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Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi

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Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi

Digital Life

Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi

Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/113134753/113316932" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Hudson Bay Cafe is a cozy coffee house in Oakland, Calif. There's good coffee, a nice atmosphere and, of course, free Wi-Fi.

Many coffee shops are tightening rules for the free use of their Wi-Fi to help increase their sales. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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iStockphoto.com

Many coffee shops are tightening rules for the free use of their Wi-Fi to help increase their sales.

iStockphoto.com

On any given day, there are at least half a dozen people there, tapping away on their laptops. For a while anybody could get the code for the Wi-Fi network. It was valid for days at a time. But now that's changed.

"We've gotta turn the tables just like a restaurant does in order to be able to survive," says Hudson Bay Cafe owner Sadri Majlesi.

Majlesi says too much Wi-Fi is bad for business. "We used to lose customers because they couldn't sit down, because every single table was taken and every single outlet was taken," he says. "What are they going to do? They're not going to get a cup of coffee just because I'm here, right?"

Now the code changes much more frequently. You can't even get it unless you spend three bucks. But Majlesi isn't the only cafe owner who is changing the way he runs his Wi-Fi.

Last year, at Naidre's Cafe and Cocoa Bar in New York City, managers started covering up power outlets and limiting the use of Wi-Fi during lunch hours. In Seattle, where they set coffee trends for the whole country, one cafe has had its Wi-Fi on only on weekdays.

But other cafe owners aren't sure Wi-Fi is hurting their businesses all that much. This summer, Coffee Bar in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood put up a couple of signs asking laptop users to make room for customers who were spending more money.

But owner Jason Paul says ultimately it wasn't worth it.

"We can sit here and laugh about the guy who comes and gets five refills of hot water, but at the end of the day he's not going to make or break our business," said Paul.

Plus, he adds that most of his customers are good Wi-Fi citizens who know when they're abusing the network.

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