Should Starbucks ban laptops?

Some coffee shop owners in New York are banning laptop users between certain hours of the day, as they sit there for too long and don't spend much. Should Starbucks take their lead?

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

In my local Starbucks, there's a bald man who wears the same pristine white Prince tennis shoes every day. He is always perched on a stool, his PC open in front of him, typing away with the middle finger of each hand. He has one of those Bluetooth thingies in his ear and he's often talking as he's typing. This somewhat peculiar gentleman is, indeed, running his business from Starbucks.

One might wonder whether he's just getting the slightly better end of this deal. I have never seen him eat there. Perhaps he orders one or two coffees. Which seems to indicate that he is renting business premises for around 7 dollars a day.

Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, some coffee shop owners have decided to fight back against the laptop squatting fraternity.

Oh, go on. Talk to each other. CC (e)Spry/Flickr

The post cites the example of Naidre's, a coffee shop in Park Slope, in Brooklyn, that limits the hours in which patrons can ogle their laptops without, well, eating. You cannot just be typing and sipping between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends.

A sign in Naidre's expresses the owner's emotions on the subject very clearly: "Dear customers, we are absolutely thrilled that you like us so much that you want to spend the day...but people gotta eat, and to eat they gotta sit."

Some coffee shop owners in New York even cover up electric outlets, so that the enterprising, the impoverished students, the merely very lonely or the merely very brazen cannot boot up, sip java, and take up valuable table space all day.

Which leads one to wonder just how painful it would be if Starbucks took their lead and banned laptops throughout its vast network.

There are a couple of coffee shops in San Francisco, for example--and I won't name them only because I don't want to encourage crowds--where there is silence because everyone is engrossed in their laptops. You can walk into these places and 30 or 40 pairs of eyes are illuminated by screen lighting. There is no conversation, not even recognition of other human life forms. Perhaps the most bizarre sight is a table for four, with four dedicated souls ignoring each other and having eyes only for their homework, gossip sites, or IM.

Is it possible that if Starbucks covered up its outlets, customers might find an outlet in each other? And, in finding an outlet with each other, might people stay longer, eat more, and drink more?

I think a scientific experiment is in order, don't you?