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Café Plume: Since when it is OK to ask a customer to leave before they finish their food?


I have been a loyal customer of Plume. I recommended it to friends, rave about it on Facebook (just did it 2 hours ago actually). I took a few first dates there, because the place feels familiar and comforting. I go there about once a week, sometimes more often and usually end up having breakfast, lunch and maybe an afternoon tea if I feel lush. My ex used to go there every single day before he moved out of the city, he had a “bar tab.” I like to have a workday there, and never ever once got any attitude about this. People are usually super kind and friendly. Besides, there are many people who are doing the same. I also buy their beans; mostly because I want to reciprocate and fulfill my duties on my side of the moral economy between them and me. I liked the space and staff, hell it has been my favorite coffee shop in town; well until today.

So today I go there. I order a croissant and a latte and sit down to work. I finish my coffee and keep on nibbling on my croissant. About an hour later, a staff member comes in and asks if “I want my croissant to go?” I say WTF, sneaky! I pretend I don’t understand, and state that I am working on it. I really am. Fifteen minutes later, she comes in again and tells me that if I don’t consume I have to give up my table. I am not hungry enough to have lunch, yet and yes I am actually still consuming the food I paid for. I will probably have a sandwich later, but not when they want me. I look around to the sea of laptop jockeys and wonder why I am singled out. She insists that this is not personal and she has to turn tables and there are people waiting. I get upset, leave my half eaten croissant behind and leave, telling her that I have been a loyal customer and this really ruined my day. It is weird politics. On one hand, I understand there is a business to manage; on the other hand, extremely poor taste to ask someone to move who obviously still has food on their plate.

So I write it here, because well I need to rant somewhere; but also am really wondering if I do not get the rules of the coffee shop game even after working in them for many years. Heck, I even wrote about them in the professional context (details of which cannot be disclosed due to anonymity). I mean if you are managing a coffee shop with wifi and lots of laptop outlets, isn’t it the norm to let your customers park and give them some credit that they are not leeching too much? Can you at least let a customer finish their food? That’s all. Thanks for reading.

  1. A full workday? Really? I think that is pushing it a little... Maybe they feel that you have been taking advantage of their space. I think they wanted you to get the picture loudly and clearly. I definitely feel that there is another side to this story.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Gloriaa

      Perhaps the title of the thread is misleading. Rather than, "Since when is it OK to ask a customer to leave before she finishes her food?" perhaps "Since when is it OK to "have a workday" taking up a whole table in someone else's commercial cafe space for $ 7.50, or even $15.00?" should be asked.

      If the answer is an agreed-upon: when it is new, just building a clientele, and not crowded, or it is established and not crowded, then no special rules need to be posted and all customers would know when it was permissible to linger and when it was expected that they move on.

      1. re: KAYLO

        As you noticed, most of the thread is a reaction to a different question from the one the OP was asking.

        1. re: Enkerli

          it seems to me that the OP was, in her words <<ranting>> and wasn't really interested in discovering any coffeehouse rules that didn't allow her to spend the whole day taking up a table for the price of a latte, a croissant, and a sandwich.

          spreading the food items out so that you are ordering a new item every 90 minutes in order to convince yourself that you are doing right by the restaurant, is so silly that it really doesn't deserved a response.

          1. re: westsidegal

            Agreed with many here. A coffee and croissant doesn't entitle one to very much. Certainly not more than an hour.

    2. An hour and fifteen minutes to eat a croissant and you can't sympathize with why they might want to turn the table over? it's their business and you have no right to stay indefinitely. having said that, you can go to second cup next time where they are unlikely to bother you.

      17 Replies
      1. re: catroast

        I don't want to be snarky (unlike you), but obviously you've never been to an indie coffee shop if you apply restaurant turnover times to them. They don't sell coffee or croissants, they sell the space and the atmosphere and the time you spend. And over the years, I can safely say that I paid for the time I spend there in an equitable manner.

        These places are third places where people work/live and it is the norm that they linger. I actually liked that they had no laptop policy during the weekends, but during the week it has been always a home for freelancers, academics and students who want to work away from home.

        1. re: garmonbozia

          Disagreeing with you is not being snarky.

          You were told people were waiting. You were there for 90 minutes and ordered a latte and a croissant--it was time to move on. You can linger at the library.

          1. re: garmonbozia

            I go to an independent coffee shop all the time and I usually leave when it gets crowded and i've been lingering. c'mon - get an office.

            if it is space they are selling then you are robbing them at $4 / hour!

            1. re: garmonbozia

              Just curious to know if these coffee shops know these rules? I have a feeling that they do not want people lingering all day...or maybe now they realize that they cannot afford this practice? Think about it, a table for 2 is occupied by one person for8 hrs and spends 15$, how could anyplace survive with those sales?

              1. re: Gloriaa

                Well a coffee shop usually has three types of customers:

                The laptop campers: They are not the people to make money on, but they are an essential part of the culture and they are loyal
                Social customers: The ones that come for chitcat, and stay for about an hour or less
                Takeout: This is where most of the money comes in.

                It all requires careful orchestration of these three types of customers and all three are subject to different norms. A good manager should understand that. If one wants to just sell coffee with quick turnaround, they can just open a takeout kiosk like the Distributrice or probably remove the laptop outlets (which are about 1 per table in Plume) and cut down the wifi like Myriade does. Or really, establish a transparent rule like 1.5 hrs per customer. Make it explicit and equitable; not idiosyncratic and out of the blue. Do I object to the no laptop rule during the weekend, no? I actually embrace it. And let people finish their food. Otherwise, it is rude.

                I would never camp at Myriade or a more traditional "cafe" like Figaro. Plume is not Myriade, they have always been a laptop coffee shop.

                1. re: garmonbozia

                  Not all regular customers are appreciated. Having worked in many coffee shops we saw our fair share of customers who took advantage of our generosity.

                  1. re: garmonbozia

                    Rules and norms have contexts of application. What is striking, here, is the change in approach to norms and rules. From discussions I’ve had with Plume’s patrons and owners, it sounded like there was an informal norm that extended loitering was expected. The laptop rule brought such norms to the fore: this is a place where people are expected to interact with one another on weekends. I’m quite sure one of the owners explicitly talked about the fact that they were ok with patrons spending a lot of time there, regardless of consumption level. It was very early on, when the place opened.
                    If owners want to implement some changes, they’re obviously allowed to do so. There are several ways to do it which can be quite efficient. Enforcing a new rule on individual patrons is unlikely to work well for them.
                    Having clear, formal, explicit rules can work, but it’s especially tricky in a place like Plume. Since they’ve opened, they’ve established themselves as a specific type of place, with a specific type of clientèle. Other people (not garmonbozia) have told me explicitly that it’s their third place, that they spend a lot of time there, that I’m likely to bump into them when I go, that it’s a neighbourhood headquarter, etc. Any change in norms is likely to be accompanied with a change in clientèle. That can be riskier than owners would realize. Still, it can be done and it’s possible that it’ll have positive effects.
                    Another strategy would be to get regulars on their side by discussing things with them or warning them of coming changes in how the café works. Though it sounds like it’d be more time-consuming than posting a new rule, it can also be surprisingly effective at generating goodwill, a sense of belonging, and new business.
                    Yet another approach would be to progressively institute a new policy by telling individual patrons that, despite what has been going on until now, a new policy is coming into effect and it won’t be ok to stay so long the next time. Stronger, even more time-consuming, and likely to generate some unwanted tension. But potentially effective.
                    The option which was taken, asking a regular to vacate the premises before they finish their food, is probably the most time-consuming and is highly unlikely to be effective. It’s also the one which is most likely to generate resentment on the part of the regular and their friends.

                    Of course, if that one regular patron had been identified as the root cause of a specific problem, it’d be a different issue. Same thing if this specific occasion implied other factors (a patron having inappropriate behaviour). But, from the outside, it sounds like the approach used was misdirected.

                    Which is quite easy to understand, in such a context. But still unfortunate. Regardless of how reasonable a change in norms may be, the way a business deals with those cases can have a domino effect.

                    1. re: Enkerli

                      It's ok to complain, but sometimes you have to put yourself in other's shoes before you judge.

                      I've been on the other end of this quite often: Arriving at a cafe alone or with a friend, and wanting to rest my feet with a nice coffee. Yet, i find all the tables are occupied by laptop squatters who wont be leaving anytime soon. So i have to find another business.

                      Now if i were to open up a business, i'd welcome laptop squatters no problem, so long as they order something and that the place isn't so full that it turns away other customers.

                      It's a business after all, not a charity! from the OP's own admission, the place was full and he/she was there for over an hour with a tiny order. I think the staff tried to approach the OP in a subtle polite matter at first but in the end, their request for him to leave his table was not unreasonable.

                      1. re: SourberryLily

                        Plume’s interesting because, whether they realize it or not (and I’m quite sure they do, based on conversations with them), the three owners have been encouraging the behaviour which got the OP “in trouble”. If another place welcomes laptop squatters with specific conditions, I’m genuinely interested in knowing more about how the policy is implemented. Thing is, Plume is specifically not that place.
                        Plume also isn’t a place where people arrive to rest their feet with a coffee. There are plenty of places like that around Plume, but this café itself («Entre le café et la plume») isn’t it.
                        To be clear: I’m not saying that the request itself was unreasonable (very hard to tell from outside the specific situation). However, my analysis (knowing the place, the owners, and several patrons (including some regulars)) is that this request is unlikely to have the desired effect and is likely to have undesired effects.
                        I’m still puzzled that this would happen at Plume. ArtJava? Sure. Gamba, SHQL, or Saint-Henri? Possible. Lapin pressé, I could see that happen. At Camellia Sinensis, they already have rules in place and they handle these things in a very tactful and effective manner. At Couteau, they usually have enough room to accommodate different behaviours. At Myriade, they specifically make it so that it’s either for takeout or long conversations, not for neither “footrests” nor “laptop squatting”. Of course, such a request is likely to be made at a restaurant (especially in a diner or fastfood place), or in a mainstream sports bar or coffeeshop (La cage au sport or Brûlerie St-Denis). Plume is probably the last place I expect this request to be made.

                      2. re: Enkerli

                        Your point of changing from being a third place, or "laptop squatter" location to a different type of cafe is key. I used to frequent one of these coffee shops for work - which they clealry supported given the options of outlets for computers and such.

                        Then they changed to include a wine bar, and initially relied on the "third place" customers to help with the transition from being in the "coffee shop" to the wine bar. Then as the wine bar began to attract more of the types of customers they wanted initially, they came up with various techniques to heavily indicate to their "third place" clientele that starting around 5pm, they weren't wanted.

                        Business wise, I completely understand what they did as I'm sure it made them more money. But it also resulted in the loss of a number of afternoon "third place" patrons because of how they felt they'd been treated. However, had the push been too soon and the wine bar not really taken off, they would have been left without the desired customers as well as without a number of their long time "third placers".

                        "Third place" cafes do exist, do favor creating long term realtionships with customers that make what happened to the OP sound out of place. Unless there's part of a push to change the business model.

                        1. re: cresyd

                          Perhaps the desired change in business model was to replace "staying customers" with paying customers.....

                          1. re: eat2much

                            You may disparage the staying customer - but for all of the coffee shops I worked in as a teenager, they really were seen as valued customers.

                            The coffee shop I'm speaking about particularly sold no food other than pastries/cookies and was primarily staffed by "baristas", not servers (so no turning tables issues going on). The business decision to dramatically change their physical space and invest in turning half the coffee shop into a wine bar was a risk because it wasn't a neighborhood associated with an early evening bar crowd. So a lot of money was invested in renovated the the place, purchasing wine inventory, and training staff to know anything about wine with no automatic pay off guaranteed.

                            When they first made the conversion, they would heavily target their "third place" customers with a free glass of wine in the early evening or join in on wine tastings (that were initially very reasonably priced, heavy pours). These were the wine bar's first customers, they brought in their friends, and ultimately helped to contribute making it a coffee shop and wine bar (as opposed to a coffee shop that sold wine that no one bought). As they became more established as a wine bar, the initial wine bar staff was replaced by staff who were more educated in wine, prices were raised, free drinks stopped, etc.

                            When I was a student, I started as a "third place" customer - and was part of that "wine bar conversion" crowd which did happen slowly because as a business venture for that neighborhood it definitely wasn't a guarantee. I don't begrudge them switching to a more profitable business model - but I also don't go there anymore because the wine bar staff became less friendly, prices were raised considerably, etc.

                            My point was more that this business had a very obvious switch in business plan that it wanted. But it knew that it wouldn't get there immediately, and relied on their third place customers to help build the crowd they wanted. Once they were done with their early evening crowd helping them out, they got the hint that was no longer a 'third place' option. However, had those hints been dropped before the wine bar started to work - they would have failed to have staying customers as well as paying customers.

                        2. re: Enkerli

                          norms are short for normative. it is what is the reasonable, customary and expected behavior. the cafe did not change the norms. the OP flouted the norms.

                          you see from the posts here the norm. lingerers who leech are not reasonable.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            Based on Enkerli's post - I read that the owners were encouraging the OP's behavior to be the normative behavior. So if anything, the OP was behaving in a manner that previously had been the norm, but now the norms had changed.

                            While many cafes do see lingerers that leech to be unreasonable - there are definitely niche cafes that cater to that crowd.

                        3. re: garmonbozia

                          and it would seem, that even though they are "a laptop cafe" they are interested in limiting the presence of people who appear to be taking advantage of them by staying an inordinate amount of time nursing a pastry and a latte.

                          <<I like to have a workday there>>

                          the restaurant's action was more than fair in my book.

                          being a "laptop cafe" does not necessarily mean that you are, in any way, obligated to provide tremendous amounts of time to any one customer.

                          as for the rant, imho, the customer has already abused the situation.

                          1. re: garmonbozia

                            Interesting thread, but, I find this statement to really be the crux of the matter:
                            "Well a coffee shop usually has three types of customers:

                            The laptop campers: They are not the people to make money on, but they are an essential part of the culture and they are loyal"

                            It seems that you think of yourself as "essential" to this business, although you admit that you contribute little to the business.
                            That says it all, in my book.

                            1. re: garmonbozia

                              I don't think a 'laptop customer' is a profitable customer, in any coffee biz - i am SURE the coffee house put in that many outlets to let the customer they were expecting - perhaps a salesperson out and about who want a coffee and a chance to answer a detailed email (hard on smartphone), and wants to plug in and do that for 1/2 an hour....

                              I am sure NO business plan is built on people coming in and taking a table and working there all day, on a regular basis.

                              Like others have said - get an office - co-share, etc. you aren't paying rent with a croissant and sandwich for your square footage!

                      3. I've known people to hang out with their laptops in coffee shops for an hour, maybe even two once in a while. But all day, on a regular basis? I really don't think this is reasonable.

                        1. What’s strange is the approach to implementing a new policy. Owners have been explicit about their desire to make people feel at home. Early on, they implemented policies on laptop use at certain times. And they’re usually able to talk with people about their approach. In fact, that owner has probably an hour and half talking with a customer about such things as creating a nice atmosphere.
                          There are diverse ways to set people’s expectations. Asking individual patrons to leave after a certain is probably the most inefficient and the most unlikely to contribute to a comfortable atmosphere. Especially with a regular. Regulars don’t warrant special rules but do warrant a thoughtful approach.
                          Of course, those of us who weren’t there at the specific time may not have all the details. Having interacted with the three owners at Plume, I’m especially surprised that something like this happened there.

                          1. I'm on my way to Café Plume, they just got a new customer after reading your post. My biggest pet peeve at coffee shops are these customers that linger hours on end taking up valuable seats. They just sit their reading or playing on their laptops while people who just want to sit and enjoy their coffee for a short time have to stand or take it to go, so rude. I see this all the time at Cafe Myriade on the weekends and it seriously irks me so badly. If it's not busy fine, but you are not sole in this universe if you see it start getting busy be polite and move along for others to sit. "Sit down to work?" Are you serious?

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: JerkPork

                                Have you considered Camellia Sinensis?

                                You probably realize that Plume is one of the cafés where the behaviour you decry is most likely to happen. Myriade has almost no table-hugger, by comparison. Plume does have laptop-free times, but most of the time it’s meant to be laptop-friendly.

                              2. Were there people waiting for seats?

                                1. If the cafe was full then I think this is totally acceptable of them. Not only does it cost them money in electricity and internet charges to have you in the cafe, but a lack of tables is probably also costing them in revenue due to customers who decide to find another place to grab a coffee. I'm not saying this was or was not the case today, but my hunch is that the place was busy. This is why a few cafes have implemented policies aimed at cutting down on people who use their space as office-libraries. For instance, I know of a couple places that turn off their wifi on weekends when groups may want to sit and talk at tables that would otherwise be monopolized by lingering individuals with laptops.

                                  Really the cafe employee shouldn't even be put in a position where they could be interpreted as rude. It's an issue decorum: other people would like to use the space, and if one has finished what they've paid for then its time to either purchase more time in the space or leave. Let's (generously) say you've contributed $4 an hour during today's visit. As I recall they have around 10 tables and they were open for 9 hours today. At that rate they'd have brought in $360, which is probably less than what they paid in rent and salary for the same period of time. Obviously they had to-go customers, groups, etc., but my point is that your implied financial agreement with the cafe would bankrupt them faster than you could finish whatever project you were working on. I agree with others when I say that I think they gave you plenty of credit re: leeching - they even devised a polite way to hint that it was time to go. Again, this is not meant to be snarky..

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Fintastic

                                    Well then they really need to change the norms and make it explicit. A time limit is a good one; or cutting down the wifi and not having outlets (again, like Myriade). As long as it is explicit and transparent people will be fine. As I said, I have no objection to their no laptop policy during the weekend, I actually embrace it. But if you are going to provide an environment that screams for laptop working, then you have to accept that people will work on their laptops.

                                    I also think people are really misreading my agreement with the place. I had no intention to stay there forever for the price of one croissant an latte (which by the way cost me 7.25). I usually make three purchases during the day, paced in an equitable manner I hope (but I might be wrong). I just was really put off with the fact that they were asking me to buy more while I was obviously working on my food. Even at restaurants where they have two seatings, and naturally time restrictions, when you are expected to leave is very explicit and stated early in the interaction (usually during reservation); not when you are halfway through your food.

                                    1. re: garmonbozia

                                      I have to say that I feel you are digging yourself this hole that you have fallen into. By this post you seem quite unreasonable and quick to defend your behavior. It is not reasonable to spend 1 1/2 hr eating one croissant, sorry! Even if you later bought a sandwich and drink it would still not justify an 8 hr stay. Just as you need to make a living so do they!!!

                                      1. re: garmonbozia

                                        Even without an explicit policy, the staff were courteous when they told you it was time to go. Sure the atmosphere is conducive to laptop working but not for the entire day!

                                        1. re: garmonbozia

                                          I tend to agree with you. If I spent 7.25$ on a coffee and pastry and was ask if I wanted to take it to go after 75 minutes I might be offended. I can understand other people's positions on this but when you get into the coffee shop business, and you offer a place where people can work from their laptop, you should have clear rules posted about it. I tend to me a very slow eater and I can sip my latte for over an hour easily, and if I was asked to pack up and go, I wouldn't be happy about it.
                                          [However, if I did see that there were a lot of people waiting for a table, I'd be embarrassed to continue to nurse my latte while they stood there watching me. So it depends on the context, I guess.]

                                          1. re: causeimhungry

                                            Exactly, it depends on context. “Context Is Key!”

                                            As an ethnographer fascinated by Montreal’s café culture, I find the whole thing quite interesting.

                                            Plume is a place which does have explicit rules against laptop use during the weekend. In fact, the attached picture was posted on Twitter a few weeks ago and retweeted by @CafePlume. (Maybe the owners considered that today was part of the weekend but, if so, they could have simply pointed to the policy and no further discussion would have been needed.) A space with a counter and stools is almost exclusively dedicated to laptop use. The place is so specifically laptop-friendly during the week that I almost hesitated to go without a laptop.
                                            It’s also a place which encourages loitering. They do takeout (I think) and they probably don’t mind if people only come for a quick coffee, but they do what they can to make sure people feel free to remain there for a long time. I was told by one of the owners that they do shows, but I was never there during one. The last few times I went (having a single drink), I was explicitly told by owners and patrons that I didn’t stay very long.
                                            In other words, this café is quite different from a place where people are expected to consume and leave.
                                            Not to mention that «Entre le café et la plume» is in one of the neighbourhoods with the largest number of cafés, restaurants, bars, and other public spaces. What makes Plume distinctive is that it’s almost a coworking space. It’s clearly an example of what Oldenburg has called a “third space”, between workplace and home. The fact that there are stairs leading to it and that they have a (small) patio during the summer may contribute to this.

                                            Beyond behaviours deemed (in)appropriate, (in)offensive, or (un)reasonable, there’s a lot to be said about what a café represents, in a community. All three owners have been explicit about the community aspects of their café, though they each a special angle.

                                            There are many assumptions in this thread which make for an interesting read. (For instance, garmonbozia talked about other people’s laptops but may well have been working there without a laptop.) Sad that the thread has attracted ad hominem attacks on garmonbozia, but it probably displays some Chowhounds’ point of view on the role of cafés in food scenes (as opposed to their role as third spaces).

                                            1. re: Enkerli

                                              Thanks for this post.. Yeah, I guess it does change my perspective a bit. What do the other customers consume while they use the space for working in? If there is an expectation to order a certain amount ever hour or something? Or people go and get one coffee and stay for 2 hours?

                                          2. re: garmonbozia

                                            I think if you are still nibbling a croissant over an hour after purchasing it, it's reasonable that the staff might think that you indeed to spend all day there.

                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                              it is ESPECIALLY reasonable when the OP wrote:

                                              << I like to have a workday there,>>

                                        2. Speaking as a former coffeehouse employee, I disagree with the tactics employed in not-so-obliquely asking you to move on, but agree with other posters that people who camp out with their laptops (be they students, professionals) for three hours + have unreasonable expectations about what they are owed.

                                          We are not your office. We like having you there but we also like turnover.

                                          If Cafe Plume is starting to feel the pinch of laptop campers, then they should have a policy and that policy should be clear.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Peaches to Poutine

                                            Yes indeed. Even chains like Panera do this, with signs especially targeting folks who camp out during crunch hours. The lack of signage urging courtesy during peak times/when there's a wait is the one fault I can find with Plume.

                                            In the indie chains I've been to, esp in ski areas up northern NE (my neck of the woods), the approach is usually more subtle...."Can I get you anything else?" sort of things...you nosh, you have your coffee, you move on when there's a wait.

                                            Just because you can make a croissant last for over an hour (or until you're hungry for lunch) doesn't mean you should, especially when there is a "sea" of people around you.

                                            Look at it from another perspective. If you really wanted to sit and have a latte and danish but had to stand around waiting for someone to nibble a croissant for going on two hours, would you be ticked? Sure you would.

                                          2. Gb--Thank you for ranting. I hope that knowing CH was here as a friendly place to absorb your distress was helpful. I know nothing of Plume, but have frequented laptop cafes in 3 countries... and I have some commentary that it going to lean toward Cafe support [and therefore might not sound as understanding of your experience].

                                            Many times after an hour, I have been asked to "consolidate"--to move to a table with another laptop customer. However, when the cafe gets full, then it is no longer conducive for ~me~ -- it's not longer suitable for me to be able to work, so I choose to leave.

                                            Additionally, after more than 3 days a week in the same place, I get Much less work done -- one of the reasons why when I am on a project instead of consulting on location that "having an office" would not really be good for me.

                                            A comment on location and positioning. Sometimes when a customer gets comfortable in a cafe, they tend to choose a physical attitude of, well, ownership -- facing the door, midway back in the room, eyes looking up at the door each time it opens, with even a look that implies the person coming through the door is interrupting.
                                            All if this is Completely unintentional and I'm sure the Comfortable Customer doesn't realize the "vibe."

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                              Yes as someone who frequents local cafes with my young kids (spending over $10 for the 3 of us and staying less than an hour), I get irritated not only by the lack of tables, but also the laptop people who look up, sigh, and shift around when they see/hear my kids, who are not misbehaving but simply using the space for an intended purpose other than office/library. But I think you are right that these habitués don't mean to be frowning on kids, it's more of a reflex. However I think there can be a degree of entitlement and the OPs post frankly reflects that, particulars of the situation aside. How much profit do cafes make on beans anyway? I'm thinking a buck or two per pound?

                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                my take on it is that "these habitues" have come to believe that the place is not there to benefit the owner(s) nor any of the other customers--it is just there for their benefit.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  You nailed it. They have a sense of entitlement that would fill a football stadium.

                                                2. re: julesrules

                                                  It could be your kids, jules. I cringed this lunchtime when a tableful of toddlers sat down next to us. One was an absolute bundle of ADHD joy, but once I glared at her, her father told her not to annoy the two nice men at the next table.

                                                  The thing is, you can't always count on having such a nice, responsible daddy sitting next to you with young Priscilla and Poindexter, so you cringe for a couple of minutes as you suss out what level of abuse you're going to be expected to endure.

                                                  I mean you no hostility. But you mentioned "frowning on kids," so I thought I'd enlighten you as to what goes on in the minds of kid-frowners.

                                              2. Talked to two people about this, in two different places. One is a barista (at another café) and the other one owns a trendy restaurant.
                                                In both cases, they sounded surprised as to the approach taken by this manager at Plume. One described subtle techniques (learnt while working the brunch shift) to ensure the table turnover works for everyone without patrons feeling rushed. The other was mostly reacting to how upfront the request was. Neither of them is originally from Montreal, but they both demonstrate an accurate understanding of local norms.

                                                Again, I understand why a manager might feel pushed to enforce new norms. I just think there are more efficient ways to handle such situations.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Enkerli

                                                  Hold on a second, I'm not sure that the request was made by the manager. The OP simply said "staff member," and regardless of the owners' policy things can get lost in translation from them to the hired staff. The way I see it, none of us were there so we can't really judge how up front the staff was.

                                                  Also, having worked as a server for years in both cafes and restaurants, I can ensure you that the techniques I'd use during a brunch shift or even between tight dinner reservations are very different than in cafes. There are no reservations in a cafe, and for some reason it's acceptable to see others turned away because a small group of people want to spend x amount of hours there. If you love a cafe, share it with people. If you're solo and so is another person, why not invite them to share a table?

                                                  1. re: torontrealais

                                                    The OP posted something elsewhere about the same situation, which is why I know it’s one of the three owners.

                                                2. Sorry, you are in the wrong if you pretend not to understand. If you want them to be transparent you must be as well. They may have been deceitful, but you admittedly were. Nuff said.

                                                  1. I dont have a laptop but get annoyed when cant get a coffee or coffee and snack when tables taken up by those with laptaps or students who are camped out. I dont want it to go as too cold outside just want to enjoy it and leave. I really have no sympathy for you, I have often parked entered and with seeing no free tables and people parked there with computers have had to leave, and then find same thing at next place I enter. I think they should have one or two tables and leave others free for those without. Let the computer users wait in line.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. For those who don't like others who work/study at coffee shops and think it was OK that they asked me out because they thought I wasn't consuming enough. Lets assume that you were at a coffee meeting with your friend, and it lasted 75 minutes and you are nibbling on your food still, because you know that is what friends do, chat and nibble. Would it have been OK if the owner interrupted and asked you to finish your conversation and leave?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: garmonbozia

                                                        Actually, meeting people for socializing or introductory types of meetings, or simply when it's a good half way point between people who live or work across town, are excellent uses of cafes. 2 seats, 2 customers. 4 seats, 3 or 4 customers. See how that works?

                                                        You were doing solitary work (work you could do almost anywhere), without any time limit, like they'd seen you do countless times before - and no doubt were claiming all of a 2 or 4 top for yourself at the same time. Get a home office.

                                                        1. re: Shattered

                                                          A group is different than a single person.

                                                          I am part of such a group. Every week we meet in a different cafe or restaurant and take up tables for a large amount of time. We always ask the permission of the owners first, and we all order something. Some a full meal, some just a coffee.

                                                          But the point is, since we are there for 2-3 hours, we come to an agreement ahead of time.

                                                        2. re: garmonbozia

                                                          I can't imagine sitting in a cafe for 75 minutes to consume a cup of coffee and a pastry. Half-hour, max.

                                                          Not to say you should have been tossed out, but you must have been there for a really long time for someone to take such an action against you.

                                                          It irks me when I go to a coffee shop and numerous laptop jockeys are sitting there consuming nothing. I wish the staff would throw them out and let paying customers -- which they at the moment are not -- sit down and enjoy their food.

                                                        3. wrong analogy, you just dont seem to get the core of these comments. Just change cafes and go to larger one. It is not an office.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: mangoannie

                                                            Why so? Both cases have paid the exact amount and spending the exact amount of time at the cafe. Whatever they are doing while consuming the goods is irrelevant.

                                                            1. re: garmonbozia

                                                              You ask why not. It's about how many customers a cafe needs to turn away because a single person is taking up the space.

                                                              I think it's a good suggestion to go to a larger coffee shop or a less busy one, and if needed, ask before hand if you can stay for awhile. This way, there is no awkwardness from either parties and you'll avoid these situations.

                                                              1. re: SourberryLily

                                                                The key words as you mentioned is ASK. It's a question of respect.

                                                                At the same time since that person is a regular, the staff or management could have been more direct in saying that they need the table if the place was busy and maybe explain that it would be okay ti stay when the place was not busy.

                                                                Or maybe something else happened the management saw something they didn't like and just wanted to get rid of that customer. There's always two sides to a story.

                                                          2. Hi garmonbozia, it sucks to hear you had such a bad experience. I'm not down by Mont-Royal much anymore so I haven't been to Plume in months, but from what I remember all the staff were some of the nicest in the city. It seems that you know them for that as well. I'd say take it up with them, shoot them an e-mail or talk with them in person. I think they deserve a chance to respond before this gets further dissected on the internet.

                                                            1. Just how long does it take you to eat one croissant?

                                                              They'd never have lasted as long as you've been leeching off them if all their customers were so 'loyal'.

                                                              1. Here's the thing: leeching "too much" is completely subjective. Obviously what you think is too much and this establishment thinks is too much is quite different.

                                                                I'm inclined to believe them that yes, two hours to finish a croissant is "too much".

                                                                1. I'm sorry, but I think you are wrong. Buying a coffee and nibble doesn't entitle you to encamp anywhere. These places offer wifi as a courtesy, not an right to you to conduct your business from their tables all day. Those tables are also meant for other customers, not just you.

                                                                  1. Well, I give up. I think a lot of people are misconstruing the situation and really playing ad hominem. Like I wrote in the original post, I had no intention to camp there all day with the price of a coffee and croissant. I was planning to have lunch, in fact very soon, but find it really off putting that it is put on a schedule by the proprietor.

                                                                    When I work at a coffee shop, I try to make a purchase every 90 minutes or so. Even though I prefer the filter at Plume, I try to buy more expensive espresso drinks to have a larger bill. I buy cookies that I don't eat immediately, just to pay my "rent." I observe many people don't do these, many nurse a single cup of coffee; so that is a stereotype I fight. And in fact, I prefer beans from another coffee shop that I solely go for takeout; but I have deliberately chosen to by my bulk beans from Plume just to pay back.

                                                                    Going to a coffee shop to work costs me more than what I would pay for a coworking space, or home office; but I do this because I want to work around people and interact with (usually) kind staff. I also recommend this particular cafe to everyone and am personally responsible for at least a dozen repeat customers. I have talked about this place on my Facebook so many times, many out of town visitors wanted to see it first time they arrive. If my intention was to find a cheap place to work or exploit a loyalty relationship, I could have done elsewhere.

                                                                    What I am put off is that telling a customer, directly, that they have to leave the table even though they were working on their food. This is beyond relationship norms of such establishments, and thus severes the loyalty. Thank god, there are other coffee shops within the same mile radius where I don't get to feel like a walking dollar sign.

                                                                    And if asked in a non-antagonizing way, I could have shared a table with someone, or moved to a stool instead (which I have done many times) or even moved to a different coffee shop (which I have done too); but once the first sentence you hear is "If you are not going to consume you will have to give up your table," nothing makes sense anymore. To give credit, the proprietor offered me to move to a shared table as an alternative when I started to move out, and looked distressed; but I didn't feel like staying. Btw, I have barely interacted with her in the past, I know her, but she probably doesn't know me and might not know that I go there often. So I doubt that she was particularizing the issue into "she comes here too often." For some reason, I end up getting there when the other owner is present, which might have been a blessing, considering.

                                                                    Thanks for reading. Now I have work to do, and I think I am down with all the personal attacks. Patronizing people that you don't know about their personal morals, their lifestyle, their intentions and their eating pace is not cool and morally questionable itself. I hope those who were straw manning me could also think about that.

                                                                    I will, however, keep an eye of the pace of the crowd during lunch time; disregarding this dynamics is a fault that I have committed since I was engrossed in writing. Realizing this is the only positive thing about this experience, and I am reluctantly grateful to people who tactlessly pointed this out. That still doesn't warrant such public shaming that people seem to attempt here.

                                                                    That's all. Good luck with your trolling and whatever.

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: garmonbozia

                                                                      Only saw this after posting about sharing a table. This additional info does help bring a bit more context. Knowing that there were stools available, I’m even more surprised by the manager’s behaviour. I’m sure something else happened to make her react this way but, in context, it really sounds like the most appropriate course of action for her would have been to ask you to move to a stool (since they’re almost reserved for individual work and laptops).

                                                                      Like you, I’m saddened by the turns this thread has taken. There’s something about Chowhound’s “community management” which might make this kind of situation more likely to happen. What’s sad about it is that there’s a lot of lost insight about relationships between cafés and their communities. As Montreal’s Third Wave coffeescene takes a new turn, this insight would be particularly valuable. But it’ll be easy to share it in other contexts.

                                                                      1. re: garmonbozia

                                                                        I don't see any personal attacks. You might be an unwelcome straggler for any number of reasons. I think the most likely explanation is that you were singled out for being there all day everyday. It would probably irk me to have some guy or girl there all the freaking time. it's not normal to do a full workday at someone else's business.

                                                                        1. re: catroast

                                                                          Agreed, catroast. There may have been no intention to camp there all day for the price of a coffee/croissant, but there was the intention to stay for many hours to work outside the office.

                                                                          That's why there are libraries.

                                                                        2. re: garmonbozia

                                                                          How is an anonymous individual on the internet capable of being "publicly shamed"?

                                                                          1. re: garmonbozia

                                                                            Overall, I see where the business owner is coming from as 1hr + for a croissant/coffee is a long time. However, based on what you said, it does sound like the way they said it came across poorly.

                                                                            If there was a line up of people waiting to use a table, then maybe you could have suggested that you would move to a stool vs. waiting for it to be asked by the owner.
                                                                            I think the owner could have said "we would appreciate if you could finish up in xxx about of time as we have waiting patrons" or something to that effect.
                                                                            Having said all of that I agree with the restaurants position and what others have said in regards to lingering all day. Maybe your local library would be a better spot for that :) (although, it seems my local library doesn't really respect "quiet" anymore, but, that is another story).

                                                                            It is interesting to see places like Tim Hortons and McDs renovating their stores to encourage people to relax and stay vs. before it was all about turnover.

                                                                          2. Sad that the thread veered toward a discussion of laptop campers instead of this original query. Part of what is lost is insight from context.

                                                                            And, though I’ve seen similar contexts elsewhere, part of the disconnect in the conversation may have to do with local context. In Québécois contexts, there’s a number of places where people hang out without consuming anything at all. For instance, “convenience stores” («dépanneurs») often have people who just hangout for days on end, without consuming anything.
                                                                            In fact, the film Gaz Bar Blues is about people hanging out at a gas station, all day, everyday. There’s discussion of rentability at some points in the film. The key point being that these people’s behaviour has been the local norm.

                                                                            Those spots are pretty much what Oldenburg called a Third Place. Though Chowhounds may perceive these venues as businesses, they also serve a specific role in the community. Sure, there’s a financial transaction involved. But part of the place’s value is generated by a subtle interplay between regulars and newcomers.

                                                                            Plume is a special case. More than many other cafés in their network, they make conscious efforts to ensure that the place is indeed a Third Place. More than in many other cafés, loitering is clearly the norm. Their laptop-free weekends are explicitly not about preventing loitering.
                                                                            And, again, the OP has been a regular, adopting a behaviour which has been deemed normal for a number of months.

                                                                            As a few people have acknowledged, what’s at stake is a change in norms, not an individual’s behaviour. Applying external norms to this specific situation is unlikely to produce interesting results. In ethnographic disciplines, we call that “ethnocentrism”. It’s very common and isn’t a blame assigned to people. But it causes all sorts of problems.

                                                                            In this case, some people may disagree with the OP’s behaviour. What’s at stake, though, is how people respond to such situations, in context (including ongoing norms and rules). And though I still respect Plume’s management and staff, I think the response was out of character and ineffective.

                                                                            Something which has been quite effective, on many occasions I’ve observed (even last night), is to ask people to sit together or to scoot over. Based on OP’s description of the situation, it sounds like it would have been easy to do and I’m convinced that it would have been much more effective. It sends an indirect signal to others, encourages human interaction, focuses on the social side of the contract, and lets the person know that a change in norms may be under way.

                                                                            Again, I understand that people react in different ways and I’m not faulting this manager for her approach. I do think it’s unfortunate because all signs point to the fact that the OP has indeed been a valuable Plume customer.

                                                                            1. Glad the mods moved this discussion out of the Montreal section as it didn't have any "Chow-worthy" content. I guess someone beat me to the punch.

                                                                              I think the debate will just go in circles as it seems there are two separate camps on this issue with what seems like a majority leaning against the OP's side.

                                                                              Without knowing all the details and the other side of the story, it probably did seem harsh to speak to the OP in the manner reported above but I am on the camp of the "non campers". I was never one to study or do work in a public place so I guess I just don't get the whole chilling out for hours on end in a private business whether it be a chain or a mom/pop location.

                                                                              1. I first thought this post was an April Fool's gag. Spending all day at a coffee shop? Really? This is a world that I don't inhabit so I am really puzzled that there is a whole subculture of coffee-shop campers. Sure I see them when I go into a local coffee house, but I never thought that they would spend hours and hours, much less all day. It is unreal to me.

                                                                                That said, I do believe that if the proprietors are changing up the rules without letting people know in advance, that is not cool. They have the right to run the shop in a manner that suits them and ensures profitability. If they have paying customers leaving because they can't get a table due to laptop campers, they are absolutely right to ask the long-term campers to leave. But the manner in which they have handled this, at least with the OP, is very poor. Basically they have changed the rules of the game without notice and they have alienated a loyal and vocal customer. That's too bad.

                                                                                And as to the question of being asked to leave mid-bite, well that is tacky but it seems management felt they had mitigating circumstances.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                  Well said. I have seen folks linger for several hours in uncrowded neighborhood bars, but not in jumping, crowded coffee places.

                                                                                  1. re: jlhinwa


                                                                                    i find the concept of "mid-bite" to be particularly absurd in this scenario.

                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      Best comment of the entire thread!!!

                                                                                  2. you are a "regular" customer who takes over an hour to finish a croissant and coffee?
                                                                                    and they've been tolerating this sort of camping without complaint up until now?
                                                                                    and you feel entitled to camp out at the place for half the day?
                                                                                    and you're angry at them for wanting to make space for other customers and for finally communicating this to you?

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                      Wow is right..

                                                                                      I am flabbergasted at the hutzpah you have to almost demand that the business owner let you stay for hours and hours for the mere pittance of a coffee and a croissant.

                                                                                      You leave a little bit of croissant on your plate so technically, you are still eating...this is major weasel move and IMHO, you know it..
                                                                                      You are working it like nothing I have ever seen.

                                                                                      Then you go on Facebook and trash them and come on Chowhound to mislead us with a title that makes it seem that they took the food you just ordered out of your mouth and told to leave.

                                                                                      I'm sorry but I would of told you to get out and never come back a long time ago.
                                                                                      They were beyond too kind to you for too long.

                                                                                      Change it up with several different coffee shops, spend no more than an hour or less and I'm sure you will be welcome with open arms.

                                                                                    2. This reminds me... A friend told me of a recent "interesting" addition to Montreal's meetup.com groups: A group founded for the express and sole purpose to squat in cafes with laptops. I kid you not.


                                                                                      I wonder if someone should join to see the 'events' and warn the establishments they're being targeted by these leechers?

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: Shattered

                                                                                        "You can arrive on time or late. You do not need to check in or confirm your presence. "
                                                                                        I wonder if they warn the coffee shop or not... I am part of a similar group on meetups, and we have a difficulty finding places because we actually clear it with them ahead of time.

                                                                                      2. Some coffee shops in Denmark have a solution: they offer free wi-fi for customers, but it expires after 15 minutes. Enough time to check email and headlines, but it discourages the people who want to use the places as auxiliary offices (no, I don't know how the time can be reset).

                                                                                        1. It doesn't take anyone 75 minutes to eat a croissant and drink a cup of coffee. They offer free wifi and outlets, but they are a courtesy for an activity like a Study group, or casual interview. They aren't intended for all day use. It's unfortunate, because the owners are probably going to have to set some rules and restrictions because they offered a good thing for free and people are taking advantage of them for it.

                                                                                          Even if you spent $7 on breakfast, and another $7 on lunch, that $14 doesn't make up for the 7-8 people that could have sat there and spent $7 each. They could have made $56 instead of the $14 you would have spent.

                                                                                          I don't see how you can be upset with them when you are causing them to lose revenue. Rent an office, work from home, or go to the library. Or move from coffee shop to coffee shop so not to cost one business a table's worth of revenues or a whole day.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                            And you can buy the coffee beans you like more from the other shop now!

                                                                                          2. I still want to know if there were people waiting or they had a line. OP?

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: madisoneats

                                                                                              Towards the end of 2nd para: " I look around to the sea of laptop jockeys and wonder why I am singled out. She insists that this is not personal and she has to turn tables and there are people waiting."

                                                                                              1. re: jptimbaud

                                                                                                Ah, thanks. in that case, OP, you were in the wrong. Cafe may have handled badly, but taking 90 minutes to finish a pastry that most of us consume in 10 mins max while people were waiting for seats is not ok.

                                                                                            2. Interesting read. I'm definitely in the non-camping out in a coffee shop group, but ultimately, it comes down to courtesy on ALL sides.

                                                                                              Was the proprietor courteous in asking you to leave in the way it seems she did? No, it absolutely doesn't seem so.

                                                                                              But what about reciprocal courtesy on *your* part? Despite what seems to be Cafe Plume's policy for allowing their cafe to be a third office, there should be understood limits on encampment on the user's part, and you had gone way over the limit. It seems there *were* people waiting. So would courtesy go both ways - you getting up to allow others to use the space?

                                                                                              And it seems you were aware there were stools available, or that you could share another table with someone. And yet you got upset because you were asked to remove yourself entirely from a table. Perhaps you were entitled to get upset since it seemed you were singled out. BUT...there were other options, at least from what I've read in the thread. You chose the option to get up and leave.

                                                                                              As someone else said, the wifi is provided as a courtesy to customers - to ALL customers. Not just those who get there first and claim a spot at a table for the day. You said in a reply that you were "planning on buying lunch in a little while" before the proprietor came up to you to ask you to move to another shared space. But there is *no way* they would have known that you were planning on doing so. Correct?

                                                                                              And I agree with those that say 90 minutes to eat a croissant is really stretching it. You want the social ability to interact with others in the world. Well, you did. Perhaps others want the ability to do so as well. :::shrug:::

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                Just to point out, it wasn't the proprietor, it was a behind-the-counter employee asking her to leave. Which actually just highlights how much the OP was abusing her privilege, because the employees earning min wage typically don't care how long you sit around - and it suggests she was treating them with just as much contempt (as a 'loyal customer') as she was the establishment overall, ie. not tipping a nickle to earn herself any favours.

                                                                                                I worked the cash at a convenience store with a small corner counter area with coffee. There were cases of campers even there, in a place with no atmosphere and no wifi. Excuses were eventually found to get rid of their unwelcome presence. The price of a coffee or two per 3-4 hours every day was not worth their staring every other client who entered up and down, listening in and watching everything employees did, etc... and they never tipped a cent either.

                                                                                                Having been on the other side, I'm sure there is more to this story and why she was 'singled out'.

                                                                                                1. re: Shattered

                                                                                                  I originally thought it was just an employee, but a later update by garmonbozia a few posts above mine said the following:

                                                                                                  "I was planning to have lunch, in fact very soon, but find it really off putting that it is put on a schedule by the proprietor."


                                                                                                  "To give credit, the proprietor offered me to move to a shared table as an alternative when I started to move out, and looked distressed; but I didn't feel like staying."

                                                                                              2. I remember reading a story in the local newspaper about the closing of a longtime coffee shop. The reporter got some quotes from longtime customers who happened to be there. One of the quotes was from a retired lady who said something like "I don't know why they need to close. My friends and I would come here every afternoon for coffee and to play cards for hours." Lady, that's why they closed.

                                                                                                1. <About an hour later, a staff member comes in and asks if “I want my croissant to go?” I say WTF, sneaky! I pretend I don’t understand, and state that I am working on it.>

                                                                                                  So they give you a polite nudge and you played dumb. Were you looking for conflict?

                                                                                                  <To give credit, the proprietor offered me to move to a shared table as an alternative when I started to move out, and looked distressed; but I didn't feel like staying.">

                                                                                                  So why didn't you just move the first time that they said something? You where prepared to asked to move why wait and be distressed?

                                                                                                  <I look around to the sea of laptop jockeys and wonder why I am singled out.>

                                                                                                  Were you really or were you to busy doing your own work and you didn't notice them talking to anyone else?

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: viperlush

                                                                                                    It seems the OP was only "singled out" after the not too subtle hints failed to get him/her to hurry up and/or join another table. It is likely that when he/she was invited to hit the the pavement it was, regretfully, the only remaining option for management.

                                                                                                    While the OP accuses fellow chowhounders of resorting to ad hominem attacks, methinks that while there might not be posted rules in coffee shops about squatting, abusers must be dealt with by management if the business wants to survive.

                                                                                                  2. Places have started taking a stand against "laptop hobos" by using tactics such as blocking electrical outlets, or requiring a code to use wifi that is only good for half an hour, etc. Why do coffee shops even offer wifi if it's an issue?

                                                                                                    17 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                      because there are many customers that like the service AND that will NOT abuse the service.
                                                                                                      (i.e. they will NOT camp out, use the service briefly, and will order enough food and drink to justify the length of their stay)

                                                                                                      you'd be surprised how many customers are actually aware and considerate.

                                                                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                        People who "briefly" use wifi on their laptops do not exist, sorry to burst your BUBBLE. Anyone who needs to use the internet for a few minutes will do it on their smartphone.

                                                                                                        1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                          As a frequent traveler, I would somewhat disagree. Data roaming charges can be a real killer. As a result even with a smartphone it is nice to find a place with wifi and check mail while enjoying a quick coffee.

                                                                                                          1. re: eat2much

                                                                                                            I've never paid 'data roaming charges' in my life, so I don't buy that. Further, laptop hobos often loose track of time, making their "quick" coffee and croissant a minimum two hour affair unless otherwise restricted as the OP was.

                                                                                                            1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                              I am from Canada, and even the simple act of checking my email on a smartphone while in the States can be very costly, particularly if there are images attached. Even in the case of those who are not roaming, many smartphone users have data limits which make using the net costly.

                                                                                                              1. re: eat2much

                                                                                                                Like eat2much, i also travel a lot and look for these wifi places. The roaming charges are ridiculous and sometimes i just want to check my email or look at a map app. Furthermore, there are functions on my smartphone that only work when i am in wifi, not in 3G.

                                                                                                                And lets not forget the tablet users. You know, the ones who didn't fork over $$$$ to have 3G on their tablet and rely on wifi.

                                                                                                              2. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                Surely you've never traveled overseas?

                                                                                                                1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                  Exactly. Especially since smartphones can link on through wifi if they chose to.

                                                                                                                2. re: eat2much

                                                                                                                  also, a laptop screen is infinitely easier to read.
                                                                                                                  if you want to respond to an email, having a regular keyboard is much easier than anything offered on a phone.

                                                                                                                3. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                  Some of us do not have smartphones. Some of us do need wi-fi for 10-15 minutes and like that we can buy a coffee and have a seat while checking email. Some of us understand the ettiquette surrounding this.
                                                                                                                  Believe me, if places like Starbucks saw that wi-fi was hurting their business, it would have been gone already.

                                                                                                                4. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                  My sister and brother in law owned a coffee shop/restaurant for some time. "Laptop hobos" are indeed an issue. Especially around meal times. They offer wifi b/c most people don't abuse it. Theirs had a time limit but don't remember what that was because of this issue.

                                                                                                                  1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                                                                                    I think a time limit for the free wifi is the best way for businesses to address the issue. I like the ambiance of the laptop hobo culture(and WFS).

                                                                                                                    I'd be curious if there was an actual impact in coffee shop sales directly from laptop hobos. Like did sales increase when your relatives put a time limit in place, do you know? I've never popped into a coffee shop for something and then chosen not to get it because tables were full, personally.

                                                                                                                    1. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                      They had the time limit from day one. Their partner/manager had experience in the business and, I think it was his idea.

                                                                                                                  2. re: olyolyy

                                                                                                                    There's a difference between camping out at a coffee shop for an hour or two and putting in a full work week. If I worked at a coffee shop, I would find it creepy if some guy was always there. It's creepy!

                                                                                                                    1. re: catroast

                                                                                                                      there's a woman who camps at a local coffee house who is essentially running a retail jewelry store from her table.
                                                                                                                      the stuff she sells looks artsy-craftsy-home made.
                                                                                                                      pretty soon she'll be using the place as a production location too.
                                                                                                                      why the coffee house allows this is beyond me.

                                                                                                                      1. re: catroast

                                                                                                                        As someone who worked in a corner store with a coffee area with seating that had some regular solitary squatters, I heartily second this. It was creepy as heck after a while and excuses were made to divest ourselves of their ($1 per 3-4 hours of squatting) business.

                                                                                                                        Mind you, it was far creepier because we didn't even have wifi, leaving them to stare out the window blankly between scanning every other client who walked in, or listening in to employee conversations.

                                                                                                                    2. The OP overstayed the welcome. Deal. It's entirely up to the shop and its staff how long you get to stay to do this. Your only credible response is to be grateful you weren't given the bum's rush earlier on previous occasions.

                                                                                                                      As they say in recovery circles, expectations are premeditated resentments. Lower your expectations, and you will be happier in these situations in the future.

                                                                                                                      1. I used to frequent a coffee shop that had a mix of large tables and smalerl ones. I was there for the coffee, food and company so always joined people I knew at large tables. We were an ever changing group, with folks coming and going throughout the morning. Groups like us were considered an important part of the coffee shop's ambiance and we made sure to pay for the space we used through food and drink. The laptop folks often stayed for many hours drinking just a single cup of coffee, using a table for four for themselves alone. I felt this was unfair to the owner when other people would come in and have no place to sit. A coffee shop is not an office and I don't think it should be treated as such--unless you are willing to pay an hourly rate for the privilege. I think many shop owners assume that others will not abuse their hospitality and can be in a quandary about how to deal with those that do.

                                                                                                                        1. There is one way to 'solve' the problem, though some may think it a pretty blunt tool: monetize the wi-fi. Just like before smartphones with internet access were more or less common, and many cafes had desktop computers available for a fee, so could there be a fee for use of wi-fi. The fee could be enough to do two things: subtly discourage using the service for an extended period of time, and also it would contribute to the cafe's bottom line. The price could still be lower than using one's data allotment. So as not to drive more considerate people away entirely, they could provide complementary service for 10 to 15 minutes before instituting a charge.

                                                                                                                          Certainly not the only way to deal with the issue, but at least somewhat creative.

                                                                                                                          Just a thought...

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

                                                                                                                            I don't think that would work because of competitive reasons.

                                                                                                                            1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

                                                                                                                              i avoid coffee shops that charge for wifi and I am sure many others do as well.

                                                                                                                            2. This is what I find the most interesting of all:

                                                                                                                              >>>this really ruined my day<<<


                                                                                                                              Just to make sure I understand, you are suggesting that expecting you to eat at a rate greater than one-half of a croissant per hour -- that is, two hours to finish a three-ounce pastry -- is somehow rushing you?

                                                                                                                              And also to clarify, after more than 100 responses, there have been no ad hominem attacks, only responses to your question, which isn't really the one you posted in your title.

                                                                                                                              1. This thread has run its course, and has become repetitive. We're locking it now.