Ding dong, the Wi-Fi’s dead. At least that’s the message from some coffeehouse customers in an L.A. Times article today: Coffeehouses unplugging Internet access to reconnect with customers – latimes.com.
It’s been a year since The Wall Street Journal first thought they invented Wi-Fi backlash. Although the L.A. Times cites the very same Four Barrel Coffee example we used last year to illustrate how New Yorkers had their heads buried in the proverbial cultural sand, today’s take on this subject adds an extra dimension: the perspective of coffeehouse customers who would rather live without Wi-Fi access.
We’ve never been known to praise a café for omitting customer conveniences and services — not the least of which includes the aforementioned Four Barrel Coffee. But laptop zombies aren’t just a problem for coffeehouse cash registers and for patrons finding a seat. Laptop zombies can be a cultural problem — where their vacant bodies might share the same physical space, yet their minds are anyplace but. Check your brain at the door; no one’s home.
While there still needs to be a place for the school library set, props to Four Barrel’s Jeremy Tooker for recognizing that sometimes less is more — even if he doesn’t always get it right. After we spent a month in the land of Vida e Caffè chains — where the coffeehouses are more like the Italian bars in the word “barista” — coming back to Zombieland USA has been a little bit of a cultural snap. (Perhaps any barista at a coffeehouse offering Wi-Fi should instead be called a bibliotecario, or librarian?)
Answer: One person to write the article, plus 47 lazy reporters to regurgitate it for their own desperate-for-ad-space publications as if it were an epidemic social trend.
This latest installment of old news has since been carried everywhere from network TV news affiliates to magazines to newspapers to blogs to even Web sites about the media. The latest appearance is across to pond for the UK’s The Economist — coincidentally by the same writer who wrote the original Victrola Coffee & Art piece in 2005.
All of which leaves the impression that coffeehouses have abruptly and globally started dropping Wi-Fi like the spread of a SARS-like disease. Now only if original reporting and research on identical prior news articles over the years were this contagious.
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