I love and frequent establishments with free wi-fi. I can transform just about any place into an office in no time flat. Starbucks, Barnes &Noble, or Panera may be the cliché paradigms for this, but there are other establishments with comfortable environments and available internet…and I am a sucker for eating breakfast out…especially anything involving biscuits or breakfast tacos. So for me there is something refreshing and therapeutic and productive about setting up at Chick-fil-a, or Taco Cabana, or Rudy’s BBQ. All of these places also have superb free-flowing Dr. Pepper on tap.
But I have recently become aware the certain establishments are “cracking down” on internet hobos… people who squat at places, consume free wi-fi, buy nothing, take up space, and never-ever leave. Restaurants have started metering their wi-fi, providing login codes on receipts, even covering outlets in order to limit your stay to your available battery life.
Free Wi-Fi is a privilege not a right. It is one of our great natural resources and we must preserve it not just for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children….and by then there should be something better that the internet. So, as a free wi-fi conservationist, I offer these 10 commandments to be obeyed by all who enter into habitats where it exists.
1. Buy Something…Anything – “Free” means for paying customers.
2. How long you stay is based on how much you spend – a $1.50 cup of refillable coffee doesn’t give you 15 hours of squatters rights at the largest table or most comfortable chair.
3. Don’t Build a Nest – You aren’t moving in, you are passing through. No blankets, pillows, pictures, flowers, or decorations of any sort. If feng shui is important to you, go back to your studio efficiency apartment.
4. Free Stuff is for paying customers – Butter, ketchup, sugar, cream, mints, straws, napkins are all made available for those who wish to use them on products they bought there. You aren’t allowed to subsist on free mints or add their cream to your coffee.
5. Don’t play games – That’s what the big screen TV and bean bag chair in your mom’s basement are for.
6. Don’t wear headphones – If you wanted to be separated from society or if the noise emanating from the play place or from adults conversing over a meal are too much for you, you shouldn’t have come to a public place.
7. Don’t watch movies – Nothing says “I plan on being here a while and consuming your bandwidth without buying anything substantial” like seeing Netflix open on a computer. This isn’t an airplane. If you are bored, leave.
8. Don’t stare condescendingly at actual paying customers there to consume what the establishment offers for sale. – People come to restaurants to eat, talk and spend time with others. If this bugs you, realize you are the minority.
9. If you have a waitress, tip per 30 minute increment– Your table is her paycheck. The longer you stay, the more money you cost her. If you are looking for a refillable cup of coffee, you better be willing to pay by the hour for the table.
10. At mealtimes, Eat or Leave – People offer internet because it attracts customers. People tolerate internet hobos because it brings people during the dead times of restaurant management. But when the lunch or dinner rush happens, it’s time to buy a meal or hit the bricks.