City Desk

Confessions of a Wi-Fi Loafer – A guy Walks into a Coffee Shop …

Cappuccino photo by Jazzbobrown, Creative Commons Attribution License

Cappuccino photo by Jazzbobrown, Creative Commons Attribution License

Today is the one-month anniversary of Mi Little Bistro, a Wi-Fi establishment that has livened up a long-vacant storefront on Cedar Street NW, a few doors away from the Takoma Metro station.

It opened about the same time The Culture Shop next door transformed into the Cedar Crossing Tavern & Wine Bar amid neighborhood fanfare and Listserv accolades. The bistro’s arrival was a much different, unheralded matter. So, with four-weeks gone, it is still struggling to fill its tables with customers for coffee and pastries, soup and sandwiches, Peruvian chicken and other light fare served from breakfast through dinnertime. Times are hard. The nearby Savory Café, a longtime Takoma Park, Md., institution, closed last month and so has another café across the street from the Metro stop.

Despite the rough start, the place is slowly building a following, particularly among those in search of wireless fidelity. While most of these cyber squatters fall into the category of good (or at least paying) customers, there was this one guy recently who apparently broke the unspoken rule governing the café/patron relationship and crossed the line separating the digital nomad from the Wi-Fi loafer.

“He walked in, took off his backpack, pulled out a laptop and a pack with his lunch and started eating,” says Lady Rodriguez, who owns the new café with her husband Ramón and son Edwin.

“We thought it was very rude,” she says.

The family was so taken aback that they are still not sure what they should have done, Mrs. Rodriguez says.

“We are so new at this, we didn’t know how to handle this. How would you handle that?”

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  • dcrat

    I think they should have told him to leave and then when he said something like "okay, I'll buy a cup of coffee" they should reply "no, we just want you to leave." Thus making it clear that such rudeness will not be tolerated.

  • J

    I agree that they should have asked the individual to leave if they had a "no outside food allowed" sign up.

    Now if they don't then I would suggest that they do since this is their primary business. Or posting that they require a beverage to be purchased when outside food is brought in.

    This should cut down on uncouth loafers.

  • Jim

    One problem, ok maybe two...

    1. Unreliable hours - some mornings going to work on metro at 7:45 the place is dark. Ditto on the way home.

    2. The items for sale in the "store" section appear to not have had any thought put into why they are for sale. Seriously, bookbags and cheap gift bags/bows? Odd to say the least... take out all that crap and expand seating.

  • Takoma

    Jim, those are valid points, but what about the question at hand: How should they get rid of the Wi-Fi freeloader? Any suggestions? Or perhaps YOU ARE the freeloader!!

  • Krusty

    Wow. Talk about the DC bubble, out here the rude one just walk in and take a dump on themselves and dare anyone to make a stink about it. We have weapons permits easily issued, so a pistol whipping usually does the trick. Unless it's an ACORN establishment and the trick only involves $6.

  • Stein

    In my coffee house I have found that you have nothing to loose by talking to people in a polite manner to help them understand. This takes care of 80 % of the problems. If the guest doesn't respond to the conversation and still refuses to spend money then ask them to make a purchase or to leave. If they still refuse to leave it is well within your rights to call a police officer and have them removed. By every definition they are loitering. I know this seems harsh but you will find that your true guest will applaud your willingness to confront and solve the problem. The problem guest will not return, and you have opened up the table for someone who is going to spend money. There is no down side. The first step of marketing is to determine who you want your customer to be. Being as the freeloader is probably not on the list of who you want as your customer then you really haven't lost a customer or dammaged your business in any way. The vast majority of people will be on your side as the small businessman. Take care of the good people and the good people will take care of you! Hang in there it is worth it!

  • Jim

    HA! Not the freeloader, but nice dig. I think they should just walk up to him and politely say no outside food or drink allowed and no extended surfing without making a purchase.

  • pam

    Some coffee shops provide a password for the wifi service that's provided on the receipt after you purchase something. That way people can't freeload without coming to the counter to buy something. The password changes daily to every few days, that should cut down 99% of freeloading.