Amid the economic downturn, there are fewer places in New York to plug in computers. As idle workers fill coffee-shop tables — nursing a single cup, if that, and surfing the Web for hours — and as shop owners struggle to stay in business, a decade-old love affair between coffee shops and laptop-wielding customers is fading. In some places, customers just get cold looks, but in a growing number of small coffee shops, firm restrictions on laptop use have been imposed and electric outlets have been locked. The laptop backlash may predate the recession, but the recession clearly has accelerated it.
“You don’t want to discourage it, it’s a wonderful tradition,” says Naidre’s owner Janice Pullicino, 53 years old. A former partner in a computer-graphics business, Ms. Pullicino insists she loves technology and hates to limit its use. But when she realized that people with laptops were taking up seats and driving away the more lucrative lunch crowd, she put up the sign. Last fall, she covered up some of the outlets, describing that as a “cost-cutting measure” to save electricity.
So putting in free wifi in the first place was some kind of philanthropic gesture, is that the implication here? Are we saying they only just now realized that someone who uses a laptop tends to sit down while doing so, and that people who sit down tend to want to do so in seats? What happens if/when those idle workers someday get a new job and once again become desirable customers? I know if it’s me I’m not real keen on turning around and rewarding someone for making my job search harder. Unless the unemployed dudes are literally making the place standing room only I’m not seeing how they’re “driving off” the lunch crowds. Maybe I’m missing something (probably having to do with a small-town mentality, ie. finite supply of non-expendable customers) but it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face in the long run.