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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