Don't plug in at the Waterstone's Costa Coffee in Brighton: the most geek-unfriendly cafe in Brighton?

For the past six months or so, I've been mostly working out of the Costa in the Waterstone's in Brighton. It's usually quiet (was even more so before Borders UK shut down, taking the popular Starbucks in its Churchill Square branch with it) and the staff are lovely.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for the staff at the Waterstone's itself.

This afternoon, I was sipping my cappuccino and working away on my latest iPhone app when one of the Waterstone's staff approached my table and proceeded to tell me off for having my notebook plugged in. Yes, you read that right: a Waterstone's staff entered the Costa and proceeded to publicly reprimand a Costa customer (I can only assume that someone at Costa will be talking to someone at Waterstone's about that little breach of protocol, if nothing else).

She proceeded to tell me that I was using "their electricity" and had I "asked permission" and did I see anything wrong with what I was doing? I politely informed her that, yes, I was aware that I was plugged in and that, in this day and age, I would assume that I could plug my notebook in at a cafe. I've done so many times at other Costas and Starbucks and never had any issues. Nor would I expect to have any.

She left to ask her supervisor and, a few moments later, I was approached by another young lady from Waterstone's who confirmed that yes, indeed, I was not allowed to use their electricity. She proceeded to tell me about their electricity usage targets and how they were having trouble meeting them (no doubt due to my daily patronage of the Costa – a transgression which I will work doubly hard to avoid in the future).

So, today, Costa got my custom for the last time and tomorrow I'm probably going to pop into my local Starbucks because – evil or not – I've never had anyone hassle me there.

I do hope that someone from Costa reads this and has a stern talk with the Waterstone's folks. Of course, I have no idea what their arrangement is but I would be very suprised indeed if it allowed Waterstone's staff to harass Costa's customers, whatever the reason. At the very least it reflects poorly on Costa's brand and, in this case, lost them a regular customer. The correct thing to do would have been for the Waterstone's staff to take the subject up with the Costa staff who could then have relayed the information to me.

Also, since the policy at the Waterstone's Costa in Brighton is that the plugs are off-limits, I expect to see a sign informing customers of this. It might also be an idea to actually cover the plugs up to make this archaic policy even more evident so that future patrons are not hassled for behaving like they actually live in the 21st century.

Finally, since the Waterstone's Costa also doesn't have any WiFi, this probably makes it the most geek-unfriendly place in Brighton. If you have a notebook and want a coffee, look elsewhere.