Is Starbucks Cutting Off Electricity to Laptop Users?

Gothamist: Certain Starbucks in NYC have been quietly covering up their electrical outlets so that customers can't turn the ubiquitous cafes into free office space, according to Starbucks Gossip. The issue first came to light in an open thread about Starbucks on the website; nestled in among complaints such as "the sbux by my house always seem stuffy inside," and "have you ever been in a Starbucks when they didn't play Bob Marley?" you'll find this observation from voiceover actor Mike Pollock, who reveals that "Several Manhattan, New York, stores have replaced AC outlets with blank faceplates, implying that wifi users should leave when their batteries run out. Isn't that a type of restriction on laptop use?"

Pollock, who you'll no doubt recognize as the voice for Dr. Eggman in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, says the Starbucks at 39th and 8th had its outlets re-plated (apparently for some time now), as well as the Starbucks at 14 West 23rd. We couldn't get through to the midtown Starbucks, but a helpful employee partner told us that while some of the outlets are covered up, there are "six or eight" in the back that still have the juice flowing. Still, Pollock, who you might also remember as the voice of General Blanque in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare video game, is concerned this is just the beginning of Starbucks gradually choking the life out of laptop users.

It's already happened at other coffee shops, and a Starbucks Gossip commenter who speaks with an air of authority says:

NY Metro leadership team has stated they are against covering the outlets because it is a passive aggressive way to deal with the issue. However, in extreme cases, they have approved this action because (and let's be real here) some people just cannot be reasoned with... If you are one of those people who uses Starbucks as their office, sits in a store for 8+ hours a day, putting all your files on a table, using a separate chair for your laptop case/ suitcase enjoying unlimited free refills with your Starbucks card, asking for cups of water and refuse to to move until you are good and ready all for the $1.85 you pay as "rent," then perhaps your actions will answer your questions [about covering the outlets].

Pollock explains that he relies on Starbucks to "refill both my belly and my smartphone's battery" between auditions, and he finds the new electricity rationing "disturbing" because it "would seem to run contrary to the company's 'third place' philosophy." We reached out to Starbucks to inquire whether the company has lost its philosophical and moral compass, or if their customers are just unbelievably entitled electricity parasites. We'll update when we know more.


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