1 megabits or 2 with your coffee?

cyberscooty cafe free wifi insideThese days choosing a coffee shop is not that straightforward.  Is it about the quality of the coffee? or the food, maybe? Or maybe, it’s about the quality of the internet connection...

It’s one of those days where I have back to back client meetings when I get a call to say that the next meeting is postponed.  Phew, time for some lunch so I head for the nearest coffee shop for my usual americano and of course time to catch-up up on some emails as the iPhone hadn’t stopped buzzing all morning.  

The first one I come across is a well known chain just at the top of Long Acre near to Covent Garden.  Perfect, meets my criteria for good coffee, plenty of available seats and of course free WiFi.  I order my small americano which comes in one of those tall glasses so I have to precariously hold it in one hand whilst carrying my briefcase in the other.  No mean feat but I’ve mastered this over many years of killing time in coffee shops!  I head to the front of the eatery where there is plenty of available seating compared to the back.  Great, arrived safely and without spilling a drop of coffee.  I boot-up the laptop and connect to the WiFi.  All good so far and Outlook starts to download the emails but it’s very slow.

I’m now conscious of a woman a few seats along who is grumbling about something to herself.  She gets up, heads for the service counter and takes her Macbook with her, I guess because I look just the type of person who is going to pick it up and run out!  I assume that she’s going to complain about the amount of time it’s taking for food as my tuna melt panini hasn’t turned up yet.  But no, it’s nothing to do with coffee, paninis, muffins or anything else that they’re selling.  Instead she shows the barista staff the WiFi signal and points in my general direction!  Oh, I now feel that the entire coffee shop is looking at me so I slide down and hide behind my laptop screen out of sight.  I give it about 10 seconds and get enough courage to come back up to peer over the top and can see that she’s been directed to the rear of the shop  She stands there for a few seconds, staring at her Macbook screen, smiles and then heads straight back towards me.  She packs up her things and says “I’m moving, the network is much faster over there” and heads for the rear of the shop.

I look down at my laptop and Outlook is still struggling to receive anything.  I check the signal strength and sure enough it’s showing only 1 WiFi bar, very poor indeed.  Time to move so I pick-up my things and at the risk of looking a bit like a stalker follow her over to the rear of the shop and squeeze into the last available seat.  Certainly not as comfortable or as quiet as the front but I’ve now got full signal strength and Outlook soon fills up my Inbox with unread emails.  The waitress finds me and delivers my panini, perfect.

So I wonder what’s more important to some of the people around me, good coffee or good WiFi?  It certainly changes our desire on where to sit and which coffee shop to choose.  Perhaps one day we’ll be able to buy guaranteed bandwidth with our coffee.  Can you imagine it, “1mbps or 2 with your coffee sir”.  Sounds crazy, but then again who would have thought a few years ago that I could go into my local supermarket and get a free coffee!

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