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.

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