It Ain’t Starbucks, Sweetheart: Why I Got Kicked Out of a Coffee Shop

Its been a long time since I was kicked out. Of anything. Or anywhere. I mean, the days when I was not quite old enough to be in the bar but tried to go in anyway are, um, long gone. I’ve never been kicked out of an apartment, a hotel room, government building, or even a parking space.

Until today.

Today, all that changed. Today, I got kicked out of …. a coffee shop.

Kicked Out

A coffee shop! And I blame Starbucks. Let me explain.

As an entrepreneur, or small business owner, or freelance writer, or whatever you want to call it when I am responsible for generating my own income, I have spent a lot of time over the last several years enjoying Starbucks as my “third place”. Didn’t matter which Starbucks. I’ve enjoyed Starbucks as my portable office in at least a couple dozen Toronto locations, as well as many in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Florida, Washington D.C., Mexico, Barrie, Huntsville, Ottawa, Belleville…. And every conceivable location in between. The coffee is great, the wifi usually pretty good, the staff friendly, and they WANT people like me to come in, sit, and work. And stay.

Working away

The coffee shop I was kicked out of today is not a Starbucks. In fact, I’m pretty sure the owner, who did the kicking personally, isn’t familiar with the model that Starbucks and so many other coffee houses are espousing these days with much success.

To be fair, she’s been running her little coffee shop down here, in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, (where there isn’t a Starbucks for 150 kilometres or 100 miles) for the the last 15 years. To be fairer still, there are signs on every table inside the shop that ask patrons to “limit internet time at inside tables to 30 minutes.” (The outside tables have no such limit, but neither do they have power outlets.) And to be even more fair, she has spoken to me about this in the past. So, the signs were all there for me to get the message, but I missed them.

Still, I didn’t expect to be kicked out. I thought I was being thoughtful by keeping an eye on whether the place was filling up (it wasn’t), and by making sure I was spending money (I was.). I bought coffee (two, actually), a bottle of water (two, actually), a breakfast burrito when I first arrived, and a carrot muffin a while later. I consciously figured that’s what other patrons might be expected to spend if they’d wandered in over the time I was there. I guess I was wrong.

It’s funny how fast time flies when busy with things like a client skype video call, writing and editing work for other clients, and just generally getting shit done. By the time the owner came over to deliver her personal drop-kick, I’d been there a little over 3 hours.

Alone in the coffee shop

Her point, loudly and in front of a few other patrons, many of whom had been there almost as long as I had, was that people walking by and seeing me sit there, occupying a table with my computer open, was “bad for business”. That it keeps people away and prevents them from coming in.

She didn’t say, “It ain’t Starbucks, sweetheart,”. I am not sure she even knows what that means. But she could have, because it is Starbucks that has trained me to think that a coffee shop is a welcoming place for people like me to sit, stay, and spend.

The question is: will she let me back in tomorrow?

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