Culture & Entertainment

Do we need laptop-free cafes?

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Do we need laptop-free cafes?

This past weekend, I read an NPR article featuring the August First Bakery & Cafe in Burlington, Vermont, which enforces a laptop-free policy. Patrons are invited to sit in the cafe, but they're encouraged not to use their wireless devices. According to the article, the owners initially offered free Wi-Fi to paying customers, but they soon noticed that they would stay all day, and new customers--upon noticing no free space--would come in, glance around and leave. "We saw a lot of customers come in, look for a table, not be able to find one and leave," cafe owner Jodi Whalen told NPR. "It was money flowing out the door for us." In addition, people who work out of cafes usually end up spending the entire day and don't pay for that much food. Whalen explained how sales have actually increased since the cafe enforced its laptop (screen)-free rule, noting that free table-space is key when keeping customers inside the cafe. People come in, order what they want, stay if they have to and go on their merry way, freeing up space for more customers. laptopCafe This article got me thinking: We've come full circle, haven't we? I still remember the time when having a laptop was a novelty. Staring at a screen in a public space was a novelty. Wi-Fi was a huge perk when it came to visiting cafes (and in many ways it still is). But now we spend so much time staring at these screens, people actually have to enforce rules to get us to take a break -- something I'm completely okay with! Whalen noted something in her chat with NPR that really struck me: "To walk into a place and see people looking at their screens with a blank stare, it takes away just kind of the community aspect of it — of you being in a place with other people," she said. It's so true! We go to cafes to feel like we're part of a community. Many of my writer friends say they prefer working in cafes because working at home, alone, is distracting. But what's the point of being part of a community when you're isolating yourself anyway? Think about it. It makes sense, doesn't it? So the next time you find yourself lugging your laptop to a cafe, take a second to really evaluate your decision. Wouldn't you rather enjoy a break from your work while sipping on your hybrid latte, anyway? Or here's a better idea: Practice looking up, stare straight into the world, smile, and perhaps, befriend a stranger while you're at it. Image courtesy of TonyHall/FlickrCC
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Do we need laptop-free cafes?

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