company - education - coffee

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Attitude at the counter

iPod, originally uploaded by synecdoche.

I hate running into the holier than thou attitude with people behind the counter. Snarky signs demanding or shamelessly begging for tips along with generally indifferent service don't have a place in a profit seeking business.

When I was working behind the bar, I found out one simple fact. The environment you create will determine the customer base.

Over time, I ran across less demanding customers, less impatient people, and less nonsense than when I first started working because of a simple fact. We tried to act like professionals. Not everyone, but there was a sense behind the counter of conviction and pride among what felt like a majority. It felt like people were more patient and you had fewer people trying to take advantage of you. People knew how the system worked, they knew you knew, and it was a comfortable place to work.

Sure, this is just an empirical observation that was reinforced over a painful but short stint in a cafe not too long ago where I realized, it really is a delicate mix of personalities. It may not hold truths for everyone but I believe quality service and professionalism attracts better customers.

The problem is that it takes that majority to establish a sense of what the shop is. One out of a dozen has no effect. Especially if the other eleven are the type that think they can do a better job than the owner just because they show up when scheduled.

I feel like there are fewer and fewer shops here in town where you can just go in and have a coffee and you don't get attitude. Attitude when you tear them away from their scintillating conversation. Attitude when you watch them make the drink or show any interest in it being made correctly. Attitude for simply being there at all.

On top of that, the sighs, the impatience or flat out pretending you don't exist, there is the lack of care. That's what tops it off for me. hearing stories of friends going into shops where they have good equipment and access to real training but they simply don't care.

There's no excuse for that but I don't know who to blame.

I don't go into many shops these days because it wouldn't make any sense but every conversation I have had lately seems to center around this issue. It's like coffee shops don't try to hire people who actually like coffee anymore! There is nothing worse than hearing someone complain about a shop you have no control over. Even if I did say something, it's not clear I would get enough respect to be taken seriously.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I am writing this so here's where I pass the responsibility to you, the reader.

If anything, I have learned that it is you, as the consumer, who should speak up. Things don't change if nobody speaks up. Pull a manager aside and mention a missed detail, a careless mistake, or downright belligerence. What have you got to lose?

Otherwise, you could just keep putting money in that tip jar and hope that some day the service gets better.