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Ury -

Why would you feel guilty? These coffee shops depend on your wi-fi need. They know you will consume and in some way pay for the seat/service you are using. So use it and sip slowly ;)

Daniel Burka -

Ury: I feel guilty because it costs a lot of money to run a cafe. Rent in SF must be astronomical (it certainly is for residential rent), cleaning the place is difficult and expensive, capital expenditures for furniture and equipment are very steep, and all I'm paying is about $4 for a coffee and a pastry when I'm here for 3-4 hours. It seems like the service being offered and my payback are not proportional.

Ury -

I understand. But I am sure that if it was not profitable, the wi-fi would be the first service to be cut off and you would have to go to a starbucks. Or maybe find a local wireless spot offered by the city? Does SF have anything like that? Montreal does and it works wonders. I feel no shame in staying an hour at a coffee shop sipping on a cup of green tea while surfing. But that's just me. Of course, I probably couldn't stand sitting in the same place for four hours though...

Dave S. -

Is it really important to make a connection between the money and why you're leaving it, or is just leaving a little extra good enough? If the latter, may as well just leave a buck or two more in their regular tip jar. No special payment scheme needed.

Justin Thorp -

Yeah, i just try to make sure that I tip really well at my favorite coffee shop that I work from. It makes me feel less guilty.

Oliver -

Maybe just ask the manager to put a jar out and whack a few dollars in it every time you use the cafe.

Derek Kinsman -

Most of the cafes here in Toronto have those not free wifi zones provided by local ISPs. My local cafe that has free wifi I usually tip a little more and drink more coffees. Otherwise I go hang out at the Starbuck's in the Chapters-Indigo bookstores.

Lewis Walsh -

It's this guilt that puts me off working in coffee shops!

Dwayne -

Check out http://hatfactory.net/ for a relatively inexpensive co-working environment in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco.

Jon Victorino -

I often work in a coffee shop near my office during the day and I rarely feel guilty about mooching wi-fi. Maybe it's because I've been doing it for so long, but my feeling is when someone puts up a sign that says, "Free wi-fi" they're expecting people to come in and use the wi-fi and they're hoping that since they're there they'll buy a cup of coffee.

This post came to mind because the other day I purchased a Rockstar and they charged me over $3 for it and instead of feeling ripped off I simply sighed and thought, "I guess I just paid my cafe due."

Rob -

I agree with the folks who suggest tipping heavy (and I comment as a former coffeeshop manager). Better tips = better and happier counterstaff = able to serve and satisfy more customers = better bottom line for the shop.

Plus if the baristas know you're tipping well, they won't give you stink-eye for staying too long.

Al Abut -

I do the same as a few other people and tip heavily, but I have to admit that it doesn't assuage the guilt completely because none of that goes to the cafe owner.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure smaller indie cafes have much of a choice other than to cater to the co-working crowd because larger chains are doing their best to capture the "gotta rush through in 3 minutes and get my fix for the road" crowd. I've read how Starbucks tries to remove as much seating as possible and makes their chairs hard and uncomfortable on purpose, all to keep the environment optimized for an assembly line-style customer movement and possibly quick short meetings.

Laurie -

Switch to herbal tea, problem solved :)

Lauren Reagan -

How odd to find something free these days, roll with it!
Lauren Reagan

Dia Souza -

WOWnet Café in Ithaca, New York (now, sadly, no longer in business) had an idea that made sense: pay $70 a year subscription fee and you could sit & work on your laptop guilt-free. They kept very late hours, 'til 2am most nights. And there were dance lessons or movies in the evenings, which added a wonderful component for the geeks on deadline who were tired of being home alone. This place was big enough for sofas, tables, café, dance floor, and more. Dimly lit in daytime. Cool atmosphere.

ANON -

Jon Victorino -"... but my feeling is when someone puts up a sign that says, "Free wi-fi" they're expecting people to come in and use the wi-fi and they're hoping that since they're there they'll buy a cup of coffee.

This post came to mind because the other day I purchased a Rockstar and they charged me over $3 for it and instead of feeling ripped off I simply sighed and thought, "I guess I just paid my cafe due."

I completely agree. With the amount i pay for a cup of coffee at a cafe... i could brew 5 hole pots at home. And if they have wi-fi, they're expecting customers to use it. If the cafe's did have a problem with this, i'm sure that they would set up a fee like many other establishments do.

Don't feel guilty, but if it does make you feel better, leave a tip :)

-Michelle

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Daniel Burka

My name is Daniel Burka. I'm a web designer living in San Francisco. Currently, I'm one of the founders of Milk Inc.. For several years I was the creative director at Digg and previous to Milk, I was the director of design at Tiny Speck. I grew up in PEI, Canada, where I was one of the founders of silverorange. Aside from obsessing about interface design and css selectors, I'm a frequently-falling rock climber, a lazy cyclist, and an often out-of-bounds disc golfer.

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