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The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story about some coffee shops in New York City are going against the grain and are not offering free Wi-Fi, and in some cases banning laptops entirely.

“There’s Wi-Fi in the subway. There’s Wi-Fi everywhere,” Jeremy Lyman, co-owner of Birch Coffee, a local, eight-store mini chain, tells the . “Why not use our space as an opportunity to disconnect and connect to someone sitting next to you?”

Caroline Bell, co-owner of another small coffee shop chain called Café Grumpy (that isn't a typo), says that part of the goal was to weed out the people who would buy a cup of coffee and then "camp out" for hours. "People couldn’t chat with their friends,” she tells the Journal.

In an effort to help people get over the conversation hump, Birch Coffee decided to create "conversation-starter cards that patrons can set on their table to invite encounters with strangers." The idea is that you buy a cup of coffee, choose a card, put it in front of you, and hope that someone will come along and talk. “Maybe you’ll meet someone who changes your life," Lyman says.
KC's View:
This wouldn't necessarily work for me in most cases, because I love using Wi-Fi in coffee shops, especially when traveling. But I think that for these independent shops to look for interesting ways to differentiate themselves makes a lot of sense. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, and people complain, you change your mind and offer Wi-Fi.

Doesn't seem all that difficult to me.