« OPEN THREAD conversation-starter: "11 Things Starbucks Does Better Than Almost Any Competitor" (B.S.?...or true?) | Main | Starbucks confirms that it's covering power outlets at some stores »

August 03, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jeff Tom

The question is not "can" they - they abosolutely have the right to do this. Many McDonald's have signs that indicate a 30-45 minute time limit for JUST BEING IN THEIR STORE.

Now, from a PR/customer service point, the question of "should" is very tricky. Starbucks has to balance keeping customers happy but also keeping as many customers happy at a time as possible. People who are camping/parking prevent others from enjoying the same benefits. Even worse than the power issue are the network hogs, who are in SB downloading audio/video like crazy, taking up all the bandwidth so everyone else cannot use the Internet.

In the end it SHOULD be up to local management to make the determination. If a customer is consistently/constantly preventing other customers from enjoying SB's service, then they have a right to ask them to leave/kick them out/discourage their actions.

Back to the McDonald's example, some city jurisdication have fire codes that specify that people are not allowed to loiter (even if paying customers) longer than XX time. This is rarely enforced, but it is law....


Panera has an agreement before you use their internet and it SHUTS OFF automatically during their buiest hours and you are SOL.

We need the same at the Bux. I have seen man y people conducting their business from the cafe as well as interviews. Acting as if it is thyeir office! Even going as far as turning the AC down, like it's their home office, and asking us to turn down the music as they are trying to work/conduct an interview.


I work at a Starbucks in Canada, and we've been getting more and more customer complaints about there being no where to sit, people on their laptops. We're not too far from a university (that has a massive 24hr library, and Sbux) and we get a lot of students in. I think Starbucks should go back to the 2hr limit (though there were ways around that too). You can't have your cake and eat it too!


I don't know if Starbucks in Houston are doing this but my sister works at B&N and they are deliberately covering the outlets to discourage usage hogs.


Wall to wall laptops in the Starbucks in Florida beach towns. Why are these twenty something's in town to visit their grandparents pounding on a laptop and not on the beach or a golf course?


I think this really is a local management issue. For example, the two Starbucks in my parents' own are almost never crowded, and so a few folks sitting around on their laptops for hours on end is never an issue since there's nearly always space for customers. However, in college towns and larger cities, it may make sense to restore some limits. I think a Panera-like limitation would make the most sense in these locations. Part of what makes Starbucks so great is the ability to go, get away from the office or your home for a few hours and hammer out some work that you just need a relaxing atmosphere to complete. (Or, at least that's how I've always relied upon Starbucks, and I like it that way)

That Guy

A little off topic, but the network should be better managed, they should limit bandwidth to all users to just enough for normal web browsing. I see customers playing massive multi-player games at times...

Adam Richards

When you're all finished whining, perhaps you should take into account that I probably spend $1,500/year in Starbucks, don't get free refills because I buy the pricey stuff, rarely stay more than a couple hours and always go elsewhere if the place is too full. Killing my internet and electrical access will kill my loyalty to the chain. Yes, a few people abuse the system, but that's no reason to punish a loyal regular spender like me. As for people who spend "9 hours," how would you know, unless you spend even longer there? Only staff would know. There are technical ways to prevent bandwidth hogging; lots of tiny cafes can afford it, I would assume billionaires can too. And as for the electrical bill? Give me a break! I'd be a lot more concerned if it was more than a fraction of a percent of what it costs to operate a latte dispenser or run neon signs all night long. Some people will complain about anything.

Time To GO!

@Adam...some people WILL complain about anything. Including you. This isn't a place for you to do whatever you want. Get your coffee. Drink it. Leave.


The Sbux in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, an upsclae, wealthy, white nabe, never has an empty seat when I go in on my mornings off.

The one on 23rd St., mentioned above, didn't seem to have a lot of laptoppers which surprised me when I met a friend there.

Most laptop users are freelancers, and feel working at home is too isolated.


Mike on Flickr: mixing StarBucks and Hopper's Nighthawks is genius.

Michael Thompkins

Wait until Jon Stewart or the Standup Comedians get
a hold of this:
At Starbucks breastfeeding is not OK and using outlets
too long is not OK but.....
Guns are just fine!!!

J Dog

I live in a college town and have always felt they should have a one drink / hour policy. There is never anywhere to sit and they are losing business.

But hey, to each their own


The answer is Express seating. Take a portion the space and make it express, 30 minutes or less. Let the others fight for whats left. At the end of the day starbucks is a business. Almost daily I walk into a store in Manhattan and walk out. No seats. i go elsewhere. I have sat there for an hour sometimes, and I do see others who treat it like their office.

%0 seats, 25 are express during peak hours, which in NY is 8 -6 give or take. i can live with that.

Erin Ford

I live in NYC and I'm not one who stays in a Starbucks all day, but this action of covering outlets (which I do think is passive aggressive) has caused Starbucks to lose my business forever. They generally started to suck regardless, but I found this new practice of theirs particularly lame. Good-bye Starbucks.


Look, if you're in a small crowded Starbucks, people should use common sense. That said, I will stop using Starbucks if they close off outlets. Period. I am a freelancer and I have to get out of the house once or twice a week. In my neighborhood I have five local options and a Starbucks, which is the closest. But if they lock the outlets no-brainer. I'm gone.

Coffee Soldier

Why not just charge your laptop at home before going out? Mine lasts about 4 hours so if I sat at Starbucks for the 4 hours with no plug..no big deal if I can't be near an outlet!


I'm not in NYC. Having said that, we do not block outlets. We do have a problem with people hogging tables for HOURS! Some never even buy one drink! just saying...


One day recently, when the heat index was about 115, I spent an entire day walking around Manhattan. Every Starbucks I went into to get a cool tea and sit for *a few minutes* (no laptop, just wanted a place where my friend and I could chat for maybe 20 minutes in some a/c with a nice seat and table) were filled to the brim with people on laptops. 30 tables with one person each and their laptops. After numerous Sbux stops we finally picked one that was SOMEWHAT less crowded, got our drinks and joined a queue of people waiting for a spot to sit. It was 115 degrees outside!!! Otherwise we would have gone to a park or something. But after 40 minutes, we had finished two rounds of cold brewed drinks and expensive artesian water with no seating in sight. :(

I don't think they should *lock* the outlets, I just think they ought to have limits on people camping out there. And people camping out there: man, share a couple seats or something! Why can't you and another single laptop user play your online games at the same table?!

Can't please everyone

You folks are ridiculous, where in your life did you become so entitled that you believe an international corporation should give you every amenity you request merely because you make any purchase. Some of you are saying that Starbucks has completely turned you off their business because they are reducing the likelihood that the "few" will inconvenience many. Keep in mind, covering outlets is not a company wide or even regionally accepted practice. In certain extreme circumstances, where management have exhausted other avenues of resolution, stores have covered their outlets because people do abuse the "welcoming" nature of Starbucks. These decisions have been made very carefully to benefit people who want to be able to walk into a store and have a place to sit down, not to alienate laptop users.

In parts of NYC, you can find a Starbucks on every other corner, but rest assured there is a contingent group that set up shop charging their phones, computer, secondary devices and try to take every free thing they can. Those are the same people that will make as big a complaint as possible if any of those free items becomes unavailable, regardless of the reason (even if it is because of other customers). The "free" things I speak of range from demanding venti cups of iced water, to proper temperature or music ranges, to bathrooms, and free electricity. However, we are still a business, some one has to pay for all the free things you believe you are entitled to.

Before you attempt to debate my position, I implore you to think of a time you became infuriated because one of these entitlements has not been available. I assume you took out your anger on the partners/ store without ever considering the other side of the argument. We live in a world where you get what you pay for, and one where a dollar is not what it use to be. Even though we may be a multibillion dollar company, individual situations do occur (often as it were), and pleasing millions of customers a day will not always mean that YOU will get exactly what you want. We genuinely try to find a middle ground, a way to satisfy as many as possible, but if out attempts are not enough to fulfill your needs, then by all means do not come back- one less headache for me, and I'm certain that the company will survive without you.


The thinking is that a battery lasts a couple hours at least, so that should be long enough. Well, half the time my battery is quite low for whatever reason. And the other half of the time I'm not sure whether the battery is fully charged or almost empty. Traveling, when I see Starbucks, I want to know I can have access to electricity if I should need it.

Otherwise, I'm more likely to try my luck with an independent shop. Or might as well just go to McDonalds. A brand isn't a logo, it's fulfilling expectations about a consistent level of service.

Can't please everyone

And for the record, I am an 8 year partner, having worked at various levels of management around almost every neighborhood in Manhattan. I am the "reader" that made the original comments above because it is these type of customers that cause these type of issues, and these are the same customers that will complain to the world when these issues come up. I have also neglected to mention the endless list of frontline issues that these "entitled" customers cause everyday, as well as the frustration that comes from "just saying yes" or rewarding complainers with free drinks, furthering their entitlement.


I completely support Starbucks' right to do this. If you want to go sit somewhere for free and do your work, go to the library. Starbucks is there to make money, period. Libraries struggle when they offer for free what people are trying to steal at restaurants, etc.


I manage a B&N cafe and we have about 16 tables and a bar with stools which seats about 45 people total. Our cafe is always full of friendly people actually talking with each other, reading books, and enjoying a latte and maybe a slice of cheesecake.

How is this possible you ask? We have 1 (one) outlet... period.

Several times a week I get approached by a frantic 20 something-year-old asking about additional outlets, clutching their open laptop like a dying baby seal. "Sorry" I say, "there are other outlets in the bookstore."


Concerned Store Manager

For all you loyal to Starbucks, lets be real. I am a Store Manager in the heart of Manhatten, and lets face it, people all over this city think it is ok to walk into a Starbucks, and charge anything and everything electronic they own. Most of those people are paying customers, but what about the ones that aren't paying? We can't afford to have people in the cafe's monitoring every single person who comes in and abuses what we have to offer. So next time you get angry at the fact that we are covering up outlets, consider the death threats, crazy homeless people, and all the other annoyances we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Simple remedy, charge your phones & laptops before you leave home!

And for gods sake, it's just coffee so chill out. (try some decaf)

Coffee Soldier

"Traveling, when I see Starbucks, I want to know I can have access to electricity if I should need it."

Interesting...I see a Starbucks and I think..oh good I can get a cup of coffee.

I have never charged anything at a public place aside from my college library. I guess I just plan accordingly for my day and charge my items at night before I leave home.


Businesses of ANY KIND ARE N O T OPEN

GROW UP AMERICA!!!!!! When you go to a business,in this case,Starbucks.....Go in,get your drink,talk for 1/2 hour,and LEAVE.STARBUCKS OWES YOU N O T H I N G MORE.Need to work on your computer?Do it in 1/2 hr.and LEAVE.There are other people in the world besides YOU!!!!!!!!!

People Are STUPID

"I am a Store Manager in the heart of Manhatten,"

Really? In ManhattEn? What are you? Six?


Complaining that every Starbucks doesn't allow unlimited, unrestricted use of their power outlets is kind of like complaining about an all you can eat buffet that doesn't provide a vomitorium.

"But I'm full? How am I supposed to eat more? Old Country Buffet is restricting my rights by not providing a place for me to throw up and make more room for their awful food!"

We're a coffee shop, people. Come in for some coffee (or whatever), and hang out as long as you want, I don't care. But don't come crying to me if your laptop dies. That's your problem.

Karl Dahlquist

Wow, the sense of entitlement these days.

I would charge for Venti waters and I would charge to use the bathrooms too. Starbucks really has turned into Dilbert-ville these days. Two weeks ago I watched a guy plug in a laser printer, some cat 5 cables to his laptop and print three reams of paper off. (1500 pages) It sounded like a Kinkos for half an hour. (or at least, what a Kinkos used to sound like!)

I have a feeling the people needing the outlets need new batteries for their laptops, and are too cheap to replace them.


We get pretty full with laptop people. no-seats-left full often enough. but i'd rather have a person MMO-ing on a laptop, popping up for a coffee refill every 30 mins, than have that seat filled with a mom group or youth group meeting. If someone parks their car, enters a starbucks, and finds the seats full, they are still going to spend money to buy their drink. if you want a seat, get here first, that's how life works.
I think we should openly post a one seat per customer rule. sounds funny I know, but I have seen the starbucks-cubical people first hand. desktop computer, printer, file cabinet. I don't know how thy even get it into the store... holding their workday in the store. These people do need to be handled appropriately. The take over at least two tables at a time, and make everyone around them uncomfortable. (http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/gizmodo/2009/02/starbuckswtmk.jpg )

Ricardo McJiggis

I can fix the outlet problems: Convert them to 220 volts during rush hours. It can be done easily. This sense of entitlement from these pencil neck jerks has gone too far.


"and asking us to turn down the music as they are trying to work/conduct an interview."

I did not ever use the just say yes rule for this for anyone. Especially when music was a big part of the company.

Normally the person complaining was sitting directly under a speaker and was unwilling to move, and I would tell them that's the price of admission for sitting in the comfy chairs, because if I turned down the music, the other people couldn't hear it.

I don't mind people meeting someone for an interview or something, but that ALL day affair is rude. Rent a hotel space, rent a meeting room, use your own office... it was irritating enough when our own DM's used to use our cafes as an office for meetings and stuff.

Edward Brennan

The question is whether they will gain or lose business by limiting access to power. I can think of a few times I have not chosen to buy something from a Starbucks because of lack of seating. It could be that even if they lose the business of the Laptop Hobos, they will make it up elsewhere.

Coffee Soldier

If you wanted to be really mean you could just shut off the fuse to the outlets...most fuse boxes are labeled. I noticed one in my fuse box the other day that said wall outlets...imagine the fiasco no free power!!!!


Starbucks is in business to make money. period. Not to provide office space. To create a "real" third place experience, why not ban all electronic devices....how nice would that be!!!!


Go back to charging for access to the net. I spend a couple of hours a day at our local Starbucks in West Hollywood, CA. I bring my own power, my own internet (4G) and spend $2,500 per year on the average, probably more by the end of this year. Every once in a while I will log on to the store's internet service just to do a speed test. My tests consistently show speeds slower than the government's legal definition of "dial-up." What a piece of junk. Slow the net down even slower than it is AND start charging. The free-loader seat-warmers will go back to whence they came. By the way, what's with all the dogs allowed in this store. I love it when little Fido sneezes on the creamers or better yet licks the Clover machine (it's happened more than once when little FiFi has been allowed to romp on the counter). I hear that two regular customers are designing a website devoted to the dogs and their owners that come into this West Hollywood, CA store. There will be lots of pictures from what I'm hearing. Keep in mind Starbucks people.... EVERYONE has a camera (still & video) these days. Get rid of the dogs and the FREE internet and the problem will be well on its way to being solved. Oh yes, once-and-for-all fix the plumbing one of these days.


"By the way, what's with all the dogs allowed in this store. I love it when little Fido sneezes on the creamers or better yet licks the Clover machine (it's happened more than once when little FiFi has been allowed to romp on the counter). "

I find this hard to believe.

James Connolly

I have no real dog in this fight one way or the other, but Karl Dahlquist's story made me bust a seam laughing.


Girl, then you've never been to WeHo...those queens LOVE their dogs.


If this forces the people who bring the network to its knees by streaming Netflix or Pandora or whatever all damn day, I'm all for this.

Mike Pollock

Ricardo, that wouldn't be a deterrent, since most modern phones and laptops are dual voltage. The charger wouldn't even flinch.


so DanB:
would you like to make a list of "appropriate" uses for one's own personal property that validate usage of sbx internet? "work email only" your policy of choice? who effing cares? do you even have an idea of how LITTLE bandwidth it actually uses to stream pandora (since that was your example). next to nothing. far less than one google image hit per hour.

are not allowed in starbucks. by policy, by health code, and expectedly, by your manager. should he/she not uphold this, i would jump a level or call health dept. /sigh.. if only we could carry the same rule for children..


Dogs aren't allowed, but is it worth the argument. I almost got fired because a customer complained because i told him nicely 3 times the dog isn't allowed in the store. the fourth time wasn't nice...I told him if he wants the law changed, to call the health department.


The Starbucks in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, recent remodeled so that almost all of the blogger-friendly tables were removed, replaced by easy chairs and coffee tables. An obvious attempt to get rid of the squatters (a group of which I was occasionally a member).


Starbuck's coffee is SO bad, my only guess someone would actually be there is for the "work" space and free WiFi. If outlets are blocked and WiFi gone, people would actually look for good coffee to drink.


@harlon that's just paranoid.


If you don't want people to abuse your resources, don't give them the opportunity to do so.


LOL mara. Try and troll, but our numbers posted every quarter say otherwise. Keep going on with your miserable life, and sbux will keep filling its cafe every day. I'm glad you don't like our coffee, because I don't like stuck up idiots in my store.


This is the problem with Starbucks in general. Most Starbuck's customers fit into one of two catagories. You have the cheap bastards that spend $1.85 and hog a table and the internet for 6 hours or you have the privlaged customer that is disgusted with the internet hogs or homeless people using Starbucks as their home or office. I can't stand either customer. What we have is a lack of respect. In the end it is Starbuck's fault because they provided something for free and when you give anything away people are like vultures and will take advantage instead of being grateful.

Take Craigslist for example. Try posting something for free on that site. It can be just junk. It doesn't matter. The kind of people that try to get everything for free are the same people that would have no qualms stealing from you. I know. My father is one of those cheap bastards. He is really well off yet he still tries to low-ball everyone and has even resorted to stealing from Home Depot. It makes me sick.

But on the other hand I can't stand the people that walk into Starbucks like their %$%& don't stink. This is why I stay away. Starbucks can't win here. But it is a business and if I owned a coffee shop I would set limits.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Site

Ads (2)