Monday, May 01, 2017

Some coffee shops start to ditch the obligatory wifi

An interesting current trend, although still in its infancy, is the movement of some cafes and coffee shops not to offer wifi.
Almost every coffee shop, from Starbucks, McDonalds and Tim Hortons to the little independent roastery on the corner, now feels obliged to offer a wifi internet connection, which is a good part of the reason why coffee shops are now dominated by young people silently tapping away on their computers, completely divorced from the world around them, and usually sporting a cold (or often empty) cup of coffee as proof that they did in fact buy something at one point. They may hog a table for hours at a time, something that cafes seem surprisingly acquiescent about.
However, cafĂ© owners have also begun to notice that other people are often reticent to sit down at a shared table next to a laptop user, and may even leave coffee-less rather than do so. I often look in a cafe window and see the isolated islands of laptop-users, and think how soulless it looks.
So, some coffee shops in Vancouver and Toronto are bucking the trend and ditching the wifi for customers, in an attempt to return to an earlier time when cafes were social hubs full of conversation. It's a brave move, and some have seen their daily take reduced, at least in the short term, as a result. But I have to say it's nice to at least be given a choice of such an establishment.
Personally, I have never understood the attraction of using a computer in a coffee shop, with all the distractions and noise and obligation (as I see it, anyway) to buy expensive coffee at regular intervals. My university-age daughter assures me that she finds it conducive to working, and finds the background noise comforting, although every study I have ever read suggests that noise of any kind is distracting and detrimental to studying.
It will be interesting to see if the infant trend becomes a full-blown movement.

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