Some busy Starbucks coffee shops in New York City have started blocking electrical outlets to discourage laptop users from hogging space, and to free up seats for other customers.

"Customers are asking (for it) .... They just purchased a latte and a pastry and there is nowhere to sit down in some of these really high-volume stores," said Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz.

He said the decision is made on a case-by-case basis by individual stores, and to his knowledge is limited to some cafes in New York City.

"If this is what the store needs to do to support the business, then they're allowed to make the decision to do that," Hilowitz said. "It really is all about the balance."

Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi access to all of its customers. While inviting customers to linger can result in repeat purchases, it also can have unintended consequences.

Seating is scarce in some cafes frequented by students, freelancer workers and other computer users who sometimes stay for hours.