Complaints, complaints

My text for today comes from the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 10 (King James Bible, of course):

Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

The date: September 8, 2009. The scene: a coffee shop, somewhere. The cast: one customer, one person serving coffee.

Customer: My coffee is quite cold.
Staff: No it isn’t.
Customer: I’m afraid it is, totally cold. Do you want to try it?
Staff: No! You might have swine flu.
Customer: Why would that make my coffee cold?
Staff: I’m not saying that, but I don’t want to go anywhere near it.
Customer: Just feel the cup with your hand.
Staff: You could have blown on it.
Customer: Look, I am not trying to make a big thing of this, but I cannot drink it, it’s cold. I’d like another cup.
Staff: You can’t have two for the price of one by arguing with me.
Customer: Look, I’m not being unreasonable, the coffee really is cold.
Staff: How do I know you even got it here?
Customer: Because it’s in your cup and you yourself served me.
Staff: I don’t remember you at all. And you could have stolen the cup on another occasion.
Customer: And brought it back here just to claim a free coffee?
Staff: People do strange things.
Customer: So you’re not giving me another cup?
Staff: Certainly not, and unless you move away now I shall have you barred from this coffee shop.

Rather to my disappointment (because I hoped I could get a little more of this dialogue) the customer went away.  But this clearly was one place where an ethos of service had not taken root. Interestingly also, as the customer left, some others sitting around muttered in a way that made it clear they were on the side of the member of staff.

It has been argued that the key social tension in western countries over the past 30 years or so has been between the concept of society as a community of producers and society as a community of consumers. We are still far from resolving this, though over that period the idea has been advancing that the users of services and consumers of products have rights that, perhaps, determine the role of government. The decline of trade unionism is associated with that.

I have to admit that, in the little drama recounted above, I was on the side of the customer.

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7 Comments on “Complaints, complaints”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    But he these days had better have a copy of Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act. Which I feel should be sent to each and every home in the State, together with a book of 15E vouchers for the District Courts.

  2. Joe Kiniry Says:

    I don’t even know where to begin.

    Watching Irish consumers interact with City Councils, corporations, and their staff, both directly and indirectly, has been depressing, disconcerting, amusing, and bewildering at various times in my five years here.

    The abuse that citizens will take is astounding. Bending over and taking it, then muttering about it later, but not actually *doing* something about it, seems to be either a national pastime or genetic.

    I would not only have been on the customer’s side, I would have driven that member of staff to tears and obtained a apology for the customer.

  3. Richard Says:

    I can’t imagine how anyone would have been on the side of the shop based on the above. The west does have a different view of ‘service’ where it is sometimes seen as something to be ashamed of. There is certainly no shame in service in many eastern cultures where it is often seen as an honorable profession. I am so delighted when I encounter even basic levels of customer service in Ireland. Personally I spend statistically significantly more of my hard earned money in businesses where the customer service is good and I never go back to places where it has been bad. I also have to admit that I am the sort of person who wouldn’t complain at the time (sorry Joe), although I may occasionally write scathing on line reviews! Luckily my wife is the opposite and regularly eviscerates offending individuals and businesses, thus the global balance is restored. Good service costs nothing and can only benefit the business in question.

  4. otto Says:

    Can we have the name of the cafe? This post is uncharacteristically coy.


    • Otto, I did think about naming and shaming, but then it might cost the woman her job, and what do I know about what was going on in her life. But I did say as I left to the person who seemed to be in charge that I thought the exchange was unacceptable.

  5. TheChrisD Says:

    I cannot fathom how those people were on the side of the staff member, particularly given how they were so rude to the customer.

    Coming up with cock and bull stories like that just to get away with having to change for a new cup of coffee is appalling. Especially when it’s not as if they would have lost much on it, given how much places charge for coffee these days, I’d say they make quite a huge amount of markup on each and every cup…

  6. Purchase Says:

    Sure, why not. But what will be next?


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