Readers of I Hate People! know that co-Hater Jonathan Littman and I advocate the cultivation of a "Third Place", a respite that's neither home nor office, where one can escape the grind of the day in exchange for the fruit of the grind instead. Even though its very popularity has polarized the international community to either love or hate it, Starbucks was one such haven mentioned in our book. A place to kick back for a while with some joe, plug in your laptop and get some work done in the blessed buzz of a public place where no one knows your name.
That retreat seems to be retreating.
According to blogger Trevor Mogg, in his Digital Trends piece End of road for Starbucks laptop loungers?, he cites sources reporting that several Starbucks location in New York City have begun to cover up their AC outlets in a move designed to discourage folks from plugging in for the long haul. While no one likes a caffeine squatter — one of those schmoes who buys a tall drip coffee and nurses it for hours while hogging valuable table real estate — the move seems downright draconian coming from the coffee purveyor that took pains to make most of their outlets living room comfortable. Complete with armchairs and fireplaces, we were hard pressed not to believe that our extended presence there was desired.
In Mogg's piece, he relates a report by the Wall Street Journal that said Starbucks Corporate has no expressed chainwide policy but does state that individual stores have the authority to make a move like covering outlets if they so choose.
Obviously there are moves that other cafes, restaurants and "loungeries" have taken to combat the laptop loiterers. Some Peets locations offer free Wifi but only for an hour at a time and you have to have the daily changing code to log in - with the only access to that code being to purchase something.
As unemployment continues to be a very real situation for people, not to mention the legions of folks who are learning to be full-on Soloists and work for themselves, the desire to have that populated spot to haunt while work get done will only grow. One hopes that more gracious solutions to handle those who abuse the privilege of sitting and sipping will be developed. And, certainly for the outrageous prices Starbucks and others charge for their brew and other comestibles, being a bit more lenient with us laptop lizards can only help to foster goodwill.
Short term solution to make sure your AC access doesn't go away at your local 'Bucks? Don't be stingy with the tip jar. Most of the people down on the loungers are the baristas, who have to put up with not just a one-cupper hogging space, but also watching those same cheapskates slide past the tip jar day after day. If they know you're kicking a little scratch their way, the brewmasters behind the counter are less likely to point out your shortcomings when their boss asks if there's a problem.
— Marc Hershon