Wireless Hot Spot Gateway. The issue is people abusing unmetered access to the Wi-Fi service. I think the login/password for a set time is a perfect setup. If the person wants more time, they can purchase another drink and get additional time.

A buddy of mine has a coffee shop with wifi. When he has a problem with people leeching off him he quietly tells his regulars that there is going to be a short outage and then pulls the plug on his wireless router. If someone hasn't bought anything how can they complain? After the noncustomer leaves he turns it back on.

Apartments in NYC are so small that few people have real living rooms, and I often meet up with friends outside of my house rather than inviting them over. I went to a sidewalk cafe here in the East Village around ten last night with my boyfriend. While there were a few clumps of friends chatting, the majority of people were there doing work, including the woman across from us who looked like she was grading papers. Most of the good seats on the sidewalk were taken over by laptop users. There's a big difference between hanging out in a place where people are reading or scribbling into notebooks and hanging out in a place where people look like they are concentrating and working. As my boyfriend and I chattered away, the guy behind us made some sort of flowchart. There's got to be a happier medium than turning off WiFi entirely, but I don't want to be in a cafe where I feel like I'm bothering people while they work.

I think a good solution might be to have some system for issuing an authentication code on the store purchase receipt that expires two hours from being issued. That way people who bought a cup of coffee or a pastry could use the wifi for two hours, before they would have to buy something else.

It astonishes me that people get so upset when a business owner is trying to create a working business model. You have to make money to keep the doors open. The store expenses don't come out of the air.

I had a girlfriend who would always carry a cup from a store that she purchased six or so visits before so she could look like an active customer while sponging wifi. She would actually get refils too sometimes. She didn't understand when I didn't want to accompany her on such visits to the cafe.

Note to editor and Daniel from New York--

I live in New York too. I frequent coffee shops in the Village and Brooklyn. People talk to people all the time, even at the places with Wi-fi. I've met two of my (ex) boyfriends at coffeeshops.

Heh, maybe people just don't talk to Daniel.

/my two cents.