Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi Small independent cafes are trying to stay afloat. Many of them offer free wireless Internet — but they don't want one Web surfer with a small coffee taking up table space all day long. So some are introducing stricter policies to get more turnover.
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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

Some Coffee Shops Crack Down On Free Wi-Fi

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

If you like sitting in cafes with wireless, enjoying a coffee and free Internet access for as long as you like, that may be getting harder. Small, independent cafes are introducing stricter policies to save money while times are tight. They're trying to get more turnover at their tables, as Cyrus Farivar reports from Oakland, California.

CYRUS FARIVAR: I'm a freelancer, which means I work at home a lot. When I don't want to work at home, this is where I go: Hudson Bay Cafe. It's a cozy coffeehouse just a few blocks from home. There's good coffee, a nice atmosphere and, of course, free Wi-Fi. On any given day, there's at least half a dozen people here who are tapping away on their laptops. When I first started coming, they gave me, or anybody, the code for the Wi-Fi network. It was valid for days at a time, but now that's changed.

Mr. SADRI MADJLESSI (Owner, Hudson Bay Cafe): We've got to turn the tables just like a restaurant does in order to be able to survive.

FARIVAR: Owner Sadri Madjlessi says too much Wi-Fi is bad for business.

Ms. MADJLESSI: We used to lose customers because they couldn't sit down because every single table is taken and every single outlet was taken. I mean, what are they going to do? I mean, they're not going to get a cup of coffee just because I'm here, right?

FARIVAR: Now the code changes much more frequently. You can't even get it unless you spend three bucks. But Madjlessi isn't the only café owner that's changing the way he runs his Wi-Fi. Last year at Naidre's Cafe and Cocoa Bar in New York, 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 their Wi-Fi on only during weekdays. But other cafe owners aren't sure if Wi-Fi is hurting their business all that much. This summer, Coffee Bar, in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood, put up a couple 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.

Mr. JASON PAUL (Owner, Coffee Bar): We can sit here and laugh about the guy who comes up and gets five refills of hot water, but at the end of the day, he's not going to make or break our business.

FARIVAR: Plus, he adds that most of his customers are good Wi-Fi citizens and know when they're abusing the network. For me, though, there's only one place that offers reliable Wi-Fi: my home office. At least I know I won't restrict my own use or kick myself out.

For NPR News, I'm Cyrus Farivar in my home office in Oakland.

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