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Hampered by Campers

We love our student customer base. However, lately we have experienced problems with “campers.” This lovely term was coined by some food service professional to refer to people who take up seating and WiFi in an establishment for a long period of time without purchasing anything. Small businesses, such as ours, are not equipped to support the study habits of campers.

Personally, I don’t understand the concept of studying at a business without purchasing anything. As an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, I know that there is no shortage of places on campus to study undisturbed and without the expectation of making a purchase. If you enjoy going to a business and appreciate their space, you should want to support them!

What I’ve struggled with as the general manager of Crimson & Whipped Cream is how to approach customers about this. We try to change our WiFi password every day, but people still manage to get it without making a purchase. I’ve thought about making a sign for the door, but I don’t want to get the wording wrong and turn away potential customers. I’ve also considered trying to establish a time limit for our seating and WiFi, but we have many loyal customers who hang out at the shop for hours and make multiple purchases and I would hate to alienate them.

Our business has grown so fast in the last few months, but our space hasn’t. I’m trying to find a way to accommodate those who want to sit and hang out for a few hours with a textbook, a friend, or a date without losing business because our seating is so limit and taken up by people who aren’t making any purchases. At this point, I’m open to customer suggestions! How can we maintain an inviting atmosphere while dissuading campers from taking up our space?

Ashley “Three” Goins
GM of Crimson & Whipped Cream

11 Comments

  1. I have met people there and when we were through with coffee and chit chat, we have moved on. There always has been a student or 2 in there before we got there and after we left, they were still there and I noticed they didn’t get anything. Awkward to say the least. College is a time to grow and learn. Learning manners is part of it too, tell them to move on, you appreciate their business, just not being their study hall.
    It will become worse when it gets colder out. Condense your message above and put it on the menu board under “The Camper” or Camping Rules.
    If that does not work, take out the chairs and make a small ledge all around the wall waist high for coffee and small plates, not big enough for laptops! Maybe the campers will seek better campgrounds?
    You said it yourself, the business has grown. You have to change to accommodate business. If the campers don’t come back, well, they weren’t buying anything anyway, no big loss?

    • Lee
    • October 29, 2013
    • 6:56 pm
    • Thank you, Lee! We’re in the process of re-doing our menu boards anyway, so that would work perfectly! I appreciate your feedback.

  2. Sounds like a legitimate concern. Here are a few passive things I think you could try:

    1. Cover Wall outlets. No power = limited computer life
    2. Switch to round tables. Round tables are a lot more difficult to study on because you cant spread out your things.
    3. Designate study tables. If they are all taken then people will just have to move on.
    4. Studying times: Similar to the request Cafe Plaid puts on their tables.
    5. Table side service. If you ask a camper if you can get them anything every 30 minutes they sort of get the picture.

    Other than that I think campers are just something a coffee shop near campus needs to be prepared for.

    • Matt
    • October 29, 2013
    • 7:29 pm
    • Thank you so much for your suggestions, Matt! I think I’ll go over to Cafe Plaid and check out the signs that they’re using.

  3. Sorry to hear that this is a problem for you guys. I’ve read about similar issues around the country, but had hoped Crimson and Whipped Cream wouldn’t experience it.

    Would it be possible to update the WiFi system so each customer gets a unique password on their receipt that is limited to an hour or two? Then, if they would like longer access, they would have to make another purchase. I’ve been to a few coffee shops that have done this.

    Another popular method is WiFi-free hours. Might be good during those peak times when space is limited.

    Of course, these solutions only work for people on laptops that need the WiFi. I’m not sure what you can do for people studying, writing papers, or just hanging out in general without make purchases. Perhaps a coffee shop etiquette sign that lists a few do’s and don’ts? Some people might not be aware of the issues.

    • Aaron
    • October 29, 2013
    • 7:33 pm
    • Thank you, Aaron. Those are really helpful suggestions! I’ll call our internet provider to get some more information on how to do all of this as I am not very internet-savvy. Haha. Appreciate the feedback!

  4. Change your WIFI password each day (or every few days), and have it print out on the receipt. People have to make a purchase to get the password. Yes it’s kind of a pain but it will cut out the campers.

    • Michael
    • October 29, 2013
    • 9:09 pm
    • Thanks, Michael! That’s our current method and it seems to work as long as we keep up with it. Appreciate the feedback!

  5. NO signs on the door! Handle problems on an individual basis. If multiple problems occur at one time, change the password and kick them out. GOOD LUCK!!!

    • Mr. Barnett
    • October 30, 2013
    • 1:43 pm
  6. I think a good standard is that they can be there but need to make a purchase every hour that they are there

    • Lindsay
    • November 20, 2013
    • 3:28 pm

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Hello!

We’re Crimson & Whipped Cream, a gourmet bakery and coffee bar located on Campus Corner in Norman, near the University of Oklahoma campus. This is our blog. Visit our main site at crimsonbakery.com.

Get in Touch

331 White Street,
Norman, OK 73069
405.307.8990
ashleigh@crimsonbakery.com

Hours

Monday-Thursday: 8-9
Friday: 8-10
Saturday: 9-10
Sunday: 9-6