Have you noticed that many coffee shops are no longer the inexpensive, quick-fix, cup of pleasure, relaxation and place of social interaction they used to be?
I’m sure it’s not just me. These coffee bars need to wake up and smell the coffee!
Like most people, when we’re out and about – shopping, having a walk or visiting nice places, we usually like to fit in a coffee break in a nice independent cafe in some nice surroundings. In recent months though, this has proven to be a rather hit and miss experience. When we choose what looks like a nice cafe in a lovely town or village centre, garden centre or a visitor attraction it will normally be run by clueless aspiring millionaires who want to rip us off, and staffed by teenagers who are paid a pittance, have received no proper training and don’t give a shit. Consequently my black Americano espresso coffee will be cold, weak as piss, served with milk in and missing any sugar offering. If I’m really unlucky, it will be served in a huge paper cup which, consequently, will contain far too much water and not enough shots. If I complain about the amount of hot water, the barista or coffee serving person will explain that I should have asked for a Regularando as they assume most people will want a Tallerando or the Grandarista. I explain that whatever ludicrous Italianate names are used, they might as well be buckets and no one could drink that much coffee if it was made to the correct strength without serious risk of getting as high as a kite or serious heart palpitations.
My wife will normally order tea – expecting quality tea leaves brewed and served in a teapot with a separate pot of milk. Increasingly, her tea will involve a cheap tea bag served in a paper cup with milk included at the start. For this they will charge over £2.50.
I do feel compelled to provide real time customer feedback and insist they get our drinks right or I will insist on a refund. One can’t always avoid the paper cup but I make it my mission to question its use when the cafe is charging over £3 for a coffee. Often, the coffee shop’s excuse is that they changed from crockery to paper during the covid lockdown because it was more hygienic. But why, I ask, do they change from cups to massive paper cups without increasing the coffee content proportionally? Also I don’t believe it is more hygienic and more sustainable to use paper cups.
I think I may have spoilt the coffee shop experience for my wife as she doesn’t like confrontation and there is always the expectation that after one sip of my coffee, I will marching back to the counter to return it and provide my explanation in front of the staff and customers. However, I feel it is my duty to let them know where they are going wrong, in a polite way of course, otherwise they will never learn.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule and I do like to give positive feedback when it is justified. Sometimes though, I am tempted to stick to a major chain like Cafe Nero where I know that it will be served in a cup and most of the time the coffee will be consistently reasonable, strong and of course, hot.
I’m sure you will agree that the coffee shop ambiance and quality of our coffee experience also depends on our fellow customers. In some cases I find them quite challenging and I imagine the coffee bars do also.
First, there are the table hoggers. It is not uncommon to find one or two people hogging a table for 4 persons when there are small 2 seater tables available. I am happy to share the table with them but they often don’t seem as keen to share with me…… specially newspaper readers, internet users and phone obsessed teenagers. Coffee shop managers must tear their hair out when a table hogger is into his second hour whilst still on his first coffee.
In some cases I would prefer not to share a table, especially with those selfish, self obsessed and intrusive people who who feel the need to video chat. They usually do it at a volume you can’t tune out of and candidly waffle on about their personal relationships, health issues, relationships, what cake to choose, their financial status and what happened on Love Island. I often wonder if they are oblivious to their surroundings and other customers or if they just want to sound important and show everyone how popular they are.
And why do people turn up their smartphone notification bings in cafes? Do they need to hear every message or notification that arrives in real time? Do they not feel self conscious and embarrassed when people jump in shock or grab their own phones to check.
I have noticed that since everyone stopped going to the office to work, there are more and more meetings being held in cafes. Also, more and more people are working on their laptops and are in fact setting up office and spreading their stuff all over the tables. I would feel awkward and would be unable to concentrate properly working in a cafe. Go home or go back to the office! I recently had no alternative but to listen to a job interview being conducted at the next table. This involved the interviewee, the interviewer and someone else over his laptop. Normal conversations I can tune out of, but when I am confronted with loud interview questions like what qualities could they bring to the job (I think it was some sort of social work) and how far they would go for the client in various scenarios, I found myself being sucked in. Annoyingly I felt like I was in an office rather than a coffee bar. And I had no say in whether they got the job.
Of course unruly children can spoil the coffee bar experience, but in fairness, it is usually the irresponsible adults in charge who are the real problem. There are some adults who think its OK for kids to treat the coffee shop as an adventure playground and I have been known to confront those adults. Only once have I taken direct action against a kid. She was laid on the floor seemingly taking some pleasure in blocking an isle. I apologised for tripping over her and she moved surprisingly quickly.
What are your thoughts? Do you think I’m being unreasonable? Have I been unlucky in my choice of cafes?
Espresso your views!
Don’t let coffee shops mug you off and grind you down.
Support the ones that care!
Thanks a latte!