How to lose customers you never had

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As we speak I’m sitting in Cafe Etc., a charming little coffee shop/eatery in West Hollywood.

The menu here is great. The coffee drinks are tasty. The windows are enormous, so the light shines through and makes everything glow.

And yet …

The above sign, posted in the window, rubs me wrongly. Like, really wrongly. You’re a friggin’ cafe. You want people to come in. And if you’re overly crowded, and people are spending eight hours off of one drink, you explain to them—kindly—that there’s no enough space. But to urge people not to enter your facility if they have work to do and might spend, oh, four hours with one coffee … it’s just terrible business. And rude. It strikes me as the work of a mean-spirited owner who feels superior to her customers; or who believes her place so spectacular that you should feel honored to be there.

Truth is, there are 8,000 cafes in the world. A solid 99 percent of them want you to come in, have a seat, chill.

The other 1% go out of business.

Inevitably.

PS: I’m here because I have work that needs to get done.

4 thoughts on “How to lose customers you never had”

  1. “But to urge people not to enter your facility if they have work to do
    and might spend, oh, four hours with one coffee … it’s just terrible
    business. And rude.”

    Not sure how one coffee in 4 hours is much better than one coffee in 8 hours. My opinion (which doesn’t really matter): one purchase every 90 minutes. If not, then you are just taking up space. Again, just my opinion on this.

  2. I can’t imagine that many people taking advantage of the situation that it would be an issue … But it certainly wouldn’t be for me, because I can’t imagine spending 15 minutes in there …

  3. I had to take my kid someplace and drop him there for an hour. I was happy to see that there was a cafe-pie shop next door, so I could get some work done. I was missing work for this errand. I walked in and asked at the counter, “Do you have wifi?” Very haughtily, the hipster behind the counter sniffed, “No. We have”—dramatic pause, I kid you not—”conversations.”

    If he’d just said, “No, sorry,” I’d have bought a cup of coffee and worked offline for an hour. Instead, I walked out, and haven’t ever walked back in, though I go by that cafe all the time. For all I know they have wifi by now, as this was five or six years ago. I’ll never know.

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