Drinking from the electrical well in an emergency.

Glenn Reynolds relays an ethical question – essentially, Is it ethical to use a merchant’s power supply to recharge your portable electronics when power is not otherwise readily available?  Speaking as somebody who just went through a two-day power failure… it depends.  Personally, I plugged in all my electronics to my car battery and kept them charged that way- but if I had found a McDonald’s with a plug, and I went in to buy something, I would have thought nothing of plugging in while I was there.  In other words: I think that it’s OK if you’re, you know, a customer.

Also: in unusual circumstances… ask first.

Anyway, that’s my first thoughts on the matter.


  • Rob Crawford says:

    The Disney World fan community had some discussions about this earlier this year, and someone came up with some guidelines: never unplug anything to get to an outlet, never obstruct traffic, and if they ask you to stop then stop. Sad that such obvious things have to be stated…
    (Until just a second ago, I was of the mind that recharging in the parks was asking too much — then I remembered that I use the outlets in the hotel rooms, and is there really a difference?)

  • JeffV says:

    In a hotel room, they are specifically supplying you with utilities (water, heat, air conditioning, lights, WiFi, HBO) so the electrical plug is covered in that. In a business, say Waffle House, they are not providing you utilities, just waffles, so you should ask first, although most, being customer focused, will say yes without a second thought. It gets cloudy with places like say Starbucks, that provide coffee plus WiFi, so they are also encouraging you to use mobile devices there and should therefor encourage you to keep your mobile deices charged there. I agree that you should be a customer, though, at least buy a cup of coffee or something.

  • acat says:

    Some Starbucks, JeffV, shut down their WiFi during “peak hours” to discourage people from camping.

    Funniest thing I’ve seen – a Denny’s near here converted about half of their pendant lights into pendant sockets… they don’t seem to mind the “free wifi and power club” as long as they buy food.


  • countrydoc says:

    Would depend on the marginal cost. Recharging your phone while you are munching on pancakes => no big deal. Recharging your Volt => Kind of a big deal. Recharging your man-portable rail gun => Definite no-no.

  • Catseye says:

    There are also a variety of crank up electrical items like flashlights and radios that have sockets to charge your cellphone or laptop. Which reminds me I need to get one to have on hand since the oldest kid broke the one I got him.

  • Shawn says:

    I would’ve said if you’re a customer, and not in anyone’s way, then I don’t see a problem. I’d ask first, out of courtesy. But you actually ‘are’ paying for the business’ operating costs as well as food with your bill, so I don’t quite buy the presumed distinction with hotels. In a hotel it’s not an issue because you’re not in anyone’s way. But they’re still part of the ‘hospitality industry.’

  • Wombat-socho says:

    The local McD’s here in Alexandria were mobbed this weekend – lot of people buying food & drink and settling in for a couple hours to charge their phones/tablets/laptops. Management seemed to be okay with this, although I suppose it’s possible they were too overworked to get out from behind the counter. 🙂

    Oddly enough, while power and wifi were available in abundance, their ability to process credit & debit cards disappeared Sunday evening. Welp.

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