Foursquare is a mobile application that rewards users for “checking-in” to local restaurants, bars or other establishments. Rewards include freebies, digital badges, and earned titles, like Mayor.
Brian is indeed a loyal customer. He has checked into the Funnel Grind 54 times in the past 60 days, missing only a few weekend days and one weekday when he – as he told us – “couldn’t get off the toilet.”
But it’s not clear his loyalty is an entirely good thing for the Funnel Grind.
“Every time he walks in, he shouts, ‘The mayor’s here!’ like he’s Norm walking into Cheers,” says fellow Funnel Grind customer Christine Chouduri with a frustrated look on her face. “He’s not a bad guy, but it gets a little old.”
Another customer, a screen-writer named Dan put things more bluntly: “I’m here three hours most days, but that guy – he’s here ALL the time. He calls himself ‘the mayor’, but he’s really just an omnipresent d-bag.”
“It’s like Foursquare gives him the right to act like a jerk. There’s not a lot of seats in here, but he’s always sitting on the love seat, with his computer bag and stuff spread out so he’s taking up both seats….” says Dan.
He continued, “The worst part is that he’s got a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an iPhone all out on display like he works for Apple. He’s guilty of premeditated MacDouchery.”
(“Yeah, I thought that phrase up all by myself,” Dan offered. “I’m thinking of having it copyrighted, like ‘Let’s get ready to rumble!'”)
Chouduri reports that she uses Facebook and Twitter often, and Foursquare periodically. However, she doesn’t see the point in checking-in to any location so frequently.
“Why would anyone check in this much? If you’re always at the same place, don’t you friends read your posts and think, ‘No shit – you’re always there.’?” Chouduri asked rhetorically. “It’s a bit compulsive. Either he’s super-insecure or he’s trying to establish an alibi for some future crime.”
Maybe Foursquare recognizing only one customer at each establishment takes contempt-breeding familiarity to a whole new level.
Dan the screenwriter says, “I wouldn’t call it contempt, but trust me – if the Funnel Grind mayor was elected by popular vote, Brian wouldn’t be a viable candidate.”
“Who would be?” says Dan, repeating my question. “Probably the blond graphic designer with the nerdy glasses. She always sits in the corner and wears these vintage t-shirts that are super-clingy. I’d vote for her.”
Many coffee shop owners struggle with customers who linger too long, known in the industry as “campers” because they set up camp and don’t leave.
Fred Johnson, manager of the Starbucks near the campus of Georgia Tech in Atlanta reported, “Yeah, we get some people who treat this place like it’s their office. There’s this one pushy Asian girl who saves seats and tells other customers that she’s waiting for her ‘next interview candidate,’ like she’s on Shark Tank.”
Johnson continues, “The customers are all like, ‘this isn’t your dorm room, honey,’ but she’s got the balls to stare them down. I don’t know if she’s the Mayor on Foursquare or not, but she’s one annoying b-…what I mean is that she’s been known to put off other customers.”
Back in Santa Monica, Funnel Grind owner/manager Joe Anderson reflects on the costs and benefits of Brian’s loyalty.
“He probably spends $10/day in here. Every single day. That’s $3600/year to our business…which I appreciate. But believe me, it comes at a cost.”
“I kind of feel for the guy – he’s been here everyday since he got laid off from his job at the ad agency up the street. But he just never leaves,” reports Anderson. “He strikes up conversations with all the other customers, no matter what their body language is telling him. It’s painful to watch.”
“I tried to talk to him nicely, give him some hints that he should spice up his routine – try someplace else once-in-a-while and he was like, ‘why would I want to do that – I’m the mayor here!'”
“He’s not real self-aware.” Anderson lamented. “I think FourSquare should consider term limits.”