Coffee, laptops, wi fi, Starbucks and marketing

moochmugI’m sitting in a Starbucks right now typing this on my laptop sucking their electricity, using their wi-fi, taking up a seat and consuming a beverage. I’m the worst human being in the history of the world. I’m a freeloader. A mooch. A squatter. A parasite. A burden.

As the economy punches laid back coffee shops in the beans, in their hyper caffienated states, they are starting to make rather stupid decisions with regard to riff-raff like me. Another word for these relentless carpetbaggers would be…..uh…customers.

Case in point, one local, Austin coffee shop that is popular with business people, offers good coffee, good food and free wi-fi has been taking customers aside and informing them that they need to spend more money if they are going to patronize the place. Next, they covered the outlets saying they are tired of people stealing their electricity.

Granted, I am there about once a week working with my coaching clients. Sometimes I scarf down stuff. Sometimes not. I use the wi-fi very little. However, I do see people sitting there who never buy anything, crank the laptop for hours and generally take up space at the shop’s expense. That’s not right. And I don’t doubt that it’s a problem for the coffee shop.

But here’s the problem I have with it and why I no longer bring my clients there (none of whom had ever stepped foot in the establishment before and all of whom buy something when they are there). I understand the owner’s issue and I agree but it’s the way it’s being handled that will ultimately drive customers away and hurt the business even more.

The truth of the matter is that most coffee shops don’t market their businesses. They rely on passive word of mouth. When times are good economically, they can thrive. When things get tough, word of mouth isn’t enough. In essence, their failure to promote and market their businesses is what is causing them to hurt financially.  Blaming your customers and making draconian decisions that drive them out is not the solution.

I’m not suggesting that they start spending money on ad campaigns or start cold calling customers. But they can do some very low cost tactics that will drive customers, strengthen loyalty and communicate their expectations in a positive, supportive way. For example, how many coffee shops have an email list of thier customers and regularly touch them with offers, specials and other info? How many are strategically using social media? How many are marketing events? Partnering with other businesses to cross promote? How many have web sites that are pathetic? Developing products that people want to buy?

Even simply posting a sign saying “We welcome our wired brethren, but please do your best to help us keep the lights on and the electrons flowing” would be better than pissing off the very people you depend on for survival.


4 Responses to “Coffee, laptops, wi fi, Starbucks and marketing”

  1. 1 nancypena
    September 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Good points made. I am also wondering how much electricity and seat space a three dollar cup of coffee covers. I imagine people sit for hours at their laptops with their one cup of joe. In fact, for some folks, they consider the coffee shop their personal office, so maybe all the shops need is a copier and fax machine to complete their setup.

  2. 2 pmonfre
    September 14, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Nancy!

    It’s safe to guess that the gross profit on a cup of coffee doesn’t even come close to covering the shop’s costs. There’s no denying this is a problem for the chops and those of us who use their establishments for meetings should be very conscious of this and do our best to support the business by buying stuff, telling other people about the shop, bringing in new customers, etc. But at the end of the day, it’s how you handle a problem that counts and this particular shop blew it big time. In fact, I’ve been in there since and it’s a room full of empty tables. One of my friends attempted to talk to the owner to help create an opportunity from the situation, but was met with arrogance (my words, not his). I guess the market will decide.

  3. 3 Slaytanic666
    February 13, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Anybody that goes to Starbucks with their laptops are show-offs and lowlifes. I mean how can you sit there all day with no life and just type on your laptop sipping coffee. Be serious you people need to grow up and get a life/job. Pmonfre your a dumbass people like you should not exist on our earth. Very pathetic lifes yet so many!!!

  4. 4 pmonfre
    February 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Thank you for your passionate comment. The irony of your spelling and grammar in calling me a “dumbass” is beautiful. I suppose you have never heard of having a job or being self employed. I, for one, wish I never had to peer into a computer screen and that I could just spend my life hanging out sipping coffee with my buddies. The problem is that I am “grown up and have a job/life”. While I spend little time on my computer in coffee shops, sometimes due to schedules and deadlines, the coffee shop is where work gets done. The coffee shops I go to appreciate those of us who patronize their joint – with or without laptops. Why do you suppose they have wifi in the first place.

    I suggest to you that you take a hard look in the mirror. I’m willing to bet you will see a dumb ass lowlife without a life/job, who needs to grow up and take a couple English classes and not spend so much time making pointless blog comments that make you feel like a big man.

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Who is Pete Monfre

CLICK HERE to visit my web site

I'm a serial entrepreneur, marketing and media guy, raconteur, writer, producer and consultant. I write this little blog to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and selling, to expose the silliness that masquerades as marketing and help you make better decisions that will grow your business. And I have fun with it. Why not comment? That way we can have a conversation. Or better yet, hop on over to my web site and drop me a line.

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