Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shock/horror Time

Tiff Over Espresso Protocol Spills Into Blogosphere - Joe Heim @ Washington Post

Lo, though it might offend those brave defenders of free and fair use, I have to say that Murky Coffee owner Nicholas Cho is right and patron Jeff Simmermon is wrong. Purchasing something and then using it in a way not approved by the maker of the item does not give you the right to complain about the maker. So Simmermon orders a triple espresso over ice at a gourmet coffeeshop. Denied by the barista, Simmermon orders a triple espresso and a cup of ice (ooo, clever!). Barista further chides Simmermon after ringing up the order, thus pissing off Simmermon. Angry, lengthy blogging by Simmermon commences and suddenly Simmermon, Cho and barista are looking for the stage exits. Blogowar has started and brother blogger fights sister blogger over who was right--the coffeeshop or the customer.
Here's a good rule of thumb when walking into a gourmet store: expect a gourmet attitude. Snobbery isn't just an attitude but a way of life for gourmet owners. Here's another good rule of thumb for bloggers who use the free wifi at a coffeeshop: don't piss off the wait staff. Either that or don't go back to that coffeeshop. People seem to forget that living in a service-oriented economy doesn't equate to living in a world of servants. Murky Coffee isn't Starbucks and that should have been obvious to Simmermon. So said barista doesn't have to act like a Starbuck barista. And the policies of Murky don't have to match those of a generic coffeeshop. Having a free-enterprise economy means people can open stores and conduct business with a good deal of latitude. If their way of business doesn't bring in the business then they'll have to close. Oh look! The sun is rising in the morning! Amazing, isn't it?
Murky's is still open so I think it's safe to assume that Cho has something good going on. He also apparently doesn't believe that the customer is always right; it's pretty much an axiom amongst the self-employed. The customer may know what they want but either the place they have gone is unable to do it or it isn't possible. Here's a good jewelry store example: bezel set this 3ct marquis cut emerald. In platinum? Yes. In silver? No. Why? Because it's easy enough to do in platinum but in 9 out of 10 tries you'd shatter that emerald trying to set it in silver. Far from being condescending to the customer, such a jeweler would actually save the customer from making a big mistake. Also, it's a mistake that would in all likelihood cost the jeweler. Doing good business means doing right by the customer. If what the customer asks for is something that would ultimately upset the customer (despite it being what was asked for) then that isn't good business. Cho has a particular style of making espresso. Putting that espresso over ice ruins the taste. So, store policy is to not serve espresso over ice. Wow! When I put my hand on this hot stove, my hand gets burned.
A triple espresso over ice isn't that big of a deal really. Simmermon believes this and doesn't have a problem with it. But Simmermon walked into a coffeeshop that doesn't sling just any old espresso. And barista tells him so. I see little conflict here. A bar that doesn't have your preferred beer isn't a bad bar. And a coffeeshop that caters to a particular taste naturally would try to consistently maintain that taste. Thus is the wiles of free markets that run from the giant generics to the finicky niches. Don't bitch about a niche place not having the mile-wide but inch-deep selection. Likewise, don't throw a fit when the megamarket doesn't have just the right product you're looking for.