Off the lunch menu: wi-fi

Uncommon Grounds

The AOA uptown office Uncommon Grounds in Albany

The Uncommon Grounds in Albany is now turning off its wi-fi at lunch time because of table hogging by laptop users. The Saratoga location is not affected by the policy change.

This isn't really a surprise. Tables at UG are often hard to find during lunch hours. And the coffee/bagel place had tried signs asking people to be considerate. But we've seen quite a few people with laptops set up -- by themselves -- at a four-top table during the lunch rush. That's just poor form.

We first heard that UG was considering this move back in August. UG manager Johnny Bagels (OK, his real name is John Moorby) told us back then that he wasn't looking forward to turning the wi-fi off from 12 to 2 -- but the table hogging had gotten out of control. That, and people were walking in off the street, not buying anything and sitting down to use the wi-fi. (Also, John says a guy recently walked in and helped himself to some cinnamon for a coffee he had bought -- somewhere else.)

UG isn't alone in doing this. We noticed recently that the Paneras (Panerae?) in Latham and East Greenbush were limiting wi-fi during lunch hours. And coffee places all over the country are apparently starting to crack down on wi-fi hogging.

Earlier on AOA: How much is that bagel in the window?

Also: Capital Region Wi-Fi Map


I've personally seen behavior such as what John pointed out at other places - people helping themselves to spots at a cafe/coffee shop without purchasing anything. Even worse is when folks walk in with actual food they purchased somewhere else. Even if you are buying something else there, that's poor form.

It seems to be part of a larger and more disturbing trend of poor retail/eatery/business etiquette on the part of consumers. The sense of entitlement and lack of common sense when it comes to these things is truly baffling.

Since I would hate to be part of the trend of "poor retail/eatery/business etiquette" (no sarcasm intended), I want to run this by you: I frequent Bountiful Bread at Stuyvesant Plaza. However, I have, on occasion, been at the plaza but not eating at Bountiful Bread (gasp), but have stopped in to use its restroom. Reasoning? (1) Restrooms can be sparse at Stuyvesant Plaza without hiking from one end of the plaza to the other; and (2) I'm often accompanied by my young child who, when he's gotta' go, he's gotta' go.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't use a restroom in an establishment unless I intend to buy something. However, I think that because I am a fairly regular BB patron, I think it's kind of okay.

I'd be curious to know what others think.

I've had multiple encounters with such people at the Daily Grind on Lark. The place is about the size of a postage stamp as it is, and repeatedly I see people hogging a 4 top (ya know- so they can spread out their stuff). The staff never seems to say anything, but maybe it's about time they started cracking down.

If the place is crowded and someone is just using a 4-person table as their personal office, then they can share. I would sit myself right down and join them.

The folks who are using the wi-fi but aren't buying anything or hogging a 4-top for hours, should be able to do so, however, they should be required to wear a big L on their forehead for the duration of their stay.

Classic case of a few spoiling it for the rest of us. I spent hours at UG back in Grad school, grateful for the wi-fi and good coffee. Yet, it seemed an ever increasing trend to see one person, with no coffee or food, at a table for four, stuff sprawled all over so no one could join them.

You know those radio ads for beer that make fun of people with annoying habits?

"Here's to you, annoying guy at the coffee shop sitting along at a table for four with all your stuff spread out all over. Thanks to you no one gets to use wireless at lunch. That's right, you wanted to send a message to hipster ladies 'look at me, I'm so smart with my charts and books on anatomy - i'm really smart.' But no, you look like a douche taking table space, and wireless away for people who need it."

Journey-like song "Mr. I take up the whole table and mooch off the free wireless wanna-be med student guy whose a big douce!"

Maybe it's my je ne sais quoi…
Maybe it's too much time spent at Wolff's…
Maybe it's my willingness to disregard the loutish behavior of others and act in a manner that supports the common good…

But one person occupying a four top is preying on your social squeamishness and hesitancy in claiming your share of the public space!

What to do?

Quit being 6lbs of wuss stuffed into a 4lb bag!

Take a stand!
Or rather a seat!

If you need a seat, then just SIT DOWN!

Let these social misfits know what is acceptable by acting in an acceptable way:

  1. Identify your seat. (Looks like you folks don't have a problem with this.)

  2. Sit down!

  3. Smile graciously and murmur, "Is this seat taken?" and drink your damned coffee.

Did you see what I did there?

Don’t "ask permission first" to claim what is your due.

Let's all meet at Wolff's tonight and practice this in a safe and supportive environment.

Real simple solution.

Instead of turning off the wi-fi, simply charge $5/hour during lunch periods. It's the same principle as using parking meters to regulate parking spaces, so that no one hogs a spot all day in front of the store without buying something.

Of course, the drawback might be the institution of pay toilets during lunch hours... in that case, you better go before you gotta go.

1. Wf fi is a privilege, not a right.

2. As others have said, drop your buns in a 4 seater if only 1 person is there, say hello and do your business. Oh, that's right....never mind, that would go up against the age old 'American Isolation' thang!

@Kate - Restrooms are different. As long as you're using them for their intended purpose and not asking to cut in front of paying customers - who cares and who notices?


I personally have been known to just take a free chair and plop my electronics on my lap. Of course, I really ain't using my lower half for procreation so it doesn't really matter. (You would be surprised at how well a tray prevents lapburn.)

Re the Table designed for 4 taken up by 1 - In the Durgin Park/Legal Sea Food model of restaurant of my college days - being seated (or seating yourself) with others was the thing to do! - many a friend met a beau in this manner. Of course beau wasnt busy texting and or socially isolating his/herself on the Web! - or talking on a cell phone while dining! OH the good old days!

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