Saturday, 12 May 2012

The coffee shop conquerors

It wouldn’t have been my top priority as an academic study but two US professors have put “coffee shop conquerors” under the spotlight. You know, the customers who sit in Costa and Starbucks for hours on end, tapping away at their laptops, hogging tables designed for four and glaring at people who politely ask “is this chair taken?” Or in US academic-speak, “communicate to other customers that intrusion is not welcome.” 

The professors’ report claims that thanks to the free WiFi on offer in most coffee shops, more and more workers are using them as satellite offices. They spread their papers across tables, talk loudly on mobile phones and pore over their MacBooks as if their lives depended on it. They send out subliminal messages saying “don’t interrupt me, I’m a very busy person,” and worse still, they make a single skinny latte last all afternoon.

It’s a trend that’s prevalent in the UK as well as the US – though in Oxford right now you’re more likely to stumble across bleary-eyed students revising for exams than budding entrepreneurs in sharply cut business suits.

Actually, on the subject of coffee shops, the thing that most irritates me is the decision by Starbucks to try and learn their customers’ names. I’m all for being friendly but as long as I get a decent flat white coffee and some peace and quiet to read my book I don’t care what the staff in my local Starbucks call me.


  1. The Starbucks name thing is spawning a lot of subversive behaviour. In a queue of suits at a service station the other day, I really didn't want to shout out my real name so I told them it was Mrs Smith. I'm thinking it might be fun to adopt a new identity every time.

    1. That's a brilliant idea, Gail. Maybe we should all call ourselves Mrs Smith in Starbucks!


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