Should Coffeehouses Ban Laptops?
Coffeehouses in California are apparently banning computers and e-readers, according to this post I read recently.
Where I live in Kuala lumpur, coffee-houses provide free wi-fi, and from experience, I can say they are very nice to customers like me who want to take their work/entertainment/ reading outside the home. E-readers are picking up, though one does not see all that many in public as yet. But that is changing, rapidly.
The said coffeehouses in California have set themselves up as gatekeepers of “culture”:
The coffeehouse owners interviewed in the LA Times article about the new rules all spoke of the need to preserve the culture of their café as a place of meeting and exchanging ideas. This culture does not have room for laptops and e-readers, but print books and newspapers are still “embraced” by owners and are part of the culture these coffeehouses are hoping to regain. In defining their values and the values of their customers, owners working to remove electronic devices from their cafés have drawn a definite distinction -– print books are cultured, electronic books are not.
Personally, I make sure I order enough for the restaurant or cafe where I’m writing to not resent me, and I can understand the frustration of popular coffee houses with patrons who order one cup of tea and sit around for hours after the drink is finished, without ordering anything else.
But if the place is relatively empty, I don’t see what business it is of theirs if people sit around, not buying much, reading whatever they like: books, laptops, iPads. They just might become regulars and eventually order more, right? A sense of community might develop, where the regulars get to know the people at the coffeehouse and vice-versa, which I feel is a nice thing.
Not just that, I don’t see why a shop should ban laptops and e-readers on principle. Who gave them the right to decide what is “cultural” also beats me.
I have seen packed coffee-places in Hong Kong, especially those in the big malls, and students hanging out for hours, studying. I admit it got somewhat annoying when I arranged to meet someone at a coffee place and couldn’t find a vacant seat because earphone wearing, made-up, weird-haired students had grabbed all the places and refused to budge. But in Hong kong, people don’t mind sharing tables with strangers, and though that takes some getting used to, in the end everyone is happy.
So yes, there has to be a balance so business does not suffer and there are enough seats for all. To this end, I have seen signs in cafes and fast-food chain outlets in Singapore saying ‘no studying at such and such hours’, usually the peak hours. These places are only trying to ensure their business does not suffer and that is understandable.
The customers who love free Wi-fi ought to make sure they order a decent amount, and the restaurants need to understand that some/ most of their clients are attracted by the free Wi-fi, and be tolerant of them, within reason.
As long as a customer orders enough to justify the time spent at the table, I do not see why laptops etc should be banned by coffee-houses.
What do you think?