Friday, February 8, 2008

The Rest of A Day in the Life

(What…did you think I did a Rip Van Winkle on you?)

A little background is in order before we get to the fun part…

It has been an increasing annoyance to me that a certain element of our community has come to think of my café as a large empty space with tables and chairs which they are free to use any time. I wish I had a dollar for every group that comes in, disappears into the back corner and proceeds to have hours-long business meetings. Occasionally, they condescend to buy a couple of cups of coffee. If we’re lucky, we can bad-vibe them into buying a pastry or a meal.

Since we installed the free wi-fi, this problem has grown worse. Internet junkies who feel entitled to any free connection they can sniff out, and don’t feel they should be compelled to buy anything in order to make use thereof, duck into our back corner and spend literally hours geeking out. Or whatever it is they are doing. We have a few especially annoying people—I think they are Real Estate agents—who treat our dining room as if it were their personal office-away-from-office. They drink gallons of coffee, squat at our largest tables for hours, and get annoyed if we should "pester" them about actually ordering a meal. Several times a week, I resort to disconnecting the modem to get these folks to pack up and go away.

Recently, we have enacted some house policies designed to rein in the out-of-control wi-fi use. On two occasions last week, I asked single wi-fi users to please set up their computers on smaller tables, rather than using our larger tables meant for parties of four or more. In both cases, these folks arrived just before a typical rush period…otherwise I probably would not have approached them at all. The reactions I got were over-the-top.

One guy (who had just spent much of the previous day attached to our internet) packed up and left in a huff after I asked him to set up at a smaller table. Then he called us on the phone and went off on this sputtering, barely-controlled-rage diatribe about refusing to buy one of our extremely overpriced burgers just so he could use our wi-fi (I hadn’t asked him to purchase anything…I simply asked him to sit at a smaller table.)

So, what has this to do with the continued fun and games on Sunday last? Well, husband and I were settling into our seats after ordering breakfast, and I noticed that there was a large group holed up in the back corner, complete with spiral notebooks, folders, computers, pens and pencils, and very little evidence that they intended to partake of any food or beverage.

This was a bit worrisome, because Sunday morning between about 9:30 and 10:30 is typically our busiest hour of the week. We have a bunch of folks who come out to the restaurant before church, often in groups of four to six. And here were our largest tables being squatted upon by people who were essentially non-customers. I was annoyed, and tried to think of some earthly way to get them to wrap it up and go away before the rush hit. Without starting World War Three.

As I was wrestling with that issue, a guy pulls up in front of the restaurant, gets out of the car with his laptop in hand, and comes in. He seems to know the folks doing the meeting, because he stops by their tables and chats with them for a bit. The next thing I know, he’s unzipping his case and setting up his computer on the last empty large table in the back corner. So, I stand up, walk over and ask if he could please set up his computer at the smaller table adjacent to where the big group is meeting. Whereupon he…goes off on me. He opens by telling us how he had had a bad experience at the café previously, so he’d posted a "very negative review" about us on his blog.

Eventually, we attempt to diffuse the situation by sitting down and trying to have a civil conversation. Husband is Mr. Mollification. "We apologize if anyone here has ever been rude to you. We assure you that is not our policy and it will never happen again…" Turns out he was pissed off because he came in one day, yammering on his cel phone, set up his computer and was not immediately and consistently fawned over by the counter girls. And, travesty of all travesties, they took away the coffee pots without telling him. (Our coffee is self-service refills until 5 pm, when we switch to table service for dinner. At which time we take in the self-service paraphernalia and give customers their own small pots at their tables if they order coffee. And if this jerk was ANY kind of a regular—as he claimed to be—he would have known that.)

I can barely tolerate this officious a**holeasserting that we need to realize that wi-fi isn’t a service we offer customers, it is a marketing tool designed to attract people like him and his group. "People like him" being those who intend to settle in for six to eight hours at a time, hold meetings and remain attached to the umbilicus of MY internet connection. All day. Maybe several days a week.

I don’t think so.

He likes our décor. He likes our music. The cafe should be a place where itinerant business people can set up shop, conduct business and connect to the wi-fi. With complete freedom to stay as long as they see fit. (And you know, we went around and around with that guy for fifteen minutes, and he never did say a thing about our food.) I am adamant that this is not what we intended when we offered wi-fi service to our customers. I’m getting more and more frustrated with this butthead and his "I-know-your-business-better-than-you-do" attitude. In frustration, I ask him, "What business are you in?"

And he says….

Wait for it…

"I’m a pastor."

I’m sure the words, "Are you f-ing kidding me???" flashed across my forehead in marquee-sized letters. I swallowed those words, opened up my mouth to say something, and swallowed those words again. Here was this overbearing, self-righteous son-of-a-bitch telling me he is a pastor.

Okay. Well, maybe that isn’t so unbelievable after all.

So I say, "Of a church here in Scappoose? Don’t you have a facility?"

And he says, "Yes, but there’s a school there, and it’s too noisy…not a good atmosphere for business meetings."

At this point, I think I have to be losing my marbles. I cannot reconcile this guy and the way he just…IS…with my idea of a pastor. Naïve and antiquated as my idea might be.

Somehow we managed to smooth things over enough to avoid the scene of his whole group standing up and walking out in a huff. I personally had to bail on the conversation and let the husband finish it up. If I sat there any longer and listened to his pompous flatulence, I was going to be sick. Or kill him.

Husband herds ME out the door before I can do any more damage. But of course, I go on obsessing about this for hours.Much later, I decide to indulge in some internet detective work. And find Mr. Pastor has posted yet another "negative review" about the café, and tagged it so that it will easily come up should anyone google us. Swell. That’s what I get for pissing off a geek, I guess.

So, like I said. The events of the past weekend got me to the place where I really wondered why the hell I made the decision to do what I do, and whether I will ever be any freaking good at it….


  1. Yeah, that was certainly a sucky Sunday.  What floors me is the total lack of understanding ... that Wi-Fi is a perk of being a paying customer ... not a ticket to be a leech.  

    I wonder Lisa, since you didn't mention this, have you looked at how much money free use of Wi-Fi is bringing in versus how many annoying people it pulls your way?

    Sure, set up shop, but use your head.  Order coffee and a snack and sure, stay for lunch ... and don't forget to pay the bill.

    Perhaps you could charge so much per hour per table.  I somehow think that dope would understand paying by the hour for the table as long as he got his free Wi Fi.

    I'm kind of growling here for you ....

  2. Kath~~After we left, my counter girl reported that he bought coffee and a cinnamon roll, set up his computer on one of the tables already occupied by his freeloading group...and pointedly left his FOOD sitting on the empty table I asked him not to use.  

    His attitude seemed to be more like that we should be paying HIM for all the business he would be generating for us.  I found that particularly annoying, given that he had already trashed us on the internet...  Lisa  :-]

  3. Lisa,  here's an idea.  At a little cafe near us the tables all have quote little quotations framed set on the table.  About postcard size.  Find some quotes that are great quotes that pertain how we should treat our fellow man  quotes on kindness, fairness, blah blah blah.  Something that the preacher might be able to use in one of his sermons.  This preachers self righteous behavior reminds me of my pios self righteous user of a brother in law.

  4. At least you have to specify Old Town Cafe in Scappoose to find this turkey. Words fail me. They really fail me. And after hours town meeting to discuss things? I doubt it. And this paticular turkey doesn't fit my idea of a pastor either. Arrrrrrgh!


  5. Me again, in your oh so generous free time it might help to check out what other cafes and restaurants with wi-fi do to even the playing field. You may have to post a reasonable (from your side) time limit. And point out that profits from the cafe pay for the internet access, in a kind way of course. :-P

    And I"m reminded of a saying to the effect that it doesn't do any good to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it too much. At least with a real oink oink you have the option of turning him into bacon, ham and pork chops................ ;-)


  6. A pastor?  Oh gosh...  Post signs, I say.  You know, like the "No Shoes No Shirt..." one for WiFi.."  No Meal No WiFi/WE ARE A RESTAURANT". ;)  C.

  7. Pffffffffffffffffffttttttttttttt!

    Well, you know this will make it into a sermon someday.  But you'll have to come to Ohio to hear it.


  8. I'm speechless!  What a pompous, entitled jerk!  

    And to think he "counsels" his parishioners...grrrrrrrrrrrr.

  9. I think it is heinous that anyone would go into a restaurant and high-jack a table without purchasing anything. I'm absolutely shocked really.

    Here's my take on it all: If you piss them off and they leave, what are you really losing? They aren't buying anything anyhow and they are costing you money and aggravation. I bet if you polled your other customers they would find them to be intrusive and irritating to their dining experience which is your primary business. You operate a business and have the right to refuse service to anyone. If they want a quiet place to meet and snag free wi-fi without making a purchase, tell them to go to the library where their tax dollars subsidize the operation.

    Hey, here's a thought, you could password protect your wi-fi, and provide it only to customers who order from the menu. Change the password at the end of the day or every couple of days to keep it fresh from moochers.

  10. and it is for these entries I live!

  11. Wow, I too am amazed that someone would come into a place of business, use the WiFi (or any other services offered) and not even think about buying something other than a cup of coffee.  And to tie up your tables and cop an attitude about it...unbelievable.  Jerk needs an attitude adjustment upside the head or to be thrown out on his ass.

    Yeah, I think I would talk with some of the other local business owners and see how they deal with this kind of situation.  Some clearly posted rules are needed here, I guess.

  12. While we were in Ireland several years ago they had these cafes that you went into and PAID to use the internet on an hourly basis. I know it would be impossible for you to charge for your service.....when I was a waitress at a Bluegrass bar when dinosaurs roamed the eart, we had a two drink min. People would buy two drinks and hog the tables all night! Oh, I hated that.  Isn't your service staff raising Cain ablout this? How can they make money when the tables are over run with dead beats (oh man, I am in a rant mood aren't I?)

  13. I have to add another comment.  This morning at about 10AM I went to a neighborhood chain, La Madeleine, for breakfast.  It was cold outside, and all LaMadeleine's have a fireplace, and I confess that was a big part of the draw for me this morning.  The tables next to the fireplace were taken, so I sat at a small table by the wall, and people watched as I ate my breakfast croissant.  LaMadeleine has wooden tables, no tablecloths, but I noticed that one of the tables right in front of the fireplace, around which 4 women were seated, was covered with a black tablecloth this morning.  Looking closer, I realized why: the women had brought the tablecloth and were playing cards at that table!  They appeared to be settled in for the morning; each had a big bag containing, among other things, bottled water to drink, although one of the 4 women had actually ordered something to eat.  Still, no one coming in for breakfast, including groups of people coming in for breakfast, had the pleasure of sitting in front of the fire on that side of the room on this cold morning, as that choice spot was being used by these women who had apparently met there to play cards.


  14. You have me, a pastor, searching my memory for the days off I've spent at a coffee shop I like an hour and a half away from here studying for my GREs or writing sermons or whatever, trying to figure out if I've dominated a big table (don't think so), spent only a few dollars (maybe sometimes, but usually if I'm there for more than an hour and a half I make another purchase and my tips are always exceedingly generous).  If ever I was asked to move, I would not be offended.  I'm always worried that I'm taking advantage.  

    BUT I will be super careful from now on.  I am so embarrassed by this man's behavior.  

  15. How about a 1 hour limit for beverage only orders?  You could post a small notice at each table stating "For the convenience of our regular guests this establishment has instituted a one-hour (or 1/2 hour or whatever time) time limit on tables not ordering meals.  Thank you for your consideration"  or something to that effect.  I've seen that in some of our downtown restaurants which have the same problem.