I'm enjoying coffee shops.

I take my laptop.

I can meet a friend.

It's like home, but the coffee is much better. And, it gets me out of the house. I see people. That's healthy.

What's The Deal?
What am I supposed to pay for all this hospitality? There's wireless, people to watch, controlled climate, lighting — lots of benefit. The coffee shop is a business, of course.

I always buy a cup of something. That seems like the deal.

And I don't nurse it for hours. If I stay more than 60 or 90 minutes, I get another cup. Or a bagel. Or something.

When I arrange to meet someone in a coffee shop, I say, "Shall we get something?"

Sometimes the other person might say, "Naw, I'm good."

Well, I'm good too, but I always say, "For the sake of ethics, one of us needs to buy something. I'll do it." I'm glad to do it. I'm rewarded quickly for my high-minded ethics: I get a nice drink. Positive reinforcement.

Plus, it seems like a way of paying rent for my temporary office (or temporary living room).

A Case In Point
I recently saw a fellow in a crowded coffee shop, who had been using a table (and the wireless) for hours.

He quietly shut down his computer, got up, and left the table and the coffee shop. He didn't clear his table. He left his stuff all over it, some of it valuable. It was like he was claiming a beach chair for later.

After ten minutes, he returned with a sandwich from a nearby store, reclaimed his table, and stealthily ate the sandwich. He kept looking over his shoulder before taking each bite. I think he knew that he was on the wrong side of the deal.

Is this ethical? (And is it healthy to eat this way?)

I think this is theft — subtle but real.
It seems to me that, if I'm in the coffee shop — especially if it is full — and I am occupying a table and drinking from their wireless, I should also be spending money right there and then. And I should NOT be bringing in other food or drink.

What do you think?