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05/22/2010 Save August First!

Since I've started working out of my home office, I've come to appreciate those restaurants and cafés in town that have free wireless. It's where I go when I need a change of scenery to get work done and where I meet my virtual teammates when we actually need a face-to-face meeting. Of all the places in Burlington, my favorite, by far is August First. The owner, Jodi Whalen, embraced social media and the BTV digerati when she launched her café and bakery and we embraced August First back.

Lately, though, August First has had issues with its free WiFi and last week it turned it off completely. In talking with Jodi and Phil, it seems that the biggest issue they have is that they have a very limited amount of seating and that coffee drinking WiFi users are taking up valuable space during the lunch hour. Selling coffee is nice, but August First makes its profit from food. If it can't seat its lunch guests, people will go elsewhere.

August first
Here's the rub: the people who work at August First don't want to police their guests. They don't want to tell people to leave. They don't want to keep switching passwords and access continually during the day. It's easier for them to turn off the WiFi and focus on making and selling things like the Jalapeno Cheddar bread.

Well, I don't want August First to turn off their WiFi. I want to continue to go there for coffee, meetings, lunch and baked goods. I like working there and meeting colleagues there for work. I've spent hundreds of dollars there since it opened. But if they don't have WiFi, I'm probably not going to go there as much.

So I think we, the customers, the digital mafia, the Twitter crowd, have to help August First out. I think we, the loyal customers, have to help move those WiFi squatters out of there during lunchtime.

Here's what I suggest:
From 11:45 - 1:30, if you see someone drinking a coffee working on their computer, go up and tell them that if someone needs a table for lunch they'll have to move. The person with the coffee probably won't like it, but that's okay. That's not the kind of customer August First needs.

If you get pushback or resistance, look around the restaurant for another member of the digital mafia. Ask them to help you. Remember, if we do this together, and we do it nicely, it will work.

Explain to them that you're doing it for them, to keep the free WiFi. Explain to them that Jodi and Phil need to make a living from August First or it will close. Explain to them that the lunch business is important.

When they get up to make room, ask for their name. Tell them you're going to Tweet and post on Facebook how great and helpful they were. Tell them you're going to thank them publicly.

There may be better ways to do this, but it's a start. I'd love to hear more. Because I really don't want to stop going to August First. Come on, BTV folks, they need our help!


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