My Name Is Adam and I’m A SquatterThis San Francisco Chronicle article addresses the problem of coffee shop squatters and how they hurt business. This resonates a lot for me because, um, it's about me. Here in L.A., I can tell which coffee shops are cool with the squatting (Coffee Commissary, Broome Street General Store), which probably aren't (Proof, though I still squat there because I love it so much, so I buy as much as I can) and which are dealing with it in clever ways (Paper or Plastik which designates most of their tables as laptop-free). Craig points out that this problem's heightened by the fact that so many young people have jobs that allow them to work from anywhere and working from home can be a bit depressing. So many squatters, only so many seats. What's to be done?

  • JulieK

    Try coworking! Better than squatting for sure.

  • josie

    Paneras has a one hour wifi limit. That seems to work, but honestly, the longer you squat the more you buy due to the smells of coffee and baked goods.

  • http://www.chimpanzeeteaparty.com/ J.W. Hamner

    The issue for me, and I guess the coffee shops, is purely lunchtime. You want to go out and get a sandwich and eat with your friends only to find every table taken up by people who have been nursing a single latte for 5 hours with their luggage.

    Now, for places that are more like Starbucks and only serve caffeine and muffin type things I couldn’t care less who sits where for how long, but with a more expansive menu it’s annoying. Many bars won’t let you sit at a table and just order drinks, so it’s not a stretch to see coffee places do similar things.

    I’d be curious to hear which solutions “squatters” think are fair (if any).

  • Adrian Reynolds

    Dog Town Coffee on Main St here in Santa Monica, a hugely popular surfer themed coffee and sandwich spot that only opened a year ago, completely pulled the plug on wifi. I applauded the move as did many. The owner’s rationale is that he’s tired of seeing patrons enter, sans laptop, just wanting to eat, and walking out because there’s a small army of laptop users taking up 80% of the tables in a not very big venue.

    I am in favor of completely pulling the plug on wifi and not allowing people to bring computers inside and set up a workstation. Short of that, covering up electrical outlets or time sensitive wifi codes would be alright.

  • Nicole

    I must admit I was a little jealous of the “Squatters” at Intelligentsia when I was in LA this spring. All lined up with their Apple computers! The closest I get to that experience is in the winter and the wood stove is going and my three dogs all line up in row next to me. They don’t work very hard though!

  • helene

    The longer you sit there, on the public network, the bigger your chances of having your computer hacked there. Avoid squatting whenever possible.

  • http://www.paperplatesblog.com/ Amina Elahi

    This is such a huge challenge for me, since the coffeeshop environment is so nice, but the cost of buying something hour after hour can actually be prohibitive (depending on my current volume of freelance work). I wish I knew how much is “acceptable” to spend for a certain amount of time; it would help me plan better and probably encourage me to patronize coffee shops more often. Most of the time, it’s just easier to work from home, distracting as it may be.

  • Karen in Dallas

    What about libraries? I know…no goodies, coffee, people watching (well, not as much) but they are quiet and meant for working – studying. I feel bad for shop owners who have squatters. It’s not real good for their income, and a place mostly full with squatters is intimidating to some people so they don’t bother (spend their money) with those places.

  • kowskey

    Generally speaking, even at my favorite neighborhood coffee shop, I try to adhere to one drink = one hour. If I don’t want another drink, I leave.

  • Anonymous

    Good luck. Thanks to devices like the MacBook Air and various tablets – battery life is 8+ hours so covering up electrical outlets won’t work. And more and more people are using their 4G phones as access points so cutting WiFi won’t work either.

  • tunie

    Seems there’s a golden opportunity for cafe owners to integrate
    co-working into their business plan. Sell daily, weekly or monthly
    passes to anyone with a laptop, simple. Include food and beverage
    discounts based upon the size of the pass. Golden opportunity there.

    I prefer cafe’s to straight up co-working spaces because I like that not everyone is there to work – it’s less pressure which somehow allows me to be more productive. So a blend would be win-win for the owners.

  • Guest

    I like how the Starbucks’ remodels are creating a space for squatters. They have counter space and communal tables. I’ve done the squatting thing from time to time. But I always buy from the location (once saw a gal bring her entire lunch, drinks and snacks from home to a coffee shop – so wrong) and rarely spend too long. I also try to share a table when I know I’m going to be staying for longer than 30 mins.

  • http://successforsolopreneurs.com/ Katy

    I like how the new Starbucks’ remodels are creating a space for squatters. They have counter space and communal tables. I’ve done the squatting thing from time to time. But I always buy from the location (once saw a gal bring her entire lunch, drinks and snacks from home to a coffee shop – so wrong) and rarely spend too long. I also try to share a table when I know I’m going to be staying for longer than 30 mins.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    I was just about to mention libraries! I have an office job, but one that requires a good deal of travel and some frequent breaks between appointments. I try to get some work done in between appointments, and i find libraries to be far more productive work environments then coffee shops or cafes.

  • Claire p

    As a non squatter, I think the answer lies in two factors: 1) is it a place meant for eating or hanging out, and 2) is it busy. Having been to Proof and the Starbucks across the street from it, Starbucks is clearly meant for hanging out but Proof rides the line. i would never be put off from Proof because I couldn’t get a table. I do think squatting in Proof is fine in the non busy times, when no one would leave just because they couldn’t get a table.

  • John

    Here is someone from your home town, NYC, that noticed that a particular Turkish restaurant didn’t serve Turkish coffee because of squatters of a similar but different nature. It was old guys just hanging around killing time.

    http://www.deadprogrammer.com/turkish-coffee-syndrome

  • Marcella Lee

    I agree, libraries are great! I usually start at a coffee shop because the libraries don’t open as early as I want to work. Then I’ll migrate over to the library. Unfortunately, i do squat for 4-5 hours at the coffee shop before I make the switch.

    http://broadappetite.com/

  • Rosie

    A coffee shop/restaurant that I am guilty of squatting at pulls wifi during peak times. They actually seem to encourage squatting during off-hours, since they get a lot of business from people treating it as their office, but they make wifi unavailable for lunch and dinner to discourage people from staying too long. Or to encourage them to put aside their laptops and order lunch.

  • Karen in Dallas

    You start early! :-)

  • Drew Mabry

    Paper of Plastik Cafe(one of my fave spots) handles this well IMHO- half the tables are designated “no laptop” tables and they ban them outright on weekends. Best of both worlds. http://www.paperorplastikcafe.com/