The Starbucks Laptop Hobo War: Reports From the Front Lines

Last week, we brought you the disquieting news that Starbucks had begun its plan to methodically rid its stores of freeloading laptop hobos. Isolated incident of a single laptopian overstaying his welcome, or foreboding foreshadowing of a new corporate policy?

According to you, the laptop-toting Starbucks-patronizing Gawker readers, it's happening everywhere. Covering electrical outlets in Manhattan:

A thing to look is also how they've covered the electric outlets in most [Starbucks]. I was a laptop hobo at Park and 29th; I would sometimes spend 4 hours there, buying 2 coffees, and something else. Now, my business goes elsewhere. (Won't say which because they'll cover the outlets as well). No SB in midtown offers power to the people.

It's been going on for months!

Yes! This happened to me too, and it took me by surprise. I ordered a coffee, drank it, and threw it out because I was nervous someone would knock it into my laptop. All the while, I immersed myself in what I hoped would be 2-3 hours of coding. About 40 minutes into it, however, as soon as I threw away the coffee and returned to my work, a man came and told me that the tables are for sbux customers only.

I told him I was in fact an sbux customer not even 5 minutes ago, to which he replied that I had to be a "continuing" customer. WTF? Should I get an IV drip installed to keep working here?

In all fairness, it was a blown up mess - I mean, 34th street and 5th. Usually I work further uptown at a more low-key location. There were hardly any places to sit, and there were notices that said you had to be a "customer" to use the lounge area, but that still did not stop me from feeling resentful about the experience.

For all the years I had grown up almost DAILY drinking and working there (re: JJ's nostalgic sentiments), it was a reminder that a corporation does not look at you as a loyal customer. They look at you as a barrier between them and their NEXT customer.

BTW - this happened, I would say, maybe 6-7 months ago...

The end of "European style" amenities in Hollywood!

I just read your article and have something minor to contribute. I was at the Lankershiem and Magnolia SB in North Hollywood yesterday. I bought a coffee and sat outside reading my newspaper and people watching in the European style. I went back in and asked for a cup of water. The barista got this look on his face as if he just had a lemon shoved up his ass. He told me "we don't do that anymore." What? He explained that the new policy is to only give a small cup on request by someone who has bought something. I told him I bought a coffee not ten minutes ago. He gave me my water. But now I don't feel the same about SB anymore. Was their bottom line being affected? Do they want to cultivate a different image? What else is a coffee shop for besides loitering anyway? You would never be passive-aggressively kicked out of a coffee shop in Europe. Maybe its the economy and more people don't have anywhere to go. Maybe its the air-conditioning, coffee smell and people and there is a trend to get away from social networking and back to social meeting. Or maybe its just a coffee shop that offers the internet and people want to stay for awhile. Either way, SB is starting to discriminate, and there is a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just down the street that is getting my business from now on. Let's see how that affects their bottom line.

Hmm. Could it be that these laptop hobos are a bit... off?

I'm an in-and-out Starbucks kind of guy, owing to my wife's affection for their chai lattes. My routine consists of: Run in, order her drink and try to get out of there as fast as humanly possible without making eye-contact with others. I moved to a new city earlier this year, and noticed that the Starbucks I now frequented had one especially devoted laptop hobo, who set up at the counter right where you received your beverage. The guy was there every single time I went in there, no matter what time of day. One day when I didn't see him, I asked one of the baristas about him.

"Oh, you mean Nick. Yeah, he was here so often that we offered him a job. But he only works 2 days a week."

So laptop hobos: To avoid shabby treatment, simply lurk long enough that the place eventually puts you to work. But make sure you only agree to part-time, because otherwise that would interfere with your busy schedule of camping at Starbucks.

In conclusion, anecdotal evidence indicates that, yes, Starbucks has, in fact declared quiet war on laptop hobos, with good reason.

[Photo: Mike Licht/Flickr]