Your mocha was finished hours ago, yet you’re still hanging out in the coffee shop, pounding away on your laptop keyboard, updating Twitter, and finishing up a report. But are you overstaying your welcome? Are you breaking coffee shop etiquette? And most importantly, how long is too long to sit at the coffee house & surf the web?
With so many people working from home these days, coffee shops have become popular hangouts to get out of the house for a bit. It’s like a library without the pesky food and noise restrictions. Some people take advantage of this and turn into WiFi freeloaders – they squat a prime seat at their nearby coffee house, order one small drink, and stay all day long. The next thing you know, your favorite coffee shop shuts off the WiFi (or starts charging for it) and puts a “no loitering” sign up. In the words of Lisa Simpson, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”
Besides coffee, the foundational idea behind coffee houses is loitering, lounging, and laughing – they want you to stay. But there are a few unwritten coffee shop etiquette rules of which you should be aware. If you’re bringing your laptop to the coffee shop, here’s a coffee shop etiquette lesson on how to avoid getting kicked out.
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #1: Order a drink or a bakery item every 60-80 minutes: To avoid getting kicked out of the coffee shop, this is the most important coffee shop etiquette rule for you, the loitering laptop user, to heed. Coffee shops have an unspoken, social contract that you should continue buying drinks or treats for every 1- 1.5 hours that you are there. Turnover is important to small food service businesses like coffee shops and if too many patrons are squatting seats without spending more cash, they’re costing the business money. Even if you don’t want another cup of coffee, get one anyway. Many coffee shops also sell bottled water, juice, and sweet treats from the bakery. If you’re staying for several hours, trips to the cash register every 60-80 minutes should suffice. As long as you keep ordering from the barista, the coffee shop manager will probably not kick you out, no matter how long you are there Instead, he’ll look forward to your presence!
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #2: Tip at the coffee shop! It’s simple – if you leave good tips every time you order something from the coffee shop, the baristas will love you!
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #3: Don’t sneak in outside food! Coffee shops like Caribou Coffee and Starbucks aren’t movie theaters; they don’t have “No outside food or drink” signs posted. But they are in the food service business and want to make money off of their goodies. If you’re bringing in a container of leftover pasta salad and a handful of Chips Ahoy inside, the coffee shop loses money!
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #4: Offer to share your table: You’ve spread out your paperwork all over a table meant for 6 customers. Your laptop and cell phone charger are plugged in. You’ve even set up your printer. It’s like it’s a mobile office! If the coffee shop isn’t busy, this usually isn’t an issue. If they get busy and your work isn’t done, organize your things into a small pile near your seat, and offer up the empty seats at your table to other customers.
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #5: Think about leaving the coffee shop: The coffee shop’s getting very busy, and pretty soon, there are no open chairs! You’ve already been there for 4 hours, and even though you’ve been following the 1-drink-per-hour rule, you might want to consider giving up your seat for someone else. Let someone else enjoy the atmosphere! Meanwhile, you can hop in your car and go home, or find another coffee shop to set up your “office.”
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #6: Don’t download movies or other large files: If the coffee shop manager discovers you’re downloading a True Blood episode, you will get kicked out pretty quickly. Downloading movies or other large files from a coffee shop’s WiFi compromises the resources of everyone else in the coffee shop, slowing down the WiFi to a crawl for other users. It can even affect the credit card processing times at the coffee shop’s registers. Use common sense when using a coffee shop’s WiFi – stick to Internet surfing, not downloading a Jennifer Aniston flick.
Coffee Shop Etiquette Tip #7: Check for WiFi limits: Some coffee shops, especially those with very limited seating, have limits on how long a customer can use the WiFi. With their drink purchase, customers are given a WiFi access key with a time limit. When their time runs out, they either need to purchase another item or get out of the coffee shop. Other coffee shops with WiFi limitations aren’t so strict – they simply have a sign asking customers to limit their usage. If this is the case, please be courteous and follow the rules. It’s likely that the coffee shop employee won’t say anything, as most are not paid enough to play bouncer and toss people out.
In conclusion, as long as you are frequently ordering food or drinks from the coffee shop, you can probably stay all day long if you wanted. But remember, it’s a coffee shop, not a hotel, so please remember to follow basic coffee shop etiquette. By following these etiquette tips, you will be welcomed back with loving arms at your local coffee house.