WiFi or Die, Perhaps the Latter, Barnes & Noble & Starbucks

We’re crouching on the floor of a Barnes & Noble in Park Slope, an enfranchised enclave of Brooklyn. The walls of our apartment began to throb and press against our skull, so we escaped, in search of caffeine, wi-fi and a/c. In a perch between the archival scrapbooking section and the leather journals, the sun beats a low hum across our arm and slow cooks our laptop. We glance enviously at the Starbucks tables.

Look at them, blithely able to sit, and place objects on the table and interact with them. Why, god, why?

We know, B&N is evil and destroys people’s lives and we shouldn’t have come here. But we’re lazy, and the place seemed to fit our parameters. Incidentally, that’s also how the Peloponnesian Wars started.

We’re pissed because even though there’s a giant sticker on the front door advertising WI-FI, when you arrive to the cafe area, there’s no outlets. No place to plug in your laptop. You’re just supposed to sit there and peck and then leave after your battery dies. Outrageous!

We pressed the barrista. He suggested we talk to B&N information. The answer desk suggested our current locale, just a few steps down from the “All Occasion” card section. When we asked about the inherent disconnect, natch, between having wi-fi and yet no outlets, he said it might be a safety issue. We could see that, perhaps some tyke feels tempted to recreate Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We ask if maybe they could install the outlets high up, out of reach? “Yeah, I feel you,” replied info boy, “but we don’t own that space, you see.”

Gotcha, it’s no one’s responsibility but our own that your store is designed by mendicants. Ergo, the next time we feel the urge to emerge from our blog cavern, we will peruse many of the “Find Free WiFi” services out there before leaving the house, places like Wi-FiHotSpotList.com, Hotspot Haven, and WiFinder.

In case you forget to jot down a place before you leave, you can also send a text message to ilovefreewifi, as described here. Avoids that whole key locked inside the safe conundrum.

Our foot is totally falling asleep. We hate that, as when we arise, it might be more difficult to shove up Barne’s and Noble’s ass.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Crissy in Honolulu says:

    So remind me again how B&N otherwise crushes people’s very souls. I clicked on the “BARNES & NOBLE” link in the MORE section but found very little.

  2. bambino says:

    Either I missed the literary spoof of the pre-jump post, or the writer has never heard of ‘editing’. Either way, it makes it very difficult to read.

  3. something_amazing says:

    Brownlee? Is that you? Maybe you guys should consider signing at the end of the posts like they do over on kotaku.

  4. Kat says:

    Crissy: B&N also crushes people’s souls with high prices. The day I stopped buying at B&N was the day I bought $50 worth of books (about 3) there, and came home and found out that, if I had purchased the same books brand new at Amazon, I’d have paid half that. I haven’t bought anything at B&N since, but I do go in to browse on occasion.

  5. Crissy in Honolulu says:

    Katz: That isn’t really a B&N thing so much, though, as it is a storefront thing period. Any bookstore that’s not exclusively online (or isn’t Costco) sells new books at the suggested retail price, which is dictated by the publisher.

  6. Ishmael says:

    B&N crushes souls by sticking that damn Starbucks in the corner. Am I the only one who misses the small, quiet bookstore? I miss looking through the new releases,hunting through the used books, and exploring the how-to section without having to listen to the yuppies loudly argue philosophy over their triple mocha double shot expresso extra cream and sugar lattes.

    No, I’m not bitter. Why?

  7. LLH says:

    they might crush souls but at the grove they’re open until 11pm every night of the week, let you read whatever the fuck you want (me? the imported uk fashion mags) all while sitting on the outdoor upstairs patio while drinking a latte. as for the outlets? i’m sure i’ve seen people plugged in – check the floor by a wrap desk or a weight bearing pillar, both usually have juice.

  8. Promethean says:

    If you’re not finding power in BN, then it’s either already being used (not a BN problem) or you’re not looking hard enough. BN may not juice up every cafe table and random arm-chair, but retro-fitting a store for power in ever 5-foot section (since laptops were not always so numerous, nor was wifi) is expensive. BN doesn’t want you to leave the store– at the very least you’re purchasing high margin drinks and food, if not books. They’re not actively trying to deny you power.

    My issue is that, at least in my area, the wifi is not free. You must sign up for their service as a one-time use or subscription basis, and it’s not cheap. I think they’d make more in soft-money through people staying longer, eating and drinking more and purchasing more reading material if they didn’t seak what is probably a very minor piece of cash from revenue sharing on wifi access.

  9. Ben Popken says:

    Actually, Promethean, they are actively denying me power. The Starbucks cafe had a few metal face plates that covered what were once accessible outlets.

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    Not so-subtle protest: Bring two 15-foot extension cords with you, find an outlet somewhere and string them through the store to the place you want to sit.

    Even less subtle: Bring 100 feet of electric mower cord.

    As a bonus, you might get a chance to play Trip-a-Toddler. Extra points if they throw a shoe.

  11. Dustbunny says:

    So sue me, but I like B&N. If you sign up for their Reader Advantage program you get 10% off of every purchase. Plus they send you coupons periodically for 15% off on top of that. And they have a good sci fi selection, at least in the store I go to.

  12. steinwaytony says:

    We know, B&N is evil and destroys people’s lives and we shouldn’t have come here.

    Pretty sure they’re just books . . .

  13. I love Barnes and Nobles. Sure they aren’t the cheapest, but their
    stores are nicely furnished with dark wood bookcases, chandliers and
    comfy chairs (unlike Book-A-Millions sterile white look), and Starbucks
    and a book are pretty much heaven on earth.
    Anyway on the power outlet issue, how many people actually plug their
    laptop in at a Wi-Fi cafe? I personally have never done it, and I use
    them at least once a week. My battery lasts 5 hours or so… isn’t that
    long enough for you?

  14. MissKissLock says:

    Dude, seriously, WTF? Why weren’t you at the Cocoa Bar? Awesome coffees, and laptop users and wi-fi aplenty.

  15. I vote for a big deep cycle battery, a large inverter, and a powerboard so you can run your laptop and those of all of the friends you’ll have to bring with you to carry the battery.

  16. Ben Popken says:

    MissKissLock, I’ll have to give the Cocoa Bar a shot tomorrow, the online reviews sound enticing. This weekend I’ve also tried Ozzies and The Tea Lounge. The latter definitely wins for good a/c and free wi-fi, although the alterna vibe can be a bit overwhelming. You also have to be willing to put up with a crappy seat until one of the better nooks open up. Ozzie’s was alright but the wifi isn’t free and the cooling system leaves something to be desired. Plus, their mocha is syrupy.

  17. Well if the faceplates are there, odds are there are wires inside for hooking up outlets, they might even be hot too. Bring in some outlets and a new plate and install them yourself…or you could just use your own internet connection at home…nah…nevermind…that’s craziness.

  18. Ben Popken says:

    Robbie writes:

    “notwithstanding the occasional person traveling on an empty battery (in more ways than one), why would B&N need outlets? how long did you really plan to sit and drink coffee and do B&N-related things on the computer? it’s not exactly a library. they probably don’t mind the self-limiting nature of the whole setup.”

  19. Ben Popken says:

    Robbie: They need outlets because they promote their wi-fi. Laptops = want to plug in the power. Sometimes my my laptop won’t boot up it’s plugged in. Finicky like that.

    The cafe area had outlets, but they had been covered up by metal plates.

    If they don’t mind the self-limiting nature, then they certainly won’t mind that I won’t be going there again to work, possibly buying coffee, picking up a book, etc.

  20. Ben Popken says:

    Cooper writes:

    “You’re not crazy, there really are no outlets. According to the Barnes & Noble staff at a few different locations (in different Texas cities) where I’ve attempted to plug in my laptop, there aren’t any outlets because of “liability issues.” It’s insane. I personally don’t use wifi at B&N because it’s not free, but it’s a nice place to go when I need to write a paper etc without the distraction of internet. Congratulations to all of those with long-lasting laptop batteries, but I’m using a refurbished laptop with a much shorter battery life and, yes, often like to work for more than 2 hours at a time. “

  21. Kornkob says:

    *shrug* While an outlet would certainly be an additional convienence for laptop users B&N isn’t advertizing ‘WIFI and POWER OUTLETS’. Robbie’s right– if your laptop is faulty or your battery is getting old, that’s not B&N’s issue any more than it would be their issue if your wifi card was flakey.

    This one seems kinda whiney— B&N isn’t hurting the consumer or lying about anything (the info booth kid’s statements smell like ‘made it up on the spot’ to me). They offer WiFi, they provide it. No problem.

  22. geedeck says:

    This seems like a crappy complaint targeting the poor peon working there. Isn’t this the type of thing you write the corporate office or a manager?

  23. Neola00 says:

    Barnes and Noble *does* actively prevent people from using power from their outlets. This is simply outrageous because as a pointed out there is a “giant sticker on the front door advertising WI-FI”. I spend lots of $$$ on B&N Cafe, not to mention a WiFi subscription and purchase thousands of dollars of books over the years. At my B&Ns (Chicago area) they have also replaced the outlets with blank plates. Other outlets that they needed to keep so they could vacuum at night have stickers covering the outlets that say “For BN Employee use only”. I asked a clerk and they said that it was because you might get a power surge and lose data. I’ll bet some jerk sued them, and a stupid lotto playing jury of losers awarded the jerk a jackpot settlement causing BN to deny power to people. I think they should instead put stickers that say “we are not responsible for data loss or electrocution arising from using our power”. I am angry about this and think we need to lobby BN to open use of power for notebook computer use again.


  24. Kyntathia says:

    We have actually gone out of our way at our B&N to put tables near outlets. People often find outlets in rather odd, inconvenient places at our store (i.e. On the floor of the children’s dept in front of the entranceway to the bathrooms/receiving room) and we are more than happy to direct these people to more suitable chairs and tables with outlets near them. It’s only a liability when people sit on the floor in the pathway of oncoming customers/children/employees or when wires are stretched so far to get to an outlet that people can easily trip over them. As far as I know, no one has sued our store as of yet for loss of data. So to say that all B&N stores are actively keeping you from plugging in your computer, well, in a word thats completely bunk.