A good day down the tubes… (photo by wm. christman)
I like coffee houses with attitude. I especially like those that reflect that attitude through the clever design to their menus and interiors, and how they handle and treat their customers. Usually, those type of places have folks running them that are very knowledgeable but not arrogantly so. And because these places usually have a rabid interest in serving kick-ass (delicious) coffee beverages, their coffee and roasting skills also reflect the care and attitude.
However, attitude alone is not substitute for good service. And attitude for the sake of having one or trying to prove that you are somehow “hipper” than everyone else by being arrogant, treating your new customers like shit, and generally acting like idiots because you “know better” is even worse. Enter San Jose’s Barefoot Coffee Roasters.
Barefoot Coffee Roasters have been around for several years and have become one of the better independent coffee roasters in the Bay Area. I drink their coffee through three or four different, and not affiliated, coffee houses. Their coffee has been consistently good so I have no particular beef with that. In fact, I support businesses like this but find myself less inclined to do so after the treatment I received this morning at their store on Stevens Creek Blvd. in San Jose.
The day started out pretty good for me. There was a huge clump of traffic between me and where I work so I decided to pay Barefoot a visit while I was taking city streets to work. There was a line (there usually is) when I went into the store but they had some nice morning, beat-filled music going on so that was no big deal. The array of BFCR cups and knick-knacks provided decent distraction. I snagged a menu as they don’t really have any signage for their drinks. I guess it keeps their coffee house vibe true. So far, no problem.
My drink of choice every morning is an Americano (espresso with hot water). I didn’t see that on the menu but there was a thing called a “Romano” which was espresso and hot water. Hmmm. There was no size info so I assumed (yeah, yeah…) that 1) it was literally an “Americano” and 2) it was between 12-16 ounces large. So assuming away…it was settled, a Romano it would be.
I got up to the person at the counter and ordered the Romano. “Will that be for here or to-go?”, the person asked. “To go, please”, I said. “OK, that’ll be $2.73”, she replied. “Um wait, but its to-go and you’re still charging me tax on that??”, I asked. “We just got audited, so ‘yes'”, was the response.
Stupified, I wondered why exactly this was MY problem? In California, to-go food and drink is usually NOT taxed (forgive me for not being up on the complete rip-off California tax laws that extort money from businesses because THEY can’t balance their books. Ever.). I didn’t want to make a big deal of it so I paid.
“Jeez, that’s the most expensive Americano ever”, I said as I handed her the money. “Well, it’ll be the best one you’ve ever had,” she shot back. “And if you don’t think so, you can go across the street and buy coffee there…”
Um, EXCUSE me? The reason that I’m AT Barefoot, you arrogant fuck-wit, is because I don’t frequent Starbucks so why pull out the crap attitude? Especially on someone who you’ve never seen before. The whole idea is to keep customers, not drive them away no matter how much you think you’re the coolest, most bitchin’ coffee house employee in the fucking world!
Now, to her credit, she apologized a minute later saying “I shouldn’t have said that, sorry…” but the damage was already done. But…if the first thing that comes out of your mouth after someone questions your charging tax for a to-go item and then quippingnicely about the cost of said drink is some sorta attitude-filled, cryptic dribble about “if I don’t like it I can go to Starbucks…” then what the fuck is your real problem?
So now my day has just gone from pretty good to right in the shitter because of this idiot being, well…..an idiot, then the barista calls out and says that my Romano is ready. I look and see what she has set down and it’s this teeny-tiny white cup (~8 oz.) of espresso and water. She notices the slight askance look when I see it. Then I asked if that was really the size of the Romano? “Yes, we don’t add too much water so the espresso is stronger…” Er, ok.
So, I guess that’s fine but there’s not word ONE on the menu as to how big the drink is – just a flowery description on how the addition of hot water will make the espresso “smoother”. There’s nothing like making your customers guess what their drinks are. I kind of felt like I just walked into the Las Vegas of coffee houses. I put my money down. And I hope I win something!
“I guess I should have asked for an ‘Americano” then but it wasn’t on your menu.”, I said. The response I got was even more maddening: “Oh, that [the Americano] is on our ‘secret’ menu…here’s your drink…” Stunning.
At that point, I realized that I should have just walked out at being charged tax on a to-go drink. But I had faith that Barefoot coffee was good enough to maybe put up with the gaffe. But what transpired after that point was just one of the worst examples of arrogance in a coffee house I have even had the misfortune to experience. Ever.
So now, was that Romano the “best one that I have ever had”? Eh, honestly it really wasn’t. (Oh horrors! Now I’ll HAVE to go to Starbucks! Or plunge six-inch needles into my eyes! Decisions, decisions.) It was good but not great. But the taste was clearly overshadowed but the ridiculous ordeal that I had to go through to get that coffee to my lips.
The nagging question now is: does Barefoot have good coffee? I believe they do and the evidence is in the previous cups I have had at the places that use their coffee. However….will I frequent the Barefoot store again? Probably not. Would I recommend other people go there? Definitely not to anyone I like or care for. As for anyone else, unless you’d like an equal cup of completely shitty and totally unnecessary attitude to go with your coffee, knock yourself out.
Pull your head out of your collective ass, Barefoot. The arrogant twits that work at your store will KILL your reputation – may I suggest a customer service seminar or class for all of them?
You’ve got a good thing going on being a local coffee roaster that has some really great skills. And there are many reasons that I don’t frequent Starbucks and you’re one of them. Don’t blatantly chase away customers that value that merely because your employees think they ‘know it all’.