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August 05, 2011

NYC Starbucks Taking Steps to Block WiFi 'Loiterers'

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Admit it. At least once, you’ve been guilty of WiFi (News - Alert) “loitering.”

This is when you dash into a coffee shop, bookstore or other retail location that has free WiFi, plug your laptop into a wall outlet, buy the smallest beverage possible and remain there for four hours, foiling the hopes of other customers hoping to plug in, or just customers who hope to find a spot to sit down and drink their coffee.

Starbucks wants to get rid of you. Or...at least...discourage you from remaining for so long.

The Seattle-based coffee super-chain is taking steps in its New York City restaurants to start blocking electrical outlets to discourage laptop users from hogging space, and to free up seats for other customers, reported Reuters (News - Alert).

“Customers are asking [for it] .... They just purchased a latte and a pastry and there is nowhere to sit down in some of these really high-volume stores,” said Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz in response to the new policy.

That’s because the WiFi hogs have turned the cafe tables into their own personal office war rooms or university study halls.

It’s not a company-wide policy, said the spokesman, but the company is supporting the stores that have expressed interest in doing this. So far the practice is only happening in locations in New York City, which seems to have the highest density of WiFi loiterers.

“If this is what the store needs to do to support the business, then they’re allowed to make the decision to do that,” said Hilowitz. “It really is all about the balance.”

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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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