More on WiFi and Cafes Not Being Such a Good Mix

I recently wrote here on why I thought WiFi and Cafes might not exactly be a good mix for business, with the possibility of abuse from users who tend to overextend their stay while surfing over the cafe’s WiFi network. Well, right now, I just realized I’d been on the receiving end of such a problem.

Having some temporary connection problems at home, I decided to hop over to a local coffee joint that carries my wireless network’s hotspot (sadly, unlike cellular networks, WiFi networks do not have roaming, and even though my subscription is supposedly for the largest WiFi network in my city, there are other establishments that stubbornly choose to go for other, smaller, but still pay-per-use, networks). The cafe’s ground floor was quite the intimate affair–pretty small, with only a five or so tables, and all were already occupied, mostly with laptop-using business types and students–the larger area was supposedly on the second floor. I thought I’d have enough space upstairs to relax, do some thinking, and then, well, work (ah, the irony). Having bought my favorite Cafe Americano, I headed over upstairs, but was in for quite a disappointment. The upper floor was also full of laptop users, who probably think it’s a great idea to stick around for five hours nursing their single cups of cheap coffee.

There was one area that was unoccupied, and that was the smoking area, enclosed from the rest of the establishment in its own, comfortable, coccooned spot upstairs–emphasis is on enclosed here.

And guess what? I don’t smoke. I can’t stand cigarette smoke–the very smell would make my nose twitch and my windpipe contract to the point that I would usually end up sneezing myself to death unless I get a breath of fresh air in a matter of minutes.

Okay, I should be dead by now. But being online just keeps the adrenaline rushing through my veins that I managed to survive, thinking I could wait it off until someone from the adjoining (smoke-free) room would decide to leave sooner or later. So I went on with my reading and blogging. Of course I was wrong about the sooner part. I had to endure the discomfort until an hour later, when–finally–the laptop occupying the table near the stairwell decided he’s had enough for the day, and left taking its master along.

So what have I learned from all this? I guess this just affirms my theory that in some instances, you could indeed assume the worst from people (which was pointed out in a comment posted here)–at least in some instances. Of course, it’s probably unfair to put people at fault for enjoying the facilities. Hey, I’m also here to do the same. What I’m pointing out is that there’s probably a better alternative for establishments attracting business this way–things that could discourage abuse.

For one, cafes could consider granting users free WiFi access with purchase of food or beverages, and this could be limited to a certain number of hours upon first use. At least this does two things: one, encourage patronage, and second, discourage overstaying. There are also a handful of other options, which would help the establishmets earn revenues along the way, say, by putting up contextual or location-based advertisements. This might not exactly deter abuse–but at least, the establishments could monetize the hotspot, or at least defray the costs of operation (or low table turnover).

Right now, I feel it’s time for me to go–I’ve been one of those overstaying laptop-toting patrons, and I’ve been at it for more than two hours now. Next time, I’ll make sure to come early so I can beat the WiFi rush hour. Somehow, I don’t think I I’ll be visiting this place again anytime soon.

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