Coffee shops are cracking down on laptop hobos. That’s the nickname shop owners have for people who treat cafés as their personal offices. You’ve seen these “hobos." They’re the customers who camp out for hours at the same table, using the power outlets and free wifi, while they work, update Facebook, or surf the Web.
But that wasn’t what the restaurant industry had in mind when it started offering free Wi-Fi service a few years ago. The goal wasn’t to be a remote office space. But it’s gotten to the point where some customers will sit at the same table all day. And that hurts business because new customers don’t have a place to sit. That’s why a lot of shops are saying “enough is enough” to laptop hobos.
Some are either restricting Wi-Fi access during certain hours or eliminating it for good. And some shops are even banning customers from using laptops or tablets. And it’s not just small mom-and-pop cafés because the Panera Bread chain recently set a new 30-minute Wi-Fi limit during peak lunch hours. And some Starbucks shops recently started blocking their electrical outlets, so people can’t stay plugged-in all day.
And by the way, the changes are working. One shop owner in Chicago says after he started shutting off Wi-Fi service during lunchtime hours - to keep laptop hobos from hanging out - his profits went up 30-percent.