Wi-Fi and Coffee Shops: Have Laptops “Killed” Coffee Shops?

November 06, 2010

On a recent Coffee Blog by Melissa Allison, Zachary Carlsen (Sprudge.com) lamented the use of laptops in coffee shops, stating they have “killed” the coffee shop. His feeling is that coffee shops are turning into libraries because so many customers sit by themselves lost in their own cyber-world and thus are not socializing with other customers. His own coffee environment is the San Francisco shop where he works and at which Wi-Fi is not allowed. Because of this, the atmosphere at his shop is “boisterous”.

Carlsen’s statements imply that he feels the purpose of coffee shops is to provide a place at which to enjoy coffee and meet or engage with other coffee drinkers. That’s great, but rather limited. Coffee shops are so much more than that and provide much more to the coffee world than a loud and energetic place to see and be seen and to engage in face-to-face interaction – in short, to party without alcohol.

Coffee consumers are a more diverse group than merely non-alcoholic pub-going gregarious folks. The Wi-Fi coffee shop is not “killed” if it attracts all aspects of the coffee culture. Indeed, it would be truly “killed” if it only accommodated the one crowd. Wi-Fi coffee shops serve the student who needs a certain kind of space in which to accomplish a class’s tasks; the businessperson seeking a meeting place for interviewing prospective employees, for meeting with suppliers, clients and so on, an endless list; the Meeting-Goers, who include a huge sub-group of coffee shop clientele, including Bible students and other church groups, project planners, singles groups, mothers’-night-out groups and on and on; and the Transitioners, those who are temporarily in movement from one home to another, one city to another, and don’t have a Wi-Fi connection from which to keep in touch with friends, conduct business, update personal data, and basically conduct all the personal affairs of one who might have job/personal responsibilities which continue during a move.

All of these consumer examples include the socializers as well as the loners, the Wi-Fi users in both laptop and ipod forms as well as the cyber-illiterate. Far from being an exhaustive list, this is just a sampling of the many-faceted coffee culture. A coffee shop is truly ALIVE if it accommodates ALL of its clientele, making the Wi-Fi Coffee Shop the most able to fulfill this mission.

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