The Coffee Rant

You know, I’m getting to the stage where I KNOW I inhabit a different world than everyone else. Up until I got older, I used to only suspect that that was the case. Now I know it.

I’m turning into a curmudgeon – what am I going to be like when I get old? I’m less tolerant than ever of ‘fools’.

The latest outrage is having to learn the lingo in order to achieve the simplest of purchases. And all those who INSIST that I use their exact dialect in order to part with my hard earned cash and pay their wages.

All I want is to buy a coffee. Albeit an upmarket, yuppiefied bloody expensive coffee, but coffee nonetheless.

This basic of life – at least according to Jack Aubrey, and who would disagree with him? – this basic, is now unobtainable without entering into some foreign language negotiation. A bit like giving the password to demonstrate that one is entitled to drink it, or to be in the club.

Perhaps they know that I’m only pretending to be a cool, self-assured executive?

Let me explain……… Depending on where I am, I have to use the appropriate code to order the volume of liquid required – Starbucks insists on Venti; Peet’s on Large; Costa on Massimo…… for the same thing. Woe betide anyone who mixes the metaphor – have you seen the look one gets asking for a Venti in Peet’s? Or vice versa, of course. Perhaps it is to discourage those of us who have been known to do deliberately!

A simple use of the English language (I include American English in this definition) such as ‘the largest latte you have’ results in an indoctrination in their particular dialect of the code.

The WORST example, I’m afraid to say, was on a trip to the UK. The Costa Coffee bar in Reading, Berkshire. (That’s BARKshire for my US based colleagues, despite the way it is spelt).

‘Yes?’ says the barista (see, the language has started already). ‘The largest non-fat latte you have, please’.

‘You mean a skinny Massimo?’. ‘I mean the largest one you make, made with non-fat milk please.’ ‘Yes, that’s a Massimo.’

‘Then I’ll have one of those please. To go’.

‘ONE SKINNY MASSIMO LATTE, TO FLEE’. That’s another thing – it seems to be part of the culture to have to bellow the order from one person to another – it must be written into their procedures manual – even when, as in this case, they are standing three feet apart. And ‘TO FLEE’?

Where are they from? This is pretentious nonsense at its worst. Are they trying to make me feel totally alienated? Do they intend to try and make me feel like I’m not of their clan?

Their whole marketing thrust is presumably the inverse, to make me feel good about them and their product. Somewhere there is a poor bloody marketing gal working hard to create this ‘ambiance’ that makes me feel ‘welcome’. At one with them and their brand.

Advice to poor bloody marketing gal (or guy) – all my interactions with your brand (and I do mean ALL of them) affect my perception. Including – nay especially – with your people. When they look down their nose at me because I choose (remember, I’m a curmudgeon) not to use their language. When I’m indoctrinated in (their version) of ‘correct usage’. Why not just smile and do it, they MUST know exactly what I meant and want. But no, I have to be disciplined.

You will come to learn that one of my principles (Graham Principle #1) as far as customers are concerned is ‘Smile while they kick you in the teeth’. Perhaps not quite literally, but you get my drift. The customer is Queen (to quote Tom Peters read his freely downloadable presentations). We will come back to this in subsequent posts.

So I shall do as I have always preached, and vote with my feet. I don’t inhabit Costa anymore. I’ll walk further, spend more if necessary, elsewhere.

And that, dear readers, is the key. Unless we vote with our wallets/pocketbooks nothing will change. Graham Principle #2.

And whilst the coffee vendors may be frustrating, they are far from the worst offenders. Lets’ talk (in a future rant) about ISPs – I just went through what mine described (and I didn’t detect the humor) as a ‘service upgrade’. And, as Jimmy Cricket says ‘C’mere, there’s more’.


Tags: andy sernovitz

4 Replies to “The Coffee Rant”

  1. I know it’s dated, published in the late 1980s, yet Jan Carlzon’s “Moments of Truth” is still for me the best practitioner’s book on how to consider your brand’s relationship with customers. Hopefully it’s now out of print so that I can continue to quote from it without the fear that everyone in the room has already bought a copy!

  2. I stopped in Dunkin Donuts the other day for a latte (which aren’t bad by the way) for the road. I was somewaht unthinkingly ordered a “Grande latte”, then realized that in keeping with DD’s overall theme, their sizes are small, medium, and large. I corrected my order, and the person behind the counter said “Thats OK – we can translate! We like refugees.”

  3. …. and I hear that Garrison Keillor now does a similar routime. Perhaps I should chase him for royalties :-))

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