Coffee Culture's cents-less argument: I sympathize with Yvonne Johnston, the owner of Cofee Culture in London, Ontario, Canada. She is tired of table campers who occupy a four-top, blocking other customers, and have the temerity to bring in coffee from another shop and not make a purchase while using the free Wi-Fi.
I sympathize because I've been writing stories about such concerns for at least seven years, if not longer. But her argument is unique. She's telling customers that she can't afford the power, and she tells patrons they can't use the outlets.
She says she knows her hydro (Canadian for power, even when it's nuclear or otherwise) bills keep rising, but I'm afraid she hasn't done the math. A large, modern 90-watt laptop drawing full power consumes 1/10th of a kilowatt-hour (kWh). Toronto Hydro says its time-of-use pricing ranges from 5 to 10 Canadian cents per kWh.
A laptop user whose machine is pulling the full draw for battery charging or active use thus costs her one-half to one Cdn cent per hour of use. Given what I can tell of her shop's size, even 12 hours a day with 10 laptops in use should cost her no more than a Looney a day. More likely it's less than 25¢.
While her electrical argument doesn't hold water (and we shouldn't mix electricity with water), her business one is perfectly sensible. She needs customers who treat her shop like a shop, and not a library. She needs customers more respectful of the notion that taking a table for four and using it for hours on end takes real dollars—many tens of dollars of a day—out of her pocket.
I've heard all manner of approaches to stop table camping. Signs, barista enforcement (employees don't love that much), turning off the Wi-Fi during busy hours or on weekends, and so forth. What it amounts to, unfortunately, is that some subset of people will always do what's convenient to them rather than to the venue in which they plop themselves. They won't be shamed. You have to cut them off.
Starbucks lacks this problem because the vast majority of its customers pass through, and in busy areas it tends to have a greater density of store locations or more seating in stores.
Ms Johnston might revise her sign. Drop the hydro argument. Instead: "We don't allow use of the hydro because we find we cannot keep in business and provide power, too."