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Attack of the Coffee Shop Owner: Digital Nomads Go from Desired to Despised

If you’re reading this article on your laptop in a coffee shop, then this might be a good idea to slowly raise your eyes and see if you’re getting a full-on death-stare from the owner (or other staff member who has taken the advice “think like an owner” very, very seriously).

If you are indeed on the receiving end of a hostile glare, then unfortunately you’ve joined the ranks of thousands of laptop users who, like you, have become persona non grata in the very same coffee shop (or shops) that once treasured your loyalty and treated you with respect. Now, however, you’re the enemy.

It’s like this: not too long ago, coffee shop owners realized that offering free wi-fi was simple and profitable marketing strategy. Not only did it pull in more customers, but just as importantly, it pulled in the right kinds of customers: laptop-toting people with money who didn’t make a mess or cause any trouble. It was win-win.

What happened? Well, fast forward a few years, and the same digital nomads (or laptop hobos, if you prefer) who helped coffee shop owners stay in business are now taking up too much precious real estate.  

Now, is this fair? It depends on who you ask. For coffee shop owners, it’s really not a question of fairness, but about money. Their overhead costs are going up (and up and up), and the days of letting digital nomads buy a coffee or two and linger for hours are over.

Yet for digital nomads themselves, this seems like a betrayal. True, they typically don’t buy a lot of stuff. But they don’t freeload either, and as noted above, there was a time when they were coveted and seen as great customers. They made the environment more professional and, in a very real sense, helped transform coffee shops from being old-school retail spaces into what they are today: sleek and stylish zones that sell all kinds of stuff, from gourmet coffees to freshly baked goods to gift items, and the list goes on.

And so, what does the future hold? Only time will tell. However, we do have some advice for both camps.

For coffee shop owners: yes, you need to protect your business. But don’t lose sight of the fact that digital nomads helped you survive — and ideally, thrive — and that they are still an important target audience worth holding onto. Losing them could spell financial trouble for your business. (Note though, that if you do find yourself in fiduciary dire straits, you can always contact a professional like the ones at the Law Office of Charles Huber.)

For digital nomads: this isn’t 2005, and you need to update your playbook. Nursing a coffee for three hours (or longer) isn’t going to cut it anymore. Spend a little more and make it clear that you’re part of the solution, not the problem.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I see that the seat in this coffee shop next to the sacred power outlet is available — cover me, I’m going for it!

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