Dig Baton Rouge

Office Hours: This month, I’m helping you not get kicked out of a coffee shop

Whether you’re a stressed college student or a frequenter of the holiday specials, there’s a good chance that you have spent some time at a coffee shop. The caffeinated establishments have become a part of our regular routine, even more than the coffee itself.

For me, the coffee shop has become not only a place of refuge, but also an office.

Let’s take a second for background information. If you haven’t scratched your head at what exactly it is I do yet, then welcome to the world of friends and family. Largely speaking (and according to the IRS), I have been self-employed for the past three years. I work with a variety of clients—all of whom make what I do enjoyable and not feel like work. Here’s the catch; I do most of my work from a coffee shop.

I frequently joke to clients that I’m working at the office and that they are welcome to stop by, as I have an open door policy. Working from one of these aromatic places gives me flexibility to get work done without a large overhead. With that said, it also comes with its own set of perks, rules and caricatures. For example, there are the regulars—the ones who come in like clockwork to get the same thing with two Splendas every day. Then, there’s the high school student who is far too young to consume the amount of sugar and caffeine that’s in his/her iced beverage; and finally there’s the person like me. We’re the ones who operate under an unspoken set of rules while also operating our livelihood.

I understand that these rules may be overwhelming and that you might think they don’t exist. Trust me; they do, and there are more of them. I’m more than happy to talk them through with you and give you some coffee recommendations if you’d ever like. If so, pull up a chair the next time you see me at the office, and I’ll be happy to take out my headphones.

Do

Buy an item, regularly
If you’re parked in a seat for an extended period, it’s imperative you regularly purchase either a beverage and/or something to eat. We sit for hours at restaurants, sometimes dining in multiple courses and other times, babysitting a drink for hours. The same rule applies for a coffee shop, but I’ll add that it’s more pertinent you buy something every two to three hours. In same cases, it might be wise to purchase an item every 90 minutes. You will have to feel out the venue. Coffee shops are essentially designed for quick and transitory purposes, with an allowance for relaxation zones. With that thought in mind, it won’t kill you to buy a sandwich, an extra coffee or pastry every couple of hours. It might kill your bank account, but that’s why you’re working there anyway, right?

Tip your barista
The old wait service principle used to be to tip your server 15 percent. Due to inflation and the hard work for little pay, it’s common practice to now give 20 percent. Your barista is working just as hard keeping up with the long lines, the rush and the clean up, all while trying to get your triple tall soy caramel macchiato or dirty vanilla almond chai tea latte (my rare, pretentious favorites) to you in under three minutes. Give them a break and some George Washingtons.

Use your headphones
They come in all shapes, sizes and with celebrity endorsements. It doesn’t really matter which type you use so long as you use them. Some coffee shops play music and others either have a television or practice the silence game. Either way, no one really wants to hear which episode of “How I Met Your Mother” you’re on or that new band you’re preparing to hear at a summer festival. The great thing about 2017 is that we have the option to watch and listen to an array of media at the speed of an Internet buffer. That liberty is made so much better when it’s done in private viewing. To subject others to excessive personal noise is rude and unnecessary.

It’s acknowledged that the coffee shop is not a library and we’re extremely grateful for that. It is, however, important to recognize this important practice as a sign of respect. It’s also a non-verbal symbol that you are to be left alone to work or read.

Ask your barista for advice
It’s normal to not know the ingredients are in the latest beverage or to be confused how to order a certain size. And, perhaps, you have not frequented a coffee shop before because you have been intimidated by its operation. It’s acceptable and expected for you to ask questions. Here’s the thing — do so with the full knowledge that the line may back up and guests might let you know how they feel about it. If you can’t make up your mind, either step out shortly to contemplate the difference between a latte and cappuccino or go with the first beverage you see. If you don’t like the potential rash decision, most baristas are more than happy to exchange something you might prefer, or at the worst, you’ll know what not to get next time.

Don’t
Sit next to an outlet if you don’t need it
There is nothing more annoying than when your computer, phone or tablet dies. While there are thousands of things more important in the world, we’ve all been in the situation where we feel as if a piece of us has died when our electronic devices suddenly cease. Outlets are the hottest commodities in coffee shops for this reason. If you don’t have a need to plug in or you’re close to 100 percent, please do your best to sit elsewhere. That struggling student or budding entrepreneur will greatly appreciate it.

Ask someone to watch your belongings for longer than 5 minutes
Things happen; you have to use the restroom or take a call. It’s understood. Unfortunately, gone are the days of a stranger turning your interior car lights off in a parking lot when you’ve left them on. Most coffee shop neighbors will be glad to keep a side eye out on your items while you step out. If that stepping out lasts longer than a comfortable time, it puts the other person in an uncomfortable situation. The best thing to do is to excuse yourself and pray nothing happens to your items or collect them as soon as you can. You’re in an open place with valuable things. Use your discretion.

Hog the communal table
This is a trend in many coffee shops. Sometimes you need extra room to get things done. Don’t be “that guy” or “that girl” who occupies more than what’s necessary. If it can be shared, share. In a dream world, we’d have all the space in the world to create, lay things out and be comfortable. This isn’t our home or personal zone. In the coffee shop leasing world, you only get so much space. Treat it like it’s a New York City flat and only display what you absolutely need to in order to get the work done.

Conduct conference calls
At some point, we’re all pulled into a conference call. While there are a few of us who don’t mind them, most say their name and leave the call on mute while they do a million other things. You might be able to skirt this if you have headphones that allow you to speak into the microphone. Even still, you’ll have the noise from the shop in the background and everyone on the call will know that you’re not in the office. If you step outside or take the call in your car, you have a better opportunity for peace of mind and lower amount of death stares from everyone listening to you discuss the company’s Q2 report.

Photo by Nicholas Martino.

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