It was an ordinary evening on Fergusson College Road when I parked and walked in to the Barista near Roopali. The aim of the visit was simple: I had about 30 minutes to kill and I wanted to have a cuppa coffee. Not too tough if you just think about it. As I lay bare my case, you will also agree that it is.
Coffee shops all over are designed to offer comfort and a relaxing environment. So I think. This one, however, ended up aggravating me. I couldn’t help but feel that he was fleecing me and it made me wonder how many others have been ‘robbed’ in a similar manner. Unfortunately, much like the movie based in one of these shops, this experience only made me cringe.
The events unfolded thus:
I was with the wife and a friend. We were to order two drinks. I wanted a Cafe Latte while the friend wanted an Iced Tea. So I go in, place my order answer the usual questions from the barista “Any flavours”, “Any chocolate” with a regular “No, thank you” and ask for the bill amount. It was a whopping Rs 172! Despite inflation, it was shocking to know that two beverages; non-alcoholic; can cost so much!
On asking why the amount was so high, he broke it down into two: the Cafe Latte apparently cost Rs 68 while the Iced Tea Rs 90-odd. Add taxes and voila! Rs 172. The explanation to the magic number. But why was a Latte Rs 68? Egads! Something was amiss!
So I asked. Yet again. And he answered. This time, though, his thieving intentions were out. He had put down a “Grande” order for the latte and a “large” order for the Iced Tea. I didn’t remember asking these expansions of size. I, in fact, went on to cancel the latte (I wasn’t paying anything more than Rs 30 for my 30-minute time kill!) and instead ordered an Americano (black coffee).
After re-ordering the order, the bill was Rs 99 (still too much, but I’ll survive!) and the guy didn’t look too pleased.
I returned outside and was waiting for the order to be completed. Five. Ten. Twenty minutes passed and not so much as warm water in sight, let alone coffee! So I was up and at it again. The confrontation, I mean. And I was stunned to have him stare at me as if he had never seen me (this Barista wasn’t as busy as you’d imagine, really!).
A couple of minutes later, his mind moved and he asked an eloquent “What?”.
I answered, although less eloquently, “My coffee, please”.
To which he retorted gaining further eloquence, “Huh?”
Things were getting out of hand. But his mind, perhaps whirred on by the abundance of coffee around, clicked. “You haven’t got it yet? Wait let me check.”
“Of course I don’t have it.”
“Oh, the guy who was to bring your tray has gone for dinner.”
“At 8.30pm? On a weekday?,” I thought to myself. Not wanting to question the daily routines of waiters, I simply sniggerred. Or something of the sort…
“I’ll make your coffee. Give me ten minutes,” he added.
The alert reader would have by now done their mental mathematics and concurred that including the initial time spent in placing the order and the time wasted in waiting for the aforementioned order to be serviced, I was well past my 30-minute time-kill requirement. I was not interested in the coffee anymore. I just wanted a refund. But that, proved to be another delightful exchange of rhetorical!
“I don’t have ten minutes for coffee. Just give me a refund and I’ll be gone,” said I.
“Give me two minutes. I’ll just make it,” he insisted.
“Not unless you have a magic machine. I have two beverages and I don’t see any preparations for even one,” I shot back bringing to the fore my prowess of observation.
“Two minutes,” he insisted.
“Just give me a refund,” I persisted.
“Two minutes,” he insisted.
“Just give me my money back,” I persisted further.
“But I’ll give you the coffee,” he said, almost as if to throw in a freebie.
“No, thanks. I just want by Rs 99 back. Here’s your Re 1,” I persisted giving him the exact coin back.
He relented. In the face of my relentless persistence and acute observations, he had lost.
Or had he?
Upon leaving, I still had a 20-minute drive. Which gave me time to ponder over the events of the very recent past. Viz. the Barista episode. And upon giving it careful consideration, I concluded that he had designed the event in a manner so as to not serve me.
Think about it.
He first tries to sell me something that is twice my final order. He has already lost money and face. His only options at revenge were to either spit in my coffee or not complete my order. Spitting wasn’t an option since both beverages of the re-ordered order were ‘clear’ in nature and any phlegmatic or sali-vicious matter would have been immediately noticed and brought further ire of the customers in question, i.e., the observant me.
So as I drove along without my caffeine fix and with much to ponder over, the wife asked, “Why didn’t he serve us?” I couldn’t accept the truth. I had been beaten.
“His waiter went for dinner,” I offered feebly. Perhaps some caffeine would have given me more courage…