The 7 Laws of Coffee Shop Camping (from a Habitual Repeat Offender)

December 31, 2018

Picture entering your favorite coffee shop on a rainy Saturday afternoon. You order a fresh cup of black coffee (or your Venti sweetened, salted, blended, low-fat, no foam, six pump mocha with soy instead of milk non-coffee/non-tea thing—it’s okay, we won’t judge) with a dog-eared copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in hand. You present your privilege card, say thanks but no thanks to the overly perky barista trying to sell you a Sara Bareilles CD, and look around for an empty table for you to use. Unfortunately, there isn’t any. Instead, you see every inch of available table space occupied by people hunched over shiny laptops, reams of photocopied notes, and brick-thick law and med books.

No, you did not walk into a library by mistake. No, we cannot study/work at home instead. Yes, we really do need the dedicated book stands with the tiny spotlights to read.

As a law student, I quickly learned that studying at coffee shops provided numerous advantages. To the dismay and irritation of most normal coffee shop customers, we students congregate in such places because they really are more productive when we do so. However, since your local Starbucks is a public setting, we do have to make an effort to get along with the other people there. Before you go strutting off to your local coffee shop with all your work in tow, here are some rules to make the experience more pleasant for both students and professionals alike (and friends who just want to hang out).

7. Don’t hoard tables and chairs

This is pretty basic but most people have probably been guilty of this at one time or another. Resist the urge to build a fort around yourself using the café furniture. Chairs are for people, not your bags. Most coffee shops have bag hooks under their tables, use them. Your bag should not be prioritized over actual people who need to sit down. Personally, I bring my own bag hook  in case the table where I’m seated does not have one.

Sexy Legs not included. Via The Gadget Flow.

Sexy legs not included. Via The Gadget Flow.

Also, don’t spread out your things all over the table. A lot of coffee shops nowadays have giant cafeteria-sized tables meant for large numbers of customers. When you’re by yourself and you’re seated somewhere that’s good for eight to ten people, it might be a good idea to set clear boundaries for your stuff, making room for when there are no more solo seats or booths available. This will save you from the furious stares of hate from other customers who just want to work and drink coffee in peace but can’t find a free spot because your bag had barfed its contents throughout the entire table.

6. Try to order something every so often

Learn to appreciate your local coffee shop for letting you stay for hours on end almost every day by giving them some business. Consider it as just compensation for the fact that you’ve been mooching off their electricity, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi while keeping other paying customers from getting a seat.

I learned from a barista friend that they are not allowed to “kick people out” even if the cheapskates haven’t ordered anything. I know working at coffee shops all the time can get expensive, but we shouldn’t take advantage of their hospitality. If the place doesn’t make any money, they’d be forced to close down. Where would you go study then?

Support the café but also use your head. A friend of mine usually buys a box of Starbucks VIA. It contains twelve coffee sachets for around four hundred fifty pesos. He brings it with him into the coffeeshop and has the baristas make the coffee for him. If you do the math, that’s around forty pesos per cup. If you do same thing, you could easily buy that sandwich you’ve been eyeing because of all the money you’re saving on your coffee. Employ similar tipid tricks like this so you don’t end up bankrupt before your finals.

5. Make friends with the baristas

Baristas are trained to be perky and overly-courteous, but that doesn’t automatically mean you guys are friends. Be nice, and talk to them like people instead of coffee serving robots. If you forge a relationship with them, they’ll also give you priority whenever they have free beverage or food to give away. Once you get to know them, they are genuinely considerate people. I have a couple of barista friends in my usual coffee shop and they bring over a mug of warm water for me every few hours or so.

Who won't want to be friends with this gorgeous bunch of baristas? Via GJB.

Who wouldn’t want to be friends with this gorgeous bunch of baristas? Via GJB.

4. Use your inside voices

Studying/working at coffee shops is now a thing. For other customers who don’t like it, sorry, you just have to learn to deal with it. That said, we should all try to avoid being jerks to each other in a coffee shop on purpose. Don’t speak at the top of your voice just to annoy the students at that other table just because you resent their attempts to turn the coffee shop into a library. Be considerate, remember that the coffee shop is a public place. Believe me, not everyone wants to know how your date went last night.

ViaTV Week.

Chandler is funny and all but I wouldn’t want to hear him joke while studying. Via TV Week.

Similarly, students should also refrain from being too noisy and rowdy. Some people actually want to work and not just pretend to do so. This is not the time or place to awkwardly flirt your way out of the friendzone with your blockmate. No, buying her a tall frappucino won’t help. If you cannot help but quiz each other, please just use your inside voices. Also, I do not get what’s so funny about studying the human anatomy that your laugh has to resonate through the whole coffee shop

3. Stop trying to murder people with your eyes

Unless you’re Cyclops from the X-Men (or really really cute), your looks cannot kill. Stop wasting your effort. Casting the evil eye at annoying customers will only strain your eyes and give you a migraine. Instead, just come up to the other table and politely ask them to stop doing whatever it is that’s making you contemplate a triple homicide.

Via WC.

Natalie Portman’s evil eye still looks kind of hot. Via WC.

2. Bring your own extension cable

If you stay for hours working at a coffee shop, chances are your laptop, iPad, or cell phone, might run out of battery. While there is nothing wrong with asking the guy with a table near an outlet if you can charge your gadget (especially if he’s one of those really really cute people I previously mentioned), it is just more convenient for everyone if you can bring your own extension cable. This way, you don’t have to disturb others just so you can keep playing Minion Rush on your cell phone while on breaks.

Comes in all hipster sizes and colors. Via Johanna Levomaki

Comes in all hipster sizes and colors. Via Johanna Levomaki

1. Don’t “save” a table and then leave

Nothing peeves me more than seeing an otherwise empty table (save for a couple of textbooks) when there are so many other customers who can’t find a seat. People who mark their territory by leaving all their stuff and then walking out of the establishment to eat elsewhere should get their coffee shop privileges revoked. It is perfectly acceptable to leave if you have to take a yosi break or a phone call outside, but disappearing for hours on end and rendering the table useless for anyone else is just bad manners.

Whether you’re staying just for the coffee or staying until you’ve finished your work, we can all make everyone’s coffee shop experience better. Got any more tips and tricks? Any other pet peeves? Let us know!

Diana Camacho Diana Camacho

Diana Camacho is a perky little energizer bunny whose idea of fun is writing a paper on the Semiotics and Curatorial Aspect of Social Media, or some other pseudo-intellectual subject matter. She is a Karate black belter who randomly says “Hai, Sensei!” by instinct, and a law school nerd who incessantly speaks in pompous law jargon. On the weekends, she plays football as an excuse to eat "recovery food."

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69 responses to “The 7 Laws of Coffee Shop Camping (from a Habitual Repeat Offender)”

  1. nameless says:

    Nice article! I noticed that most coffee shops near universities or away from malls are better for studying.

    • D Camacho says:

      Thanks! I usually go to coffee shops far away from my own school because I don’t like running into people I know. :))

      • nameless says:

        HAHAHAHA! Some people can’t help but chat, while you’re cramming readings. I usually study/write in small coffee shops, more conducive for studying and appreciating coffee.

  2. Rain says:

    It depends on where or what coffee shop actually. One should first assess the location (is it near schools, lawschools or medschools?). I frequent coffee shop to study and we grad students somehow have this unspoken code of respect; especially to those who will be taking the board exams or bar exams.

    • D Camacho says:

      I usually steer clear of coffee shops near schools because I know I’ll run into a lot of students like me or people I know. I like frequenting places where there is a good ratio of students, professionals, and ordinary customers so I don’t feel like class attendance should be taken or something. :))

      • Hahaha when I used to camp out almost every day last June-August at the CBTL in Greenbelt 5 (I moved to an apartment and installing the new Internet connection took two and a half months), there would be usual suspects na palagi din nilulumot dun kasama ko. Pwede na nga mag check attendance haha kulang na lang may roll call araw araw. Magkakaibigan na kaming lahat. This law student, another law student, a real estate agent, an American executive and an ex-celebrity who uses CBTL as his networking business headquarters.

  3. Adrian De Leon says:

    I don’t know if this happens to other Starbucks branches, but the one in Libis (near McDo and Shopwise) actually has people taking a nap. Each time I saw it happen, the napper was Korean. Not to be racist, but I wonder how they can be that comfortable (and inconsiderate)? Or maybe it was just the same guy? (it’s hard to tell, I can’t see his face)

    • No offense (and I am not generalizing. Just an observation). The nastiest customers were always Korean. Back in my coffee hawking days, they would rearrange tables, mess up the place and just wreak havoc. We had this notorious regular who would spit in the ash trays. Uckkk.

      But some of them are really really nice, though. 🙂

    • jezpot says:

      I saw several koreans do the same at a cafe in Palawan so I guess they really think that it is okay to do this. I think we should bring it to their attention the next time, especially in a busy coffee shop.

  4. Three words: befriend the barista. I used to work in a coffee shop and you can’t help but pick favorites from among the regular customers. I’d shamelessly save my favorite law students a seat by the window so that they can hog the sockets, because they are all very nice and friendly. I’d even adjust the AC for then if they feel cold. I’d sneak an extra pump or two of syrup for free if I’m feeling generous (on the store’s resources) haha. I’m still friends with my favorite coffee shop campers. Some of them are doctors, dentists and lawyers now.

  5. Matt says:

    sometimes i wonder how a tall mocha can last for hours.

  6. Nico Goco says:

    If I know I’m going to be there for a long time, I usually go for pressed coffee. It can last for up to 4-6 mugs kasi, and it’s pretty cheap 😛 i only learned to camp out in coffee shops when I was working though. I’d usually start my day very early there, or finish work at a starbucks. For cheap tea, I’d go for McDo’s cafe since a pot (just one tea bag really) is affordable enough, and you can get a refill of hot water too, so it’ll last you two pots. 🙂

    • D Camacho says:

      I like getting pressed coffee too when I’m camping out. Though I have never tried tea at Mcdo, I’ll be sure to try next time. I usually go to Mcdo for all-nighters because they’re open for 24 hours. I order coffee float and just keep ordering fries when I get hungry. It’s cheaper but not any better for my health! :))

  7. If I may just add a few items from my own personal blog:

    Thou shall always use earphones.
    I mean come on. This is pretty basic. There is a reason why coffee shops keep their in-store music to a pleasant, barely-audible level. People are actually doing important things or are having conversations around you. If you play music from your devices or if you are watching the recent Game of Thrones episode on your laptop without a pair of earbuds on, you’re an asshole.

    Thou shall not be a slob.
    Man, I hate people who tear up receipts, strew stir sticks, scatter bits of paper napkins and spill sugar or creamer on the cafe tables. Your mom doesn’t work here. A janitor or the bus boy may not be around to clean up after you, so please keep tables tidy for the next customer. Clean as you go.

    Thou shall not be a nosy, eavesdropping b*tch.
    If I try to keep my conversations to a respectable volume and you’re still somehow c/overtly craning your neck to hear the juicy details, something is seriously wrong with you.

    • D Camacho says:

      Thanks for sharing this Noni! 🙂 I wonder if I could have been one of your favorite customers! :)) I have a favorite barista too, actually. Unfortunately, she was transferred to another branch and I don’t know where she is anymore! 🙁

      • I worked at the SBUX at Power Station along Macapagal behind S&R. We used to be a sleepy store na puro regulars kasi you need a car to get there, madalang ang public transpo though dumadaan dun yung bus pero hindi sila usually nagbababa. Ngayon may DFA na sa harap kaya sobrang busy na nila dun. I left because I had to do my thesis pero sobrang saya nya. If only I could go back. 😛

    • Carl Tomacruz says:

      Thou SHALT, Abbu.

  8. Mark Philip Wu says:

    I HATE number 1. People who leave their stuff to reserve a table while they go eat out or whatever deserve to have their stuff stolen

  9. Karen says:

    Back in college, one of my classmates confessed to going to Starbucks Katipunan with her boyfriend, where they’d take a couple of free cups, pour themselves some free hot milk, flavor it with the free sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla powder, and hang out there for hours. And they’d do this almost on a daily basis!

    I’m not a coffeeshop person, but to me that was the lowest form of cheapness anyone can commit.

    • Victoria Castillo says:

      My friend would even bring cereal at Starbucks Katipunan and use their milk when we were stayed in the dorms there. But pretty soon, they hid the jugs of milk behind the bar. 🙂

      • See?? that’s exactly why Starbucks doesn’t stock napkins at the condiment bar anymore. Maka nenok ng napkins ang mga tao, pwede na pang 1 week supply ng pang punas sa heiny. Grabe talaga talamak ang abuso sa tissue.

  10. Johann says:

    5 and 6 are soo true. When I was based in Manila and doing my MAs, I kinda made friends with the baristas in the Starbucks I frequent. When they realized that I order every now and then while I work (nakakahiya kasing tumambay dun na wala kang inoorder), they are the ones to come over to take my order instead, so I don’t leave my stuff. Talk about service de luxe. 😀

    • D Camacho says:

      Most baristas are really nice! But I know this one coffee shop where the owner usually drops by in the evenings and she would turn the music on really loud and ignore continued requests to turn it down. She also likes making students transfer to other tables to accommodate more customers. I get it, some students can be a little inconsiderate (hence item number 7) but she shouldn’t make her other customers feel like they aren’t welcome too! haha. Sorry, I’m ranting. :))

      Thanks for sharing, Johann!

  11. Sergia Susana says:

    Brilliant article! Love the captions too! And are those your legs, D?? :))

  12. Lars Roxas says:

    Gusto ko ung Coffee Prince picture 😀 Great article Dianne! 😀

  13. Mark says:

    Some things I also dislike about some coffee shop patrons: (1) If you’re going to conduct business and make long phone calls, try and make phone calls that involve arguing outside. (2) If you bring your kids, please control them and not run around disturbing others also “working”. One funny thing I recently saw, someone who brought their entire PC…monitor, tower, keyboard, the whole shabang to a Starbucks. To play WOW. Lol

    • D Camacho says:

      Yes! I hate it when people talk too loudly on the phone! And this applies anywhere (like public transportation) and not just coffee shops.

      Sana sa computer shop nalang pumunta yung kung sino man yun. :))

  14. Katrina says:

    I used to do this a lot when I was studying for my boards. And while I’m pretty productive at home, when I’m feeling particularly lazy I haul my butt to Starbucks in Greenhills (beside Chili’s) to force myself to study. I personally feel uncomfortable camping without anything on my table that I’m still consuming, so here are my tips to make the most out of your time and money without feeling like a squatter:

    – to make that one tall white mocha last forever: order it extra hot. It will be about half an hour before you can take a sip of that coffee without burning off the roof of your tongue.
    – space out your orders. Don’t order your coffee and your chocolate cake at the same time.

    Pang kuripot/student budget ang tips ko. Haha.

    • D Camacho says:

      I’m never productive at home! 🙁 My bed and the TV are too distracting. :))

      I order my drinks extra hot too but usually because some coffee shops are too cold so I need the extra warmth to survive. Haha.

      Thanks for sharing Kat!

  15. Addi dela Cruz says:

    Na-miss ko bigla yung college days! Pero pet peeve ko yung last bit.

    Enjoyed this, D! 😉

  16. Carl Tomacruz says:

    Umm… I go to Starbucks to take a dump. Normally, doing my thing takes me around 10 – 15 minutes. Is there anything wrong with taking too much time in the toilet?

    • Nico Goco says:

      You may want to check with your doctor, man. I recommend a high fiber diet and plenty of fluid intake. Stay off the beef for now.

    • Geli says:

      That’s kind of gross, man. Since it’s Starbucks, there’s usually only one toilet and it’s a unisex toilet to boot. Take a dump elsewhere (like a remote school bathroom or something) so you don’t wind up stinking up the bathroom for everyone else.

      • Carl Tomacruz says:

        Well, Starbucks toilets normally have the bowl and the sink in one area. It makes taking a dump more hygienic, really. I mean how does one take a dump in public without immediately washing her/his hands (and butt) with soap?

  17. Pilar San Luis says:

    Love the Coffee Prince photo! Do most people here prefer Starbucks over other coffee chains? I find myself liking CBTL more.

    • D Camacho says:

      I’m not actually partial to any particular coffee shop because I have my favorites in different ones. But my friends usually prefer Starbucks because the drinks are cheaper than in CBTL. I think most of the time, it’s not because of preference but proximity. Ang dami kasing Starbucks e! Haha

    • Nadine says:

      Hehe. I prefer the CBTL menu over Starbucks. I think the only con is CBTL’s lack of plugs or at least thats the case in CBTL Technohub and Reghis. Megaplus for Starbucks Petron for having interiors made for studying.

      People should try Caffe Bene in East! Gelato and Frappe plus the interiors are perfect for studying.

      Just my two cents.

  18. coffeelover says:

    had so much fun reading your post. I came across a similar sentiment from this blog.. read on: http://www.manilafoodandtravel.com/sweet-addiction/having-latte-does-not-mean-you-can-squat-in-cafes/

  19. […] is the magical land called McKinley Hill. Here, amidst the high-rise BPO buildings and the coffee shops filled with people on Apple products, an upscale residential area has successfully developed. […]

  20. Lei says:

    I wonder if that Starbucks VIA trick would also work for CBTL coffees. I prefer hanging out at CBTL over Starbucks – it’s less crowded and more conducive for working / studying.

    And I didn’t know people actually do #1. Buti hindi sila nananakawan. I have a friend who was robbed inside a coffee shop once.

  21. Lei says:

    I wonder if that Starbucks VIA trick would also work for CBTL coffees. I prefer hanging out at CBTL over Starbucks – it’s less crowded and more conducive for working / studying.

    And I didn’t know people actually do #1. Buti hindi sila nananakawan. I have a friend who was robbed inside a coffee shop once.

  22. Lei says:

    I wonder if that Starbucks VIA trick would also work for CBTL coffees. I prefer hanging out at CBTL over Starbucks – it’s less crowded and more conducive for working / studying.

    And I didn’t know people actually do #1. Buti hindi sila nananakawan. I have a friend who was robbed inside a coffee shop once.

  23. Migs Eslava says:

    Kudos for this great article. 🙂 I manage our family’s coffee shop that operates 24-hours and we’ve had a fair share of “rowdy” customers. People who complain the most are those who actually pay the least. Our record for customer stay is 14-hours straight, she was developing a web design on that day. We mostly have med students who are nice and order a lot.

    Another law to add is “thou shall not bring other food and drinks inside” that pretty much sums that up. I recall a bunch of professionals who brought their “binalot” inside our shop..with they ending up just ordering brewed coffee and coke..

  24. […] that you’re sufficiently acquainted with the laws of coffee shop camping, you might think you’re all set to sashay down to your nearest coffee shop, Herschel backpack […]

  25. trickyap says:

    When I was reviewing for my boards and needed to study at Starbucks… i’d order a venti hot tea (raspberry infused tea was my fave), steep the tea bag just for a couple of minutes and then remove it… after I finish my 1st venti which usually takes an hour or two at the most, i’d just ask for a hot water refill, dunk back the tea bag and steep it longer… buy 10-20 pesos worth of honey and that’s good for another 1-2 hours… for only P130-140 pesos (with cost of honey added), you get to do 4 hours of guiltless Starbucks camping…

    • D Camacho says:

      I’ve only tried to drink their mint tea but I will try this raspberry one. 🙂 For some reason, I almost never drink tea at Starbucks. I think it’s because I associate tea more with CBTL than Starbucks, I guess. haha. And I usually end up buying an extra packet of honey because I like to take it along with me as baon for when I drink tea at school. :))

  26. Michelle Perez says:

    nice article,love it.

  27. Michelle Perez says:

    nice article,love it.

  28. […] looking for a place where I can camp out for the next couple of hours. As expected, the ubiquitous green-and-white mermaid of Starbucks […]

  29. […] coffee depended law student somewhere. Exhibits A-C here: The 5 Coffee Campers you see everyday, the 7 laws of coffee shop camping, The 5 essentials for successful coffee shop […]

  30. […] At the end of the day, be a nice coffee camper. Do what they say in this article. […]

  31. Shini says:

    Dog-eared?!!! Such disrespect

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