Free Wi-fi

The secret is outI’m not sure how I feel about the concept of free wi-fi in coffee shops and bars – sure, we all like “free”, and I’m always careful to order refills and tip the baristas copiously. But, it can be impossible to get a table, because of wi-fi squatters.

This afternoon, I’m sitting at Fall Cafe in our new neighborhood, and looking around at the other tables – each with a laptop – and I see a lot of empty cups – these people have been sitting here for hours. As you can see from the new signage in the window (left), this cafe believes that free wi-fi brings in customers. But I wonder if some people won’t become frustrated with the squatters, and go elsewhere for their coffee?

In our old neighborhood, the 1369 Coffee Shop on Mass Ave was one of those essential hubs of activity in Central Square. They used to offer free wi-fi, but have since moved to a two-tiered pricing model – $3.95 /hr, or $7.95 for the day – in order to encourage turnover. It seems like a sensible move, but I bet that nobody selected the 1 hr option. Since two 1 hr chunks cost more than the daily pass, I’m sure that almost everyone goes with the latter, and ends up squatting for much longer that they would if each hour were more reasonably priced. Hence, you still can’t get a table at 1369 most of the time. (I should add that there is a monthly pass too, which also adds to the squatting.)

Ahh, economics of the neighborhood coffee shop… of course, I just drank 1/2 of my Iced Coffee, typing this thing up. I probably should move on, and give this table to someone else.

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