Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Riskiness of Starbucks Bathrooms

It's now been a little over half a year since I moved out to the Bay Area and have been working on CoNotes. One thing I've noticed is that within 5 minutes of any conversation with a stranger, I am asked what I do. I always give the same response--that I am working on a startup--and inevitably I am asked what my startup does (that question is often quickly followed with an apologetic "if it's ok for me to ask.") Once it is clarified what CoNotes does, 95% of the time I am asked where my office is...and that is what I wanted to write about today.

I work in one of there locations:
  1. Home
  2. Coffee Shop
  3. Library
It is pretty awesome actually to not have a fixed office location. It provides me with a great deal of flexibility for scheduling meetings and for meeting up with people. The main requirements for picking where I work for the day are: free wireless internet and outlet availability. Since Starbucks started offering free wireless, I have become a huge fan of their shops. While the coffee is average, the ubiquity and standardization of stores makes it too easy to work in a Starbucks. My second favorite (quickly becoming my preferred) work location is the library.

However, I have one big complaint about not having an office: bathrooms. Coffee makes me go to the bathroom. Now I don't have any problems with public bathrooms, but going to the bathroom means leaving my stuff unattended. Ever since I had my stuff stolen from me in college when I fell asleep studying at the library, I have been paranoid about people stealing my stuff. However it would be too simple if the only factor was a fear of theft. If any of you work in coffee shops, you know there is prime real estate. The value of a particular seating location can be calculated by a formula like (proximity to an outlet) + (non-wobbly table) + (size of table) + (next to a window) + (far from stanky bathroom). So when you get a high value table, you don't want to lose it. Furthermore, since the economy crashed, I've seen a lot more people at coffee shops than before; I'm assuming these people were all laid off and looking for jobs online at coffee shops. That means if I pack up all my stuff to go to the bathroom, the likelihood of someone taking my prime table is very high (especially now with all these jobless people). So thus is my daily dilemma. Is the risk of losing my table more costly than the risk of someone stealing my stuff?

More often than not, I end up running to the bathroom, doing my business, and running back to my table. But that time in the bathroom is high stress time for me. Luckily nothing has been stolen and I've started to employ a simple trick I learned from the book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (great book, by the way). I just ask whoever is sitting next to me to watch my stuff--as long as they look like they won't steal my stuff themselves, which was an issue when the guy next to me confessed he just recently got out of jail.

Other than that, I have to say I enjoy my flexible work location. It's even better when you overhear other people's conversations that are really the lady who is recently divorced after a 20 year marriage and is now chasing a younger man.

No comments: