Coffee Shops Limit Wi-Fi To Discourage ‘Laptop Hobos’

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It is a common sight in coffee shops all over South Florida; a person with a cup of coffee, an opened laptop, and no intention of going anywhere. These patrons have even earned themselves a nickname: “Laptop Hobos.”

“I am probably a laptop hobo,” said Kevin Kavanaugh. “I’ve been a free bird since last July and I spend most of my time at coffee houses. That is where I have my meetings.”

Some coffee shops, like Starbucks, offer unlimited free Wi-Fi but not every coffee shop is as generous.

Some shops, overwhelmed by people surfing the web and holding business meetings, are developing more restrictive policies with their Wi-Fi or getting rid of it altogether.

Panera bread is one example. It’s cutting users off after a half hour during their busiest hours.

Suzanne Mello uses the free-Wi-Fi at her local coffee shop and said policies like that are too severe.

“I would probably just go to another store if that is the case. Where ever I can get free Wi-Fi and AC and they let me stay is good.”

Michael Oshins, a professor of hospitality said it is a predicament for businesses.

Disputes over outlets and cords dragged across busy lobbies are also common problems.

“All of a sudden it kind of snowballs into, I can stay here for, this can actually become my office, I don’t have to pay rent any more, this can become my free space.”

Oshins believes these shops have a tough balance to achieve. They obviously need paying customers, but there is also value in looking busy. “It’s like, this place is happening. I want to go there. So all of a sudden it creates that customers become part of the environment or the ambiance, if you will, and all of a sudden it is more welcoming,” said Oshins.

So if a coffee shop or restaurant opts to make it a more welcoming environment, they may have to be prepared to manage tables and laptop electrical cords.

More from Vanessa Borge

More From CBS Miami

Get Set With Lissette
Weather Forecast 24/7

Listen Live