Is the Coffee Customer Always Right – or Not?

It seems customer service these days is not what it used to be. Recently, a Canadian coffee consumer and writer, Christopher Foulds, was making his way through a Mickey-D’s drive-thru. His order was simple enough: “large coffee, two creams, one sugar.” On two occasions, his order through the intercom system was met with similar replies, one asking if he wanted a latte instead, and the other asking if he wanted a cappuccino instead. Foulds was somewhat miffed, as on one occasion he was trying to get his son to a hockey game, and the question threw him for a loop. His response was a “huh?” because it was a question that was totally unexpected. So the drive-thru waiter's voice crackled through the speaker again, “Would you like a latte instead?” He replied that he only wanted a coffee.

He mentions, apologetically, that such incidents are nothing like the floods and earthquakes making the news, but annoying nonetheless. After all, early in the morning when someone wants their coffee badly, it’s not the time to up-sell and try to talk a drive-thru customer into something they don’t want just to make an extra buck. Besides, there are those of us who might question our hearing, or our “level of coherent thought”, as Foulds found himself doing.

Another article in a San Francisco blog recounted visits to third world coffee shops and noticed superior attitudes to simple requests, like “Where’s the sugar?” It’s as if sugar is now an additive to gourmet coffees that’s frowned upon by baristas. Maybe so, but what happened to “The customer is always right.”?

Two countries, two coffee consumers, two complaints but one general annoyance: a lack of warm friendly appreciative attitude to customers. One wants to up-sell for profit -not so much to make a happier customer - and the other looks down on a customer’s desire for sugar in her coffee.

Are these two isolated experiences or have you also noted this kind of downgrade in customer service? Baristas: what do you think?

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