Okay, I love coffee. I really love it. It’s a really tasty, hedonistic, sensual, pleasurable beverage. And the similarities to wine are also very attractive to me. They’re both agricultural products, with a terroir component and a human-hands processing component. What’s also similar is the way that retailers of both can intimidate and belittle customers. Why?! Why do they do this? Both the coffee and wine trade (in particular the specialty coffee and fine wine segments) should be encouraging consumers rather than pushing them away. Case in point – here’s a recent experience in Barcelona.
In need of coffee beans I did my due diligence on-line and found a roaster of quality beans called SloMov. Here’s the dialogue when I went in:
Me: Hola, what kind of coffee to you have available for purchase as whole beans?
Dude (I think he was the owner): What do you mean, what “kind” of beans?
Me, confused: Um, well do you have different coffee beans available for sale?
Dude: Yes, but what do you mean by “kind of beans”? Do you mean the variety of bean?
Me, now really thrown off, can this guy be for real? : I mean, do you have a selection available I can choose from?
Dude: Well, do you mean what different countries of origin, or do you mean different processing methods, or do you mean different roasting styles?
Me, trying to change the path: Well, I’m looking for a lighter roast.
Dude: We have two different coffees available by the bag. [Me, in my head: WTF, you put me through this when you only have two kinds of coffee anyway?!] How are you going to make it?
Me: We’re going to use a stove top. A moka pot.
Dude, pointing to a row of mock pots for sale behind the counter: You mean like one of those?
Me: Yes, like one of those
Dude, disparagingly : So, you’re going to burn the coffee then. [The guy is selling the exact same units he’s disparaging!!]
Me: Um, uh, um.
Can you believe it? Yes, yes you can. You see this in the wine and booze world all the time. Somms being condescending to diners, retailers being dismissive of customers’ choices, bartenders looking down their nose on someones order. Come on people! You can either be a jerk, or you can be happy that that customer is in your establishment buying something from you. Want to open their eyes to what you think is a better choice? Then work on the way you message that so that you make a long term customer rather than a long term hater. No, I’m never going back to SloMov.