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A Coffeeshop's Weekends Without Wi-Fi

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the back-to-basics dept.

Wireless Networking 513

Glenn Fleishman writes "Victrola Cafe and Art in Seattle is a popular coffeeshop that offers free Wi-Fi--except on the weekends. In an experiment, the cafe started shutting down its Wi-Fi network on Saturdays and Sundays after watching their culture erode: the shop became full (and was turning away customers) with six-to-eight hour Wi-Fi squatters, many of whom didn't even purchase anything. Their second Sunday without Wi-Fi was one of their best revenue days in some time. I don't propose a Wi-Fi (or free Wi-Fi) backlash, but it's interesting how with some time under their belt, the clash of inward facing technology and outward facing culture hit these particular entrepreneurs' limit."

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Their own fault.. (4, Insightful)

InsideTheAsylum (836659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650785)

Lesse, they don't want to enforce the "buy something or get out" rule? Their loss...

Re:Their own fault.. (2, Interesting)

pdbaby (609052) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650812)

This pretty much sums up all the discussion required on this news article, doesn't it? Go slashdot user brevity and succinctness!

In all seriousness though, whatstops wifi users from sitting in a car outside? or in the shop nextdoor?

Re:Their own fault.. (2, Insightful)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650843)

>In all seriousness though, whatstops wifi users from sitting in a car outside? or in the shop nextdoor?

self-respect?

Re:Their own fault.. (1)

pdbaby (609052) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650865)

Obviously they're showing 0 self-respect by not only using the wifi and not paying the company but taking up space in the shop: no self-respect, no manners...

Am I the only one whose local coffee shops offer bottomless tea/coffee?

Re:Their own fault.. (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650900)

self-respect?

Doesn't stop them from squatting inside for 8 hours...

Re:Their own fault.. (2, Insightful)

pi_rules (123171) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650913)

In all seriousness though, whatstops wifi users from sitting in a car outside? or in the shop nextdoor?
Well, nothing. However, to the shop owner their -space- is the resource that they're limited in. It isn't so much that they're sucking bandwidth but that they're occupying a chair/table and removing space for paying customers.

Definately not ethical, but it would most likely be of little concern to the shop owner.

Re:Their own fault.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650932)

In all seriousness though, whatstops wifi users from sitting in a car outside? or in the shop nextdoor?

The wifi cafe I go to has a pay service (cards available at the counter), but last time I was in there the system was down, and the guy suggested that I could still connect to the system in the neighboring coffee house (which was free).

Despite the for-money nature of the service, I've always sort of assumed that I'd be asked to leave if I came in and camped out with my laptop without buying any food (for which they are no doubt getting a much larger profit margin).

And I know it's pronounced "why-fie", but for some reason "whiffy" just seems more suitable.

Re:Their own fault.. (3, Insightful)

rokzy (687636) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650830)

um, what part of "one of their best revenue days" is so hard to understand?

I think they've done well. an attitude of "buy or get out" would be devastating to any sense of culture. terribly vulgar. not because of the principle, but just the impossibilty of implementing it without leading to bad customer service.

and weekends aren't so important as weekdays for people to have internet for business purposes, and are much more likely to be kids using it for fun, so it makes sense.

Re:Their own fault.. (4, Insightful)

InsideTheAsylum (836659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650848)

The people who were gonna buy will buy anyways and the people who weren't, won't..

I'm not saying that you post a bunch of signs on the walls and stuff, but if you see someone squating day after day you come up to them, tap them on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me sir, can you PLEASE SOD OFF YOU WORTHLESS PLACE TAKING PIECE OF SOD?!?!"! Well, ok, maybe not quite like that.

Re:Their own fault.. (3, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650977)

an attitude of "buy or get out" would be devastating to any sense of culture

Um... what culture is that, now? The one where the people who don't buy anything sponge off of the merchant's not free (to them) service? The one that burns up bandwidth that the merchant put there as a value to their customers?

vulgar

No, vulgar is using a merchant's services without participating in the implied contract: be our customer. Do those same people feel comfortable showing up there every morning to wash up in the merchant's restrooms, ask for some coffee for free, and then go on their way?

It's not about whether the merchant would have to get into the awkward mode of policing their users for those that have or have not bought coffee... it's about the people who do buy it pointing out that the leeches are, well, leeches. And extracting a little social pain from them so that they get it, and don't wind up with an even stronger sense of entitlement than they already seem to have.

None are at fault. You, infidel! (1)

SlashdotTroll (581611) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650943)

It just so happens that sitting down for a moment to test the ether, before ordering a drink, solves the world's hunger and thirst disorders.

This cafe should be selling internet access one fiat dollar per two megabytes, and giving free coffee just to keep the customer addicted enough to return the next day.

Yet to be addressed until now, your lack of faith will cost you verry much! To atone for your sins, you must recite thrice "Heil Cowboyneal" and attend a dry baptism with as much Root Bear(TM) as possible.

Re:Their own fault.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650947)

http://www.victrolacoffee.com [victrolacoffee.com]

Yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650786)

At last, a reason to talk to people!

Solution? (2, Insightful)

Xshare (762241) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650787)

Easy Solution: Make people buy something to use wifi, and propose a 2-hour limit, or however much you deem necessary.

Re:Solution? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650916)

And a very simple way to do it with minimal additional investment is to print a current WEP encryption code on the receipt (or a separate piece of paper), which will be good for two hours. Drop a code and then add a new one every 30 minutes or so. (Most routers can support a number of simultaneous codes. This could be done manually--it's only 16 times per day--or automatically.)

A more advanced way is to give each purchaser a password (unique, or time-limited like above), then run everyone through a magical Linux router that maps all web pages to an "Enter your password" page until a password has been entered for that particular MAC address, then allow unlimited access for that MAC for whatever time seems reasonable. That's what our local university does, although without a time limit, to ensure only students use their wireless network.

Boundless Wifi [boundlesswifi.com] sells solutions that do these kinds of things for businesses.

Re:Solution? (1)

Delta-9 (19355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650939)

Then you would have that SOB buying a pack of gum for $0.99 every 2 hours. I completly agree with this decision based on their rationale. They are not providing the wireless for people to sit there and take up space by themself for 4 hours (w/ or w/out a coffee purchase).

They wanted to facilitate a more enjoyable coffee shop experience and they realized that wifi on the weekend was taking away from that atmosphere.

Re:Solution? (1)

Bake (2609) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650951)

So, then limit the free access to people who make purchases of X dollars...

It's just a matter of finding a line and sticking to it.

Easy? (1)

flawedgeek (833708) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650961)

I think not. Try implementing that.

Re:Solution? (1, Interesting)

biobogonics (513416) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650975)

Easy Solution: Make people buy something to use wifi, and propose a 2-hour limit, or however much you deem necessary

Please. You can't fix social problems with technological solutions.

Re:Solution? (1)

numbski (515011) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651022)

I agree to an extent, but I think throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn't the way to deal with it. Perhaps it is, but why give up business X to business Y when you can have both? (There's a rhetorical answer to that, which is to keep the type of environment they want, which is a valid argument.)

A technological solution that is available however is very simple, and integrates well. The linksys wrt54g is to a point now that you can load just about anything on it. There are several captive portal solutions, all of which have one way or another to mesh with your register system. If you have an older register system, you are pretty much SOL. The technological answers are there, it's just a matter of whether or not it is worth the time and effort to set up, or if you'd prefer not to have the laptop users. In this case, the answer is that they don't want the laptop users. Fair enough. Just don't argue that there's no way to do it and keep everyone happy. There is.

Re:Solution? (1)

Harker (96598) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651040)

Easy Solution: Make people buy something to use wifi, and propose a 2-hour limit, or however much you deem necessary

Please. You can't fix social problems with technological solutions.


That is not necessarily a technical solution, but rather a social one:

"Hey you! Yea, you! You've been sitting there for 3 hours surfing the net, and haven't had a single cup of coffee. Pack it up and leave. No, I'm sorry, buying a cup now won't do. Please leave."

Yea, it is chasing a potential customer away, but really, if they were, they would have bought something already.

Looking at that, one can imagine why I never did well in the CS industries. :P

H.

I hate coffee (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650788)

FP?

GNAA copycats arrested in LastMeasure child porn s (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650792)

GNAA copycats arrested in LastMeasure child porn scam
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Drats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650793)

...they caught on to us!!!!

-Anonymous Coward

easier solution... (5, Insightful)

killa62 (828317) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650795)

An esasier solution would be to just have hourly changing codes to enter that would be given to people who boutght something, that way, squatters would have to buy stuff every hour and therefore not be squatters anymore.

Re:easier solution... (2, Insightful)

jacen_sunstrider (797955) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650827)

But you couldn't get anything done that way. When I go online anywhere, it's going to take me almost an hour just to situate myself! I don't want to be interruped, not only to change the code (presumably an encryption key) but also go and purchase something.

It'd be better if I could buy seven cups of coffee for seven hours of MUDdin^H^H^H^H^H^Hbrowsing the internet.

Encryption Key (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650968)

You don't need an encryption key, just a passworded proxy... preferably with an autoconfiguration URL so that users can easily set it up (and then enter a password).

Re:easier solution... (1)

MisterSarcastic (793770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650887)

Ah yes, that's a much easier solution than hitting the switch on weekends.

Re:easier solution... (1)

Delta-9 (19355) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650954)

That sounds like a cyber-cafe and not a coffee shop (w/ complimentary internet access to check your email). They obviously want a coffee shop feel, not a cyber-cafe feel.

Finding a soluable median (5, Insightful)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650797)

Obviously what they ought to do is give time-limited wifi passkeys that can be "charged" when the customer buys a product. That way they don't get lingerers/squatters who are only there for the wifi without having to pay.

The higher the receipt, the longer the passkey works. It's a decent system, if not a little burdensome for freeloaders.

The question becomes, How easily or feasible would it be to put such a system into practice?

Maybe something like a wifi "phone card"? (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650833)

Surely they can come up with a system that uses a purchaseable card with a set number of minutes of wifi usage.

I suppose there might be a problem if you were in the middle of a download and the card expired, but caveat empty.

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650845)

If you could get some programming into the cash register, it would be easy to generate a password that prints on the receipt, and sets the AP to allow that password to work for N minutes.

The hard part is identifying the customer. It's unlikely most would know what their MAC address is, and you can't hand out encryption keys like this since you'd have to change the encryption key for everyone at the same time. Instead, you'd have to have something that determines whether a MAC is known, if its not known, then all the page requests get redirected to the buy-something-and-login site, where they enter their receipt key, it tells them how much time they have, and a URL to keep track of it. Then, a cron job makes the system forget expired MAC addresses.

Doing it this way seems to be the best balance of security, functionality, privacy, and not spending 20 minutes holding up the line while explaining how to log into their system.

How about a "Coffee Shop Wifi App"? (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650877)

Something that will prompt you with a menu, allows you to order, you pay with a credit card and get a wifi connection immediately or you pay the coffee girl when she brings you your order and you get the connection when she completes the transaction.

Well, maybe I should have patented this before I wrote this post.

Re:How about a "Coffee Shop Wifi App"? (1)

pdbaby (609052) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650937)

Something that will prompt you with a menu, allows you to order, you pay with a credit card and get a wifi connection immediately or you pay the coffee girl when she brings you your order and you get the connection when she completes the transaction.


Hurrah! You're slowly but surely paving the way towards a socially dysfunctional society of people too lazy to get up out of their seats or attract a waitresses attention. I, for one, salute you!

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

nvrrobx (71970) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650908)

Maybe authentication via RADIUS to validate the passcode?

Granted, it would require a custom RADIUS server.

Re:Finding a soluable median (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12651023)

Unless I'm missing something, you'd have to get a radius client installed on everyone's wince and palmos handhelds, powerbook and thinkpad. Hence the 20 minutes holding up the line trying to explain to people how to log in ;)

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650929)

Talk about doing it the hard way.
The register will have a transaction number. Thats all you need if you prevent people from taking too many guesses.

Of course the easy solution is get people to enter their own order on their own lap tops.

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650971)

Thats all you need if you prevent people from taking too many guesses.

Two problems. First, the receipt numbers are usually sequential. Once you've bought your cup of coffee, you just keep using bigger numbers.

Also, how do you get the transaction number from the register to the AP/firewall/whatever?

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

michrech (468134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650906)

You can do it with these:

"HotSpot" Gateways
http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=349 [dlink.com]
http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=173 [dlink.com]
http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=402 [dlink.com]

"HotSpot" Ticket Printer
http://www.dlink.com/products/?sec=0&pid=282 [dlink.com]

All they have to do, if they have the printer, is hit a button and it dynamically creates a user account/password and prints it up.

---
telnet://sinep.gotdns.com [gotdns.com] -- It's a BBS -- Read my journal [slashdot.org] .

Re:Finding a soluable median (2, Insightful)

mackman (19286) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650938)

It's not just about the money. It's about the atmosphere. Nothing kills the mood in a coffee house more than a bunch of people working on their laptops. Maybe during weekday afternoons it's ok, but I think killing WiFi in the evenings and on weekends is a great idea.

Cafe in New Orleans Airport (1)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650981)

There was a coffee shop in New Orleans airport that had something similar to this. You had to buy coffee and printed on the receipt was a code you punched in which gave you access to their "free" network. I of course was too cheap of a bastard to buy coffee.

I think a 2 hour limit should be good enough for coffee. If someone blows through that two hours but is a legitimate customer, either the customer should have no problem buying another cup in 2 hours or the shop should have no problem saying "hey, you spent 2 hours on your cup. Please buy another or give your seat to paying customers"

Re:Finding a soluable median (1)

pi_rules (123171) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651019)

The question becomes, How easily or feasible would it be to put such a system into practice?
I played with such a system, though I do forget its name, a few years ago. It was fairly simple: You'd get a ticket that had a number on it, and when you started up you'd be redirected to the 'login' page no matter where you tried to go where you had to enter your code. That fixed you up with a proper route on the gateway and now you were on the internet for a while.

It was something like $40 for the software. Pretty cheap, but you had to have a spare computer to act as the gateway and it had to run Linux. We've just stepped outside the realm of the average coffee shop owner/employee by a LONG shot.

It's simply far cheaper for them to jack in a cheap Linksys WAP and let it run free. If you're in there, you're on the network.

Technological solutions are great, and all, but there's a cost/benefit that needs to be considered, and this is one of the times where "wetware" is a better solution.

You see a freeloader in your shop? Tell them to bugger off and not come back again, and if they DO come back again they'd better be a paying customer. It is that simple, and trust me, you will NOT get a backlash from regular customers when you toss somebody out for such actions. They are either silent, or sometimes even vocally approving of your actions. Yes, I have tossed people from retail establishments simply for rude behavior. Not from a bar, but a greenhouse. I don't imagine tossing somebody freeloading from a coffee shop would be any different. The regulars will applaud you, and the bottom line will not suffer. It may even improve because it shows that you won't tolerate assholes (or freeloaders) in your shop.

"Free" attracts the cheap (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650799)

Well, well, no surprise here. "Free" wifi surely attracts the cheap folks who either cannot afford or will not shell out $50+ for high-speed bandwidth.

Re:"Free" attracts the cheap (1)

InsideTheAsylum (836659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650813)

Uh, if they can afford a laptop with a wireless card, why can't they afford the internet?

Re:"Free" attracts the cheap (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650829)

You'd be surprised how the real cheap folks (college students, etc.) priortize.

I have a laptop with a wireless card, too. But I never paid my $$$ for it. It just sometimes comes with a job.

hangouts (1)

theagentsheadquarter (809258) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650800)

Coffeeshops are certainly nice places to hang out. I can see how the addition of free internet would easily cause problems in such an environment. I, personally, enjoy buying a $3.00 drink and sitting for two hours. I can't see how they can possibly make much revenue with such customer habits. Hopefully this works out for them

Solution... (1)

Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650801)

I always though a good solution would be to give a code on the back of the recipt that would give you free wifi for 20 minutes, with the clock automatically starting from the time of purchase. Set the minimum price that gets the code to a medium coffee and a cookie. Yum. Cookies.

Re:Solution... (1)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650888)

A local gas station did this for their car wash. If your purchase was over a certain dollar amount it printed a key on the receipt that would bypass the coin drop.

How rude (4, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650803)

In an experiment, the cafe started shutting down its Wi-Fi network on Saturdays and Sundays after watching their culture erode: the shop became full (and was turning away customers) with six-to-eight hour Wi-Fi squatters, many of whom didn't even purchase anything.

Considering that most people have Internet at home, on campus, or at work, this is just a rude thing to do. Coffee shops provide Wifi so you can relax with a cup of coffee in a comfortable atmosphere while still being able to get that little extra bit of work done. There's no way that's accomplished by squatting in the coffee shop for 8 hours on end. If that's you, get some manners, and get a life.

Re:How rude (1)

yourexhalekiss (833943) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650868)

I agree: If that's you, get some manners, and get a life.

Those people are rude. But, by and large, people don't do business (or homework) on Saturdays and Sundays. And if they're committed enough that they do, then they should be committed enough to buy their own internet access and their own espresso machine.

Re:How rude (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650919)

But, by and large, people don't do business (or homework) on Saturdays and Sundays.

For the most part, that's true. However, there are quite a few professions (e.g. Real Estate Agencies, Salesmen, Computer Programmers(!)) where weekend work is common. And don't forget businessmen who travel. They'll often fly in on a Sunday. Many hotels now have Wifi, but it is kind of nice to be able to relax at a cafe with a cup of coffee and/or lunch.

Re:How rude (1)

dedeman (726830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651005)

I would think that it may be more a scene of sociability. Some people like to be out and about, at the coffee shop, with the wifi, with the cell phone, with the $5 coffee, looking nice, adult, studious, and sophisticated.

I mean, how cool is it to be reading myspace/lj on a shiny new wireless HP (or apple) at the coffee shop?

It's the same reason that malls are clogged with kids during the summer/weekends. Who the hell else has 6 or 8 hrs straight to kill at a coffee shop, much less on the internet?

And no, I'm not new here.

Business (1)

XFilesFMDS1013 (830724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650805)

Is Business. They need to make a profit, and having people just sitting around not giving them their money isn't profitable. Such is capitalism.

Re:Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650854)

You must be new here. This is Slashdot, where "capitalism" is a dirty word.

Once again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650806)

...leave it to a few miscreants to ruin it for the majority.

Oh Great (1, Troll)

katana (122232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650809)

First you tell me that giving away WiFi doesn't actually bring more customers in. Next you'll tell me that making illegal copies of music doesn't help artists make money, or that you can't just give software away and make money on services.

Re:Oh Great (1)

XFilesFMDS1013 (830724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650834)

In this case, it didn't work, at least, not in the long run. From the article: On the weekends, 80 to 90 percent of tables and chairs are taken up by people using computers. Many laptop users occupy two or more seats by themselves, as well. And tehy aren't buying anything. Ergo, free WiFi isn't bring more customers in, just more people.

Re:Oh Great (1)

InsideTheAsylum (836659) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650864)

My sister frequents cafes and often only picks the places where they have wi-fi. You're wrong, it does bring at least one customer in!

Re:Oh Great (4, Insightful)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650965)

you can't just give software away and make money on services.

Oh? Tell that to Red Hat, et al.

Coupon (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650814)

Couldn't they give out a coupon good for N hours of wi-fi access with each purchase. The coupon would have an activation code that the user would type in when connecting to the network.

Re:Coupon (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650822)

It would have to be a one use password, or else that invites abuse. One guy gets the password and shares it with 5 of his friends..

Re:Coupon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650940)

You buy your coffee, and the sales girl asks you, "Do you want wifi?" If so, it's free, or for a marginal fee (just because, or perhaps for more legal power), and a unique temporary key is printed on the receipt. This'll stop people from going through the garbage for free access. Then, once a computer connects via a valid key, remember the MAC address so someone can't get on, once again, by going through the trash. Set the access limit for an hour or two, or proportional to the bill, or maybe with a minimum time to be nice, etc. Lastly, kick out people who somehow got on perhaps, and worry about your security.

Might not be foolproof, but is surely vastly better than open access.

this is done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650884)

This is exactly what some coffee shops [citysearch.com] do. You order something. They press a button, printing out a code that you tap into your browser for access for 2 or whatever hours.

coffee shops should stay social (IMO) (4, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650820)

Isn't this yet another syndrom associated with advancing technology? I can understand wanting to sneak in a few minutes of productivity during a quiet moment of opportunity but have always tried being discreet (and discrete). But I've seen the described behavior in a local Chicago coffee shop... squatters who were there at different times of the day as I passed through. Not only did they not really appear to be paying customers, they:

  • monopolized entire tables capable of seating four with: laptop, some analog of an iPod, spare battery(ies), headhphones, and typically paperwork
  • typically were buried in their headphones
  • made no eye contact with anyone

I have a friend who has a startup refreshment shop, and foot traffic and available space for paying customers is precious. These shop owners aren't making any fortune with their stores, they (at least my friend) do it out of love of the job (interacting with long-time customers, meeting new people, becoming an established figure of the local community).

I also have another friend who frequents a local Seattle coffee shop a lot. It seems from talking with him he is an honorable patron, but I do get the impression he doesn't interact much with anyone there.

Cell phones, laptops, pdas, portable music devices... they all have driven a somewhat asocial behavior. In public it's mostly annoying, maybe a little rude, sometimes outright boorish, but in a coffe shop, good for the owners to shut down the wireless on weekends (for example...). Sounds like they made a right move based on the almost immediate response and thanks received from regulars.

Frankly, the day cell phones and laptops, etc. become totally uncool in public can't come too soon for me. In the meantime (shameless plug) if you're looking for more social ways of using technology consider and look into BookCrossing.com [bookcrossing.com] . It's been mentioned here on slashdot before -- it's a cool way of using technology to share books (something a little less technical, and a lot more social).

Re:coffee shops should stay social (IMO) (1)

ScaryMonkey (886119) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650950)

I agree. People these days seem to barely remember a time before the invention of the Walkman made public spaces a collection of completely isolated individuals. In decades past it was not in the least unusual to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you on public transportation. To do that these days would immediately label you as some sad, desperate friendless slob; Clearly anyone cool enough to be worth talking to has *much* better things to do.

Personally (1)

Albinofrenchy (844079) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650825)

Personally I like to hang out in coffee shops for the smell. Although, how anyone could smell that sweet necter of the gods and not buy anything is a mystery to me.

Now we know what Step 2 is... (5, Funny)

jhsiao (525216) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650839)

1. Give away WiFi

2. ???? -> Take away WiFi

3. Profit!

Re:Now we know what Step 2 is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12651014)

Good one... thanks for the laugh

Ways to drive the geeks out (4, Funny)

tyagiUK (625047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650859)

There's quite a few ways to get rid of Wi-Fi geeks:

Firstly, open the curtains, turn on the lights, and turn the aircon up above 20 degrees C. Do this every hour on the hour and the shop will clear to cries of "Nooooo, the Day Star!"

Alternatively, confuse them by putting herbal sleep powder in the coffee and cola. They'll feel more drowsy, so buy more cola and coffee. Problem solved. Every few purchases, give them one infused with Penguin Mints (for added caffeine)

wait a minute here (0, Troll)

b17bmbr (608864) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650861)

a trendy coffee and art cafe worried about their profits. what's the world coming to? pissed about people getting something for free on the dime of someone else? damn. i thought they were the socially conscious type. guess they're evil capitalists too. life's over.

Torn (1)

meganthom (259885) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650873)

I'm actually a bit torn on this issue. I understand the problems with squatters and would be frustrated if I were the coffee shop, but I love having the free wi-fi at our local coffee shops. I like the idea many are proposing with timed tickets and the like.

Coffee shops are in a delicate predicament when it comes to users. My fiance was once asked to leave a coffee shop for playing a board game there. They had chess boards at the shop, and my fiance and his friends had each bought more than $10 worth of food and drinks. Unfortunately, they were there at the time the coffee shop was trying to transition to a wine bar for the evening, and they would have harmed the "atmosphere."

Personally, I think what should really have us up in arms is the state of wifi at airports. They want something like $7/hour for their services! I know they can get it from business people, so it's a wise business decision (in a sense), but aren't airports bad enough these days? Give me a break. :-P

Re:Torn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650986)

> They want something like $7/hour for their services!
that would be nice. Here it's $5 for 15 minutes.
Thanks Telstra!

Re:Torn (1)

Gogogoch (663730) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650999)

Let's not forget that the wi-fi is a perk for the *customers*, and to encourage customers to visit. Not a free hand-out. Timed tickets and all that just sounds like an overly complex solution to the fact that people are abusing an honor system. I like their solution in turning it off so the public can rediscover what it is like to be limited to human interaction.

But I am with you about airports. I was at one this week which advertised wifi and I niaively thought "how enlightened of them to put this on for the public". Of course I soon discovered $19.95 for - and get this - 24 hours of access. It is only through the most unfortunate of itineraries or air carrier problems that anyone would be in an airport for 24 hours. What a blatent rip-off.

Nobody ever talks there. (3, Insightful)

johndierks (784521) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650874)

I live just a few block from the Victrola, and they're right. Often times 75%-90% of the people in there have laptops open. Often time I'm guilty myself.

It used to be a great place were you could go drink a great cup of coffee and probably meet a cute indy chick, but ever since WiFi, everyone is so buried in their iBooks updating their MySpace page [myspace.com] that no one talks to each other.

The best part is watching the the Seattle Craigslist Missed Connection [craigslist.org] page fill up with "You are a cute 20 that something redhead sitting over there in the corner. Damn I wish you'd close your iBook so I could talk to you." posts.

Lost their culture? Boo hoo! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650879)

Oh how sad! They lost their regular clientele of pot-smoking hippies who have nothing better to do than sit around in coffee shops, talking about how much they hate America and love Socialism.

Stay in Capitol Hill, faggots. That way we can fence you in when you get too out of control.

A solution to their problem.. (1)

SMS_Design (879582) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650882)

IS there any sort of fix for their situation? Perhaps a transparent proxy of some sort that only allows any given user to use the 'net for a limited time after they've put in a fresh code.. Perhaps integrating the code generation into a computerized POS.. X dollar amount equals Y amt of access time..

Does anyone know of a solution for this situation?? Also, is there an open source POS system anywhere out there? That'd be an incredibly useful thing for small business people.

The purpose of the WiFi was (4, Insightful)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650886)

to attract *paying* customers. Once again, the actions of a few spoil it for everyone else.

Eventually, some sort of ettiquette will work it's way to the surface, as it has with bulletin boards or email. I make it a point to a) seek out coffee shops with free wifi (www.delocator.net) and buy something as a sign of appreciation for the free connection. Would it kill the freeloaders to buy a small cup of decaf at the very least?

wifi'ers are like smokers ... (3, Interesting)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650972)

Would it kill the freeloaders to buy a small cup of decaf at the very least?

That may not be good enough. In Hawaii there was a vote on outlawing smoking in buildings. One restraunt owner being interviewed pointed out that they had already done so voluntarily and it greatly improved business, contrary to the popular wisdom. They pointed out that they had much better table turnover without the smokers, and that the smokers were often only buying a coffee but occupying a table for a long time.

Yes this is a restraunt not a coffee shop but the point is that wifi'ers, like smokers, occupy a finite resource, table space, disproportionately to their purchase. The wifi'ers can only be tolerated if table space is abundant.

Huh? (4, Interesting)

tomwhore (10233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650889)

We here in Personal Telco Project ( http://www.personaltelco.net/ [personaltelco.net] )country, that being Portland Oregon, have not seen this particular behavior go on. In fact we have seen the exact flip side in most of the cafes we help get nodes into.

There are several coffe houses who can point to the day the PTP node went in as the day thier revenues went up, noticably.

There are communities that can point to the day some one put up a neighborhood node to as the day folks started spreading the goodness.

We have found that when folks put up a Free Wifi Node and all that it can entail (not just internet access but community based local content (web, daap, zeroconf, ftp, distro repositories , etc etc) the community of users are enriched and the people hosting the node are not abused to the point of wanting to turn it off.

Maybe we are truly in the right place at the right time with the right mix of citizens, who are the riches of any city as b!x will tell you. Im not sure whats cooking up there in Seattle but i hope it gets better.

-tomhiggins
www.personaltelco.net

Re:Huh? (3, Interesting)

eggboard (315140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650909)

When I wrote up this story, I tried to make it clear that Victrola is in a unique position: the majority of coffeeshops have tons of transient business, and many of them see most traffic between 5 and 9 am. They want to fill seats after that. Victrola is more of a community center masquerading as a coffeeshop in the sense that it's a place that community forms, and thus they have a lot of dwell traffic all day. This is quite rare outside of libraries.

Re:Huh? (1)

johndierks (784521) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650974)

I think the article wasn't so much focusing on profits, but more on culture. Fun hip coffee shops have turned into places where people bury themselves in the internet. No one talks, no one interacts, most people have headphones on. What was a very social place has become a very unsocial place, due to Wi-Fi.

Easy to understand. (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650995)

Well, you have to understand that coffee is a premium product. If you just wanted caffeine then you could get it anywhere and cheaper than a coffeehouse. Before the big internet/starbucks revolution coffeehouses were a lot more social (the article goes into this). Sure some people would read books, but a stranger would come up to you and ask you if you want to play chess too.

Or you'd find yourself involved into a conversation about philosophy.

Not to mention, coffeehouses are image based, so some people are going to be turned off by a place populated with 10 people staring into their laptops taking up two seats, reaching for power cables, etc. Its like hanging out at kinkos. Might as well walk to the coffee place up the street.

Call them snobs, or whatever, but thats how people act. I do it all the time with bars. If I'm in a place I dont like I suggest we take off. If I dont like the crowd, even though I'm not going to talk to them, I still dont want to hang around them. I dont want to listen to, say, 80s music, in a non-ironic way, etc. I'd rather spend my money elsewhere.

Those who fill up their lives with stuff... (0, Offtopic)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650895)

... find that they have less space in their lives for other people, less space for God (if religious), less space even for themselves. All they have is stuff - and emptiness.

This isn't really OT. It's the background for this issue. Do the owners want the coffeeshop to be a place for people to be isolated with their stuff? Kudos to them for making it a place where people are gently pushed to break out of their self-imposed solitary confinement.

A coffeeshop is so much more than a place that sells coffee...

lesse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650907)

all those squatters were fucking linux, movie pirating nerds who read slashdot. they should have kicked them out and shot them in the face with a gun and killed the the thieves.

Will sort itself out (2, Insightful)

ortcutt (711694) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650911)

This will all sort itself out when every cafe has free WIFI. Then you won't end up with some being busy while others aren't. I frequent a place that has WIFI and that is very laptop-friendly and I can say for sure that they do a lot of business because of it. Even the lingerers spend money because they want coffee and they get hungry and want donuts and bagels.

Best of both worlds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650917)

Turn that old smoking section into the geek section.
If you only allow computers in half the shop, the paying customers will chase the deadbeats out.

Hey dude, I see you're done with your coffee. How about moving on so I can enjoy /. with mine...

No response, kick the chair out from under his ass...

Filter them. (1)

SamMichaels (213605) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650918)

Buy something $10 or greater....authorize your MAC and/or receive a login/pass for 3 hours.

Next problem?

A possible solution -- intermittent WIFI (1)

btempleton (149110) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650920)

Paying for access doesn't solve this cafe's problem, which is not so much the moochers as it is the environment where everybody just stares at a screen all day instead of socializing.

I have come up with a solution that fixes both problems. An AP that does intermittent access, so that you can connect, but after enough time to do a basic session of E-mail or web research, it refuses you for 5 minutes.

I outline more about the solution of intermittent wifi in this blog entry [4brad.com]

Re:A possible solution -- intermittent WIFI (1)

updatelee (244571) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651016)

Thats a good idea, Still allow the person to surf the web, check their fav sites, get email, but not have people sitting there for 8h ...

Err little... gain little. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12650921)

I was about to post another joke, which would go inevitably unread by most.

I suppose /. has done this on intent, after oh so many useless posts -- many by yours truly, of course :-\

Hence letting ACs without any points, as this discourages many... you don't post if you lose all hope of being read, even if you don't care about karma (like me).

This is to maximize signal-to-noise ratio, I imagine -- the old efficiency thing in other clothes.

Alas, this is bad.

If you sow 1000 seeds and 20 germinate this is better than sowing only 50 and getting 15 germinated.

Albeit less eficient.

anyone know of this feature in a wifi router? (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650927)

If the 2 hr token code on receipts is too much trouble, one thought would be a wifi router that takes note of the mac address and gradually throttles down bandwidth or puts up a nag message on port 80 requests after the mac address has been in use for too long. Could even be a variable sized time window so that on those busy weekends you only get 1/2 hr but on a slow monday afternoon you get 4 hours.

I don't know of any wifi routers that do this, but it seems like an easy idea to implement and wouldn't require anything from the cash register or employees.

Sure, people can spoof their mac address and get another 2 hrs (or whatever) but it most people wouldn't bother and it sounds like they don't mind a few people hanging out, they just don't want a sea of laptops.

Won't work... (1)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650983)

You can change the MAC address you send. People will use MAC addresses like proxies.

I know one Cafe that has internet access for customers only. It is all wi-fi. All you need to do is get a good sniffer, sit there a while, find a MAC address, clone it as yours, and you have free access.

A better option is to kick all the bums out, make it known they are not welcome. Or have an area where the bums can sit, that does not take up customer space.

You know what they do in France? To sit in a cafe, you must pay. Even to drink a water. They sell the right to sit in a Cafe. If all the tables were by reservation only, that would take care of the Bums. Make it a small charge, like 50 cents for an hour, or free with purchase of beverage. Put a time stamp on the reciept that is color coded. When someone is more than one color code away from their time block, ask them to leave.

Solution (1)

dark grep (766587) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650941)

Our two main carriers, Telstra and Optus, here in Australia have a soluttion to that - $10 per 15 minutes for WiFi access, thank you very much. There are other operators who charge less (but not much less), but they are very sparce. There are very, very few 'free' hotspots, no matter how much coffee you buy.

Everyone has an opinion... (3, Interesting)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650942)

It's funny to see how everyone here is an expert in business, marketing, general human psychology, and the like. "Charge for this", "put up signs for that", "only allow this"...it's not that easy.

There is a fine balance between welcoming people that will eventually turn into customers and attracting hordes of freeloaders, from enforcing a policy that keeps paying customers happy while they surf to appearing to be too harsh like you're running a police state in your store. Let's face it...each restaurant, each cafe, each location in a city has its own unique needs. The Panera Bread that offers free WiFi in a college town may need to have a monitor walk the store and ask abusers of the free WiFi to leave while the Panera in a DC suburb may have mindful users that monitor themselves as they come in, grab lunch, surf, and leave. Timed access codes may work for some places, purchase-required policies may be needed in others, and some may be able to offer it 24/7 without incident.

Re:Everyone has an opinion... (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650978)

I don't think that anyone is saying that all wifi hotspot locations need to implement a standard usage policy. In the case of this particular coffee shop there is a problem with free wifi abuse with too many non-customer users coming in and taking up seat space that is intended for paying customers.

So yeah, in this particular case it may make sense to go to a pay-as-you-go wifi system or some other setup that turns these users into customers or turns them away. The same may not hold true in your particular area.

What we need is some common sense and some manners. Sadly both are in short supply.

Control excess WiFi access with bandwidth shaping (4, Interesting)

bit01 (644603) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650962)

Just set up bandwidth shaping so that each MAC address gradually starts slowing way down after an hour. Slow, not stopped, means they have a chance to finish their work and log off cleanly. They'll get the idea. I've seen this in other contexts; it works well and minimises arguments and overhead.

---

Copyright is a privilege, not a right.

Re:Control excess WiFi access with bandwidth shapi (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 9 years ago | (#12650997)

So then you just change your MAC address!

Why Why Why?!?!?! (1)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651011)

Why would you willingly goto a place with lots of people sitting around on laptops?

Those are the last people on the planet I want to be around to socialize with. That's my crowd for work or a confined to a LUG setting, and the upcoming WWDC of course :)

charge for wi-fi, give away the coffee... (2, Interesting)

voidstin (51561) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651013)

works for The Office [theofficeonline.com] . They even have enough to spring for aerons and bose noise cancelling headphones. and i don't have to be guilted/forced into buying a muffin every 20 minutes.

for extra geek cred, joss whedon wrote 'serenity' there.

About time, too (1)

OnanTheBarbarian (245959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12651039)

So I'm going to be a hypocrite on this one. I spent a lot of time writing my thesis on a laptop in a coffee house. But over time, I've started to really find the idea that you should turn up to a place that's (to some extent) meant to be a "third place" - that is, an escape from both home and work - and annex it as yet another place to do work. It's particularly annoying when people decide that not only are they going to camp out for 8 hours with their laptops, they're going to use the place as a mobile office, too. That is: make and receive lots of cell phone calls), give loud business presentations, have loud and uninteresting bull sessions.

I'm not an extremist on this. Obviously people are going to homework, write papers and do work stuff while out. But there's definitely a class of people out there who need to Get an Office!
If that's you, do us all a favor and stop pretending that your work is so damn interesting that we all want to hear about it, ok?

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