Dear Urban Diplomat: do I have to keep paying for my seat at a café?

Dear Urban Diplomat: do I have to keep paying for my seat at a café?

Latte and laptop
(Image: Steve Harris/Flickr)

Dear Urban Diplomat,

At my local café, earbud-sporting caffeine junkies on laptops (of which I’m one) are as much a part of the ambiance as the Alabama Shakes album on repeat. So I was shocked the other day when, three hours into my stay, a server snarkily asked if I’d like to buy something—anything—besides my flat white. Am I a jerk if I don’t drop a king’s ransom on a steel-cut oatmeal muffin every 10 minutes to keep my seat?

—Ugly Americano, West Queen West

We reached out to some of the city’s most popular Wi-Fi hubs—er, coffee shops—and got answers as varied as their pastry selection. One claimed their seating policy is based on simple math: if you keep a twosome from eating lunch, your $3 spend hogs a table that could bring in $20, and you may be asked to relocate. Another said lingering laptoppers add to their coveted community vibe, even if they’re savouring a single mug of drip for hours. A third suggested that if you’re inconveniencing anyone, it’s not the staff but rather your fellow macchiato addicts. So how about this for an answer: just be considerate. If it’s the lunch rush, vacate the table for four you’ve been monopolizing and ask to share a two-seater with the guy pounding out his spec screenplay. And if you get a dirty look the third time you order a tap water refill, drop a couple of bucks on a friggin’ scone.

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