I’d like to say it was a perfect weekend but the pleasant brightness was momentarily blighted when I bought a double shot of espresso at one of the world’s largest coffee houses. It was a mistake, pure and simple. How do you get a shot of espresso wrong? I don’t know, it was probably an anomaly. Maybe I don’t get out enough. But the coffee was cold and bitter. I should have returned it at once; shame on me. The company has a “barista promise” and they say they’ll always “make it right.”
These days, when a consumer has a problem, there are many ways they can “lodge a complaint.” They can tweet, post to the company’s Facebook page, or stage an electronic protest. If the complaint is witty or winsome enough, it may go viral. The options are endless. And in the case of the coffee house in question, all I had to do was walk back in to the store and say “my coffee tastes like crap.” I would have been instantly rewarded.
Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was having a moment of world-weariness. When I’d placed my order, the baristas were in their own little snow globe, having a conversation amongst themselves about their lengths of service and the career ladder at the coffee company. After receiving my cup of espresso, I noticed the half and half container was empty and brought it up to the counter. The barista asked “do you need it?”
Insert heavy sigh here.
When I got to my car and sipped my cup of crap, it just seemed easier to dump it on the ground and go home.
In the old days, “lodging a complaint” was more complex. Paper, letters, stamps. Effort. There was a time when I used to be diligent in my complaints. I wrote letters and I returned items. Here’s a 2004 letter I sent to General Mills Direct Marketing. I had ordered two stainless steel dessert servers with cereal box tops and a check. They kept sending me postcards saying the dessert servers were on back order and would I like to cancel my order. Read on:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am now in receipt of your second “Circle ONLY those items you wish to cancel” post card. I DO NOT WISH TO CANCEL MY ORDER OF TWO DESSERT SERVERS. I sent you a check in January, 2004, and this check has been cashed.
If you have no plans to deliver the goods (i.e. the two dessert servers I have paid for) I think you should make a more honorable attempt at “good business” by returning my money. I sent this money to you in good faith and while it is a small amount, it is the principle and not the product that concerns me most.
Please deliver the two dessert servers as soon as possible. If the dessert servers are not delivered within the next 60 days, I would expect you to return the money I sent to you in good faith.
I have visited your web site and find no General Mills product I can’t live without. I use very few of your products and the ones I have used will no longer be on my shopping list. The General Mills logo is so prominent it will be easy for me to avoid it in the grocery store.
Those were the days.
I still have options when it comes to coffee and maybe the best option is to just drink it at home. It’s always hot and never bitter here in the kitchen. And the coffee company’s logo is so prominent, it’s easy for me to avoid it on the highways and byways I travel.
Meanwhile, the Maine snow continues to melt gracefully and although the early spring landscape is dirty and unattractive here at the lower elevations, most of the larger ski resorts will extend their seasons until May.
The dessert server?
They made it right and delivered both of them, one for me and one for Helen. I’ll use mine with this week’s cake.
The coffee will be hot and the cake will be sweet. You have my word.