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Bedouin Workers and Coffee Shop Etiquette

I’m interested in the distributed office model, (see Meet Mike, the Semi-Nomadic Engineer and How to Run a Mobile Office for under $1500), not just because I like coffee, but because it offers a mobile workforce minimal commutes and hopefully a better quality of life. However, sometimes you have to look at the other side of things…
Read more after the jump…
WHERE NEO-NOMADS’ IDEAS PERCOLATE / New ‘bedouins’ transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office

Every cafe owner has wrestled with the flip side of that question: How much do I need to sell to make it worth letting someone take up space in my cafe? Roger Soudah, owner of Cafe Reverie on Cole Street, was persuaded in 2004 to add Wi-Fi by one of his steady customers, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

But Soudah got fed up with the Wi-Fi squatters by the next year. “I got fed up and pulled it out of the wall, and my employees cheered,” he said. “My space is really small. We count on turnover for that reason.”

He tells of one woman who designs places with feng shui principles. “She comes in with all these humongous blueprints and a laptop, taking up four tables, then has the nerve to say, ‘Can you turn the music down?’ ” he said. “I feng shui’d her out of here.”….


Other cafe owners welcome the bedouin workforce and its laptops.

At Ritual Roasters in the Mission, co-owner Jeremy Tooker said the main downside is the cost of power, which he said runs $2,000 a month. (Some laptop workers in the cafe said that’s not so bad, calculating on the fly that that pencils out to about $64 a day, or $4 an hour.) Ritual covers up its outlets on weekends, and Tooker said it will likely eliminate many other outlets altogether, figuring that will increase turnover….


One coffee shop, Coffee to the People in the Haight, even wrestled with the issue on its blog last year. “Here at CTTP, we need to bring in on average $100 PER HOUR simply to cover our costs,” co-owner Karin Tamerius wrote. “That means, if all of our customers were people who stayed for three hours and spent $1.50 for coffee, we would require 200 people in our shop every hour we were open, 7 days a week, just to stay in business.

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Two local cafes in Castlegar offer free wifi, the public library offers free LAN connection (BYO cable), and apparently the city is still planning on implementing city-wide wifi access, (not sure of the cost, or the extent of the service, but something like this could really attract smaller independent contractors or start-ups in the region.

Do you work from cafe’s or other public venues? Part time, full time, when you need to get out of the house/office? What is your coffee purchasing etiquette?

For me, working from home is going to be much easier, now that I have an office, (with a fireplace!) and a hot tub outside! This room is downstairs from the rest of the house and has beautiful mountain views, it is a pretty good setup. Now I’ve just got to furnish it and make it comfortable to work in.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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