Coffee shop campers. You know the ones. Those pesky people who pitch up at coffee shops, order a drink, open their laptops and plug in their phones thus creating a pop up office.
People like me.
They’re the perfect solution for self-employed types like me (I mean coffee shops, not grannies – although they’re jolly useful too). They get you out of the house and away from distractions like babies, they’ve got electricity, they’ve got wifi and there’s someone on hand to make you hot drinks.
Why I’m proud to be a coffee shop camper
I’m not the only one who finds this kind of working advantageous either. At certain times of the day my local coffee shops are virtually offices: you’ll find the same faces sitting in the same spots sipping the same lattes – the only difference is having to come to a ‘I’ll watch yours if you watch mine’ understanding when you need to go to the loo.
We know the baristas by name (let’s face it, they’re practically colleagues) and they know what you’re going to order and start making it before you’ve even opened your mouth.
But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for such coffee shop etiquette. Table hoggers, freeloaders and ‘dastardly’ coffee campers are just some of the criticisms levelled at people like me. Oh and thieves.
That’s what I was called by Anna May Mangan, the author of THAT Daily Mail article, when I was asked to appear on Good Morning Britain to debate the subject. But how can you steal something that’s free?
Why do coffee shops advertise free and unlimited wifi if they don’t want you to use it? Why do some shout about unlimited coffee refills if they don’t want you to take advantage of them? Why do they position tables in rows with plug sockets underneath if they don’t want you to stay longer than your battery life?
These facilities are designed to attract coffee shop campers like me and invite us in, not put us off.
If you don’t want to appeal to the coffee shop camper, it’s really not that hard – simply put a time limit on your wifi and don’t position tables near power points.
In an age when the traditional nine to five is being replaced by flexi time and more and more people are either working for themselves or working from home I think we should be embracing the concept of working in shared spaces like coffee shops, not holding it up as something to be ashamed of.
The cafes I work from are quite often a hive of industry with people bashing away at their laptops, creative juices flowing and the air fuelled with a sense of purpose – and promise – often at times of the day when those cafes would otherwise be empty.
And surely a cafe with bums on seats is more inviting than an empty one. So what if those people have only bought a coffee and a sandwich – they could quite literally be changing the world with whatever it is they’re bashing out.
Of course only buying one hot drink and staying for the remainder of the day is taking it too far, of course conducting too-loud conference calls on your phone is taking the mick and of course taking up a sofa designed for four people is a bit much, but as with most things in life a little bit of consideration and common sense is all that’s needed.
I fail to see how pitching up with a laptop for two hours is any different from hunkering down with a book for the same amount of time, or meeting a friend for coffee only to still be nattering long after you’ve drained the cup.
I asked some fellow bloggers what they think and here’s what they said:
“Wetherspoons is a fab place to work. Unlimited coffee for 89p before 2pm and free wifi. I know a lot of pensioners who stay here for hours chatting with their friends whilst topping up their coffee so I don’t see why someone working here would be any different,” says Samantha at North East Family Fun.
“I always get a big pot of tea, something to eat and pick a cosy, local, independent coffee house to spend a couple of hours in. Plus I usually share on social at some point too and ensure they are tagged with a little thank you!” says Rachel at Illustrated Teacup.
“I used to work in coffee shops that opened for breakfast. We never had a problem with people doing some work and using the wifi as long as they actually bought something. Even a bottle of water was better than a tap water. That’s a massive no no. Most people understand that though and it was rare that a mid-week workers’ bill came in under £10,” says Kirsty at Winnettes.
“Lots of coffee shops, especially independents rely on ‘coffee shop campers’ to keep them in business,” says Debbie at My Boys Club.
“There’s a coffee shop in Manchester that charges by the time you spend and the coffee is included. That’s one way around it!” says Stacey at One Small Human.
What do you think? Are you or have you ever been a coffee shop camper? Or do you think coffee shop campers are table hoggers who should pack up and move on? I’d love to hear your point of view!