As the saying goes, the customer is always right... right?
I have a defining critieria for whether a coffeeshop is good or not. Of course, the quality of the coffee brewing is important, free wifi is necessary, and I like easy access neighborhood locations. Additionally, I am a sucka for the homage, "support your local indie stores and business" but I have to draw the line somewhere.
The critical cutoff for me is how the barista or counter attendant reacts to my question, "Can I get a large glass of ice water." If they cannot grasp this question or give me a ton of attitude like they are totally put out then they have lost me.
Really, this boils down to a question of how they value the customer -- if the barista holds you in contempt, feels bothered, or shows arrogance, it all comes flowing out when you ask, "Can I get a large glass of ice water."
Water is the essence of life. If there is life on Mars, there has to be water. My doctor tells me to drink 16 oz glasses of water 8 times a day for my health. I go to coffeeshops more for the water than the coffee. Water is also a major and vital ingrediant in the coffee making process, so it is not like going to a shoe store and asking for a leather coat. Asking for water is purely a favor of the host and if they are bad hosts than it all boils over in response to this request.
The last time I was at Nina's I asked for water and the woman behind the counter scowled and pointed me in the direction of a crockery jar on the customer prep station. I told her I would gladly add my own water if she provided the large glass with ice (the cups on the station were tiny and not up to my doctors standards for volumn consumption and no ice there).
She scowled again as if I were rubbish in her eyes. Then, she took the smallest cup and filled it with ice. Even her act of service was an action of contempt and she wanted me to know it.
This is bad business. I don't care if it is local or a national chain -- if the people who get your coffee act in contempt and treat you with an arrogant attitude, I will be happy to switch my business to Starbucks or Caribou because good treatment is the bottom line.
And the Cafe Mocha she brewed sucked. I hope this is just one barista and if I ever go back, I'll get better treatment the next time.
NOTE: Nina's of located in Saint, Paul Minnesota 55102 at the corner of Selby and Western Ave on Cathedral Hill. Garrison Keillors new bookstore is Common Good is underneath and a stairway connects them togther.