Internet Café Etiquette

With the growing trend in telecommuting, more and more people find themselves setting up shop in places that offer free Wi-Fi. Café owners offer Internet access in order to draw the teleworkers who would like to partake of this coffee house perk.

Are you one of these public Internet users? If so, you must realize there are certain do’s and don’ts on your part when taking advantage of this social perk.

Here are 17 Tips for Appropriate Internet Café behavior:

  • Do order something and be sure to leave a tip as a thank you for using their real estate for a period of time.
  • Don’t talk on the phone or text while ordering. Give the service staff your full attention when placing an order. You will more than likely receive exactly what you ordered and the server will not be left wondering if you are speaking to them or your cell phone buddy.
  • Don’t snag a seat before you have placed your order. Show respect for the other patrons in line that are following protocol. Order and pay, then choose a seat.
  • Don’t hover in the condiment area for ten minutes pretending to be a mixologist, making your coffee just right while other people are waiting and their coffee is getting cold. Also, clean up any spills and trash. Leave the area clean for the people that come after you.
  • Don’t make your own breve or latte by ordering a shot of espresso and then adding the condiment cream and milk.
  • Don’t take the largest table in the café if you are by yourself and then spread your things all about. Leave the bigger tables for larger groups. Should a large table be the only one available, offer to share it with another Wi-Fi user.
  • Do make sure your laptop is charged before you arrive since everyone will be vying for the outlet seats. If you have enough battery life for an hour or so, choose a seat that doesn’t have an outlet so someone else may use it.
  • Do keep your shoes on! If you prefer to work in your bare feet, then please do everyone a favor and work from home.
  • Do try to purchase something every hour to show financial support and good manners toward the café owner. Keep in mind $1.95 doesn’t buy you Wi-Fi Internet access and office space.
  • Don’t ever bring your own coffee or a four course meal. Wi-Fi is an expense to the establishment, so do your part and purchase something.
  • Don’t leave your entire office computer, phone, or other tech and ask someone else to keep it on lockdown while you go to the restroom. Be responsible for your own equipment.
  • Do keep Internet stations open for Wi-Fi users. It is polite to read your magazines, books, and newspaper in non-Wi-Fi locations.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. If you see the café is crowded and others would like to use Wi-Fi, then 30 minutes is a fair amount of time. If it is not crowded, then use your best judgment.
  • Do clean up your cups, papers, plates, and anything else lying around that you used.
  • Do move tables and chairs back to their original resting place, if you moved them out of place, when you are ready to pack it up. This is a show of respect and fine manners.
  • Do become friendly with the café owner, managers or attendants if this is a place you intend to frequent on a regular basis.

I hope these tips bring you and other patrons you share the Internet café with greater happiness and productivity.

Did any specific tip resonate most strongly with you? Did I miss any major piece of café’ etiquette? Please weigh in below!

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Leave A Reply (10 comments So Far)

  • Patricia, What a great list for being a good citizen! Thanks for putting this together. It is going to make Internet cafes more pleasant places to be. Readers would be wise to apply you dos and don’ts to all the public places they frequent. Imagine how nice that would be!

  • These are great tips, Patricia. You are so good at making the world kinder, gentler and better!

  • Fabulous list! Internet cafes should post! You have such a marvelous way of delivering such valuable messages. Thank you Patricia. 

  • ** My $0.02+ on coffee shop etiquette (a bit lengthy) **

    Thanks, Patricia, for this insightful piece on coffee shop (Coffice) etiquette. As Tom puts it, you’ve certainly started a great list of guidelines for being good citizens at your local coffee shop.

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of them — some I’ve never considered before reading this article (bare feet?!) — there are some I would like to present from a different point of view, from someone who does it — often.

    Working from a coffee shop on a full- or part-time basis, while not a new phenomenon, is definitely a growing one. Certainly, technology is the big game changer fuelling this growth. So as the culture changes and grows, the etiquette also must adapt somewhat.

    Here are my thoughts–

    Location, location, location:
    I can understand why snagging a seat first, before ordering your drink/food, can be seen as verboten; as someone who works from a coffee shop almost full-time, I think of it as a necessity — particularly when power outlets are in short supply and because most NON-coffee shop working patrons would never think about the power outlet location as that important — rightfully so, of course.

    To present another scenario, where I live, winters are especially harsh. If I’m going to be standing in line on a Tuesday morning, I’d prefer to do it without my heavy coat and work bag. I’ll definitely get more comfortable first before getting in line. Of course, once there, you can rest assured I’ll be focused on placing my order — not on a phone conversation. (Caffeine please!)

    On the other hand, plopping down your belongings and leaving them there for longer than it takes to buy something is a tactic I would strongly discourage – especially during the coffee shop’s heavy traffic times (mornings, lunches, after school, etc.). That behaviour could be seen as rude and inconsiderate. If you HAVE to leave for a long time, pack up and take your stuff.

    Buy the hour:
    I have very mixed feelings about the notion of purchasing something every hour. On the one hand, I do feel that an independent coffee shop owner (non-corporate owned) has every right to expect that a patron who squats for hours on end will buy often. I also think it’s not unreasonable for these owners to create rules to enforce it.

    Conversely, without brand dropping, I really don’t take much issue with a corporate coffee shop customer spending less. Don’t get me wrong: you do need to buy something. But I think every hour at these places might be stretching it a bit.

    Watch it, people:
    The people who work out of coffee shops do so for many different reasons. For me, it’s really simple – I can’t work from home. Believe it or not, I find the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop way more conducive to working than my kitchen table or the spare bedroom in the basement.

    Another reason why I love working from a coffee shop (coffice) is for the potential networking opportunities. Hand-in-hand with that is the bonds you create with the other customers who are there for the same reason. So if I’m sitting next to someone I know and trust, I would feel very comfortable asking them to watch my stuff while I go use the facilities – I’d have little choice if I were buying and consuming coffees every hour… <~ 😉

    If you’re going to be spending time at a coffee shop, DO build relationships – just as you would if you were working in a cubicle in a downtown high rise. This, of course, has its own set of etiquette that will make this comment way longer than I had originally anticipated. What can I say? I’m dedicated and, naturally, I’ve given this subject quite a bit of thought.

    What's most important when setting up in a coffee shop is that you remember that you are a guest in someone's place of business. As Patricia writes above, this means you need to be courteous and polite to other patrons and staff; you should tip either well or often (or both); clean up after yourself; and be fantastic!

    Thanks again for your article Patricia! As you can see, I’m pretty devoted to the subject…

    Sam Title
    Chief Executive Cofficer
    “They call it ‘going for coffee’ ~ We call it ‘going to work’”

  • Claudia

    Are there really people who dump their bottom onto a coffee shop chair, sit there for an entire hour and do not order anything?

    I, as a frequent train traveler in Germany, could add my own rules on laptop usage rules in the Deutsche Bundesbahn. It is incredible how some people think the train is their own private office and everything has to give way to their wants. Some rules that might apply to coffee shops as well:

    – Turn the system sounds of your laptop off, so that not every process is accompanied by an audible “poink”, “plopp” or “dindidindin-di-din!”
    – Don’t try to watch other people’s screens.
    – Don’t badger the staff of the coffee shop (or train) when there’s no free power outlet for you. And do not plug in some old multiple socket you brought just in case… once I witnessed how a socket in a train was blown because two people shared it, and it was not made for such currents. It could not be put back in working order by the train staff and both travelers were without electricity, much to my malicious pleasure.
    – Watch out for cables, and try to place them out of harm’s way.
    – The mother with three children has the same right to a table as you have, even if she is not about to close the deal of her life but plans on a board game instead.

    • Claudia – LOVE your additional tips to increase everyone’s coffee house experience. Your last one really goes to the heart of respect – all paying, responsible patrons have an equal expectation to enjoy their best coffee house experience. Well said!

    • Great tips Claudia! It’s pretty fair to say that many of these courtesies could be called “universal” or even border free.

      I can’t speak to a rail system…but many of the coffee shops I’ve worked out of supply their own power outlet extensions to avoid arguments between cranky, caffeine-starved customers. So far it’s worked…

      I’ve also got my own, which I bought in a reputable hardware supplies store here. So unless there’s a factory defect, I tend not to worry about malfunctions. (Again, I can’t speak for the efficacy of a European train’s electrical system.)

      As far as watching someone’s screen other than your own…I would wholeheartedly agree with that. Curiosity is great. Snooping isn’t. On the other hand, customers should remember that they’re in a public space — a rule of thumb I like to give is this: don’t put anything on your monitor that you couldn’t show your mom, grandmother or young child.

      Sam Title
      Chief Executive Cofficer
      “They call it ‘going for coffee’ ~ We call it ‘going to work’”

  • Thanks Patricia!  You always make advice palatable 🙂

  • Claudia – LOVE your additional tips to increase everyone’s coffee house experience. Your last one really goes to the heart of respect – all paying, responsible patrons have an equal expectation to enjoy their best coffee house experience. Well said!

  • Anonymous

    I agree that it is rude to snag a seat before ordering something at an internet cafe. It’s bad netiquette. However, there are times when it is necessary. For example, there is this one cafe that is always filled with people who don’t buy anything. If you see a seat when you walk in you better take it because chances are it will not be there when your finished ordering.