show coffee shops some respect before you lose them

So apparently some coffee houses are getting pissed off that people are hunkering down in them for hours on end, while only buying a single cup of tea or coffee or nothing at all.  Many of us writers (and others to boot) are moving our laptops out of the house and into coffee shops.

I, for one, am a big fan of the coffee shop.  I spent many weekday evenings in my favorite coffee shop near Iowa State plugging away at my laptop or grading papers.  Coffee shops have just enough white noise to keep me focused – my home is too quiet, and music does not help.  The bustle of many conversations with a background of low music is the perfect writing mood for me.

However, I can understand why some coffee shops are getting a little upset about the boom of laptop users.  Why cater to all these people when the single cup of tea they buy hardly covers the energy they use?

So here are a few ways to coexist in the coffee shop world.

1.  Buy something.  I can’t believe people would actually stay for hours at someone’s restaurant and not buy anything.  I would feel weird sitting for hours at a bookstore reading their books without buying, so I wouldn’t do the same at a coffee shop.  Buy versus the amount of time you’re going to spend there.  I figure that a cup of coffee/tea buys me two hours.  If I’m going to stay longer, I need to buy more, like a muffin.  Or another cup of coffee.  Ha.

2. Take up as little space as possible.  I love going to fido here in Nashville because they have large tables and bar space that people can share.  So I don’t feel like I’m taking up an entire table.  If you can, go with other people who will also buy drink/food, so you’re not using up a table all by yourself.

3. Run off battery power as long as you can.  My laptops can usually last four hours as long as I’m only running Word and Thunderbird.  Why suck up the coffee shop’s energy if you don’t have to?  Does your laptop really need to be plugged in?  At least run off battery power for an hour or so.  You’ll make the coffee shop regret their energy bill less.

4. Don’t go during peak hours.  The coffee shop I frequent becomes super busy during lunch, but quietens around 1pm until the early evening, when it picks up again.  I also used to frequent my college coffee shop in the evening after dinner.  If you take up space in the coffee shop when they aren’t busy, they probably won’t mind so much.  But taking up table space when there are others who can’t eat their meals… that’s just rude.

5. Find the coffee shops that don’t mind.  There are plenty of places out there that don’t mind if you sit for a few hours.  Find them and patronize.  Tell your friends.  If one coffee shops starts to post rules about using laptops, either follow them or find another place to hang.

P.S. Starbucks, at least, doesn’t mind (and in fact encourages) users with laptops. However, I’m a great supporter of local business, so I’d use them as a last resort.

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