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Buy something or get out: Some New York cafes ban no-good laptop users

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Pretty interesting article in the WSJ this morning dealing with the scourge of laptop users in coffee shops, also known as cafés. It’s a trend story, and the trend is that, hurt by the recession, several New York area cafés are now banning the use of laptops (to use the free Wi-Fi). It seems laptop-wielding customers would frequently hog all the space, preventing “real” customers from eating lunch or whatever. So, ban.

Café owners had tried putting restrictions on laptop use, but found that people simply wouldn’t respect the rules. Or they’d try to skirt the rules by having something like one single cup of coffee every hour in order to justify their use of the Wi-Fi. Owners can’t tolerate hip 20-something reading Reddit all day long, having ordered two cups of coffee over a three-hour period, when there’s “real” customers trying to eat a proper meal.

Incidentally, comedian Jim Norton solved this problem more than a year ago in his book “I Hate Your Guts.” Annoyed café owners should merely charge Wi-Fi users $300 an hour.

So New Yorkers have no one to blame but themselves when their local café outright bans laptops and cuts off the free Wi-Fi. May I suggest you folks go to Barnes and Noble? It just launched free Wi-Fi, so get it while it’s still around.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona last year, I was doing my daily CrunchGear blogging from a Barceloneta café. It was pretty much empty all day long, but I still had a proper lunch, and re-upped my coffee/soda/beer or whatever drink I was feeling pretty much every hour. There was no “please get the hell out of our café, jerk.” In fact, it became very “Cheers”-like: everybody knew each other’s name.

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