Saturday, November 03, 2007

Anarchy at the coffee-shop

Scene: an outlet of a recently opened coffee chain in a plush new Noida mall. A cosy place, not more than 20x20 ft, with seven tables (only two of them occupied), all in full view of the counter. Behind the counter stand 5-6 people, which means there are more employees than customers at present, and everyone can clearly see everyone else. The staff seems indolent, uninterested, and resentful of their supervisor – an intense young man with a very short fuse, who frequently swears and sarcastically says things like, “MAY I KNOW what you are doing please?!!”. (No doubt he also has half an MBA degree and a perfunctory acquaintance with business management textbooks.) Abhilasha and I walk in, hoping for a quick coffee and sandwich before resuming our mall-tour.

At the counter

Jai: One cappuccino and a toasted cheese sandwich please.

(Short-fuse supervisor looks flintily at me through his spectacles, a psychotic love-child of Lord Emsworth’s secretary Rupert Baxter and Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle)

J: Um, are you taking the order?

SFS: One moment please, sir! (Barks at subordinates, mutters under his breath. They look at him with sullen resentment. He stares back at them in a fixed way, like Robert De Niro about to go at a TV set with a baseball bat, then redirects his attention at me) Yes, okay, please be seated.

J: And can we get some water please?

SFS: Okay, okay, okay, okay, I’ll send it across.

Minutes pass and there's no water in sight. The wife and I are making gagging sounds, like slaves working on the Pyramids. I approach the counter and ask SFS if there’s a drinking fountain nearby.

SFS (nostrils flaring magnificently) You mean they STILL haven’t given you water?! (Screams instructions at minions, spraying spittle all over the counter)

A few seconds later a sullen young employee approaches our table, bangs down a large jug of water with things floating on the surface, glares at us and leaves. Several more minutes pass and throughout this time we are in full view of the employees; they can clearly see that we’re waiting for our order, yet no one seems desirous of making cappuccino.

Abhilasha: Most of them aren’t even doing anything, just staring.

J: Ooh look, that one is sniffing at the coffee vociferously before serving it at that table – maybe they give out a free sample of nose-hair with each mug.

I approach the counter meekly, asking for food and drink.

SFS (eyes bulging, looking like he’s going to have a heart attack) Sir, what was your order again?

I remind him. He hollers at his staff who look back at him, contemptuously amused; stray words like “valued customer” and “respect” can be heard in the tirade, and SFS now resembles the Vodafone dog.

SFS (forcing a smile): Sir, please be seated, I will personally hand-deliver your order.

Which he does, five minutes later, along with an additional cup of cappuccino (“our compliments, sir, sorry for the delay”). He also forces two members of our staff to apologise to us by sticking his fingers in the backs of their necks.

Abhilasha: Aren’t you having your coffee?

J: No, they almost certainly spat in it. I would have.

Welcome to Customer Service (and Staff Management) 2007.

P.S. No, I'm not averse to naming names: it was Costa Coffee at the First India Place mall. But we went there once more and things had slightly improved. Less spittle on the counter this time.


  1. Rupert Baxter's love child!! Now I have to go and get myself poisoned there.

  2. Ha ha! That was funny. Sounds like the owner's son...

  3. Uh oh! Costa is my favourite and I go to the one at Shopprix Mall, Noida, Sector-61 as it is near my office. The staff there are very friendly...What happened with you people was SAD. Something like that happened with me at the Costa outlet in C.P. There, the manager herself was quite rude.

  4. These guys should come to Mumbai to understand the concept of customer service. In fact it should be mandatory for all Delhi residents to spend at least one month in Mumbai every year to learn about things like manners, civilised behaviour, punctuality etc. -- concepts that have always been alien to residents of ghastly Delhi.

  5. it should be mandatory for all Delhi residents to spend at least one month in Mumbai every year

    But Anonymouse, given how crowded Mumbai already is, wouldn't this mean that we'd have to push the original residents into the sea? And being so civilised and polite and all, they wouldn't even be able to stop us. Mwahaha...

  6. What anon has said is certainly worth a thought. People in Delhi to a large extent are uncouth , hyperaggresive (though this is only till the other person doesn't pull out his sword) and showboats of the first order.

    Delhi's so called great culture has been eroded by an influx of people from other states and also by a substantial majority of Punjabis from Pakistan. Today as a result you see a city which does not have its original inhabitants.

    Also the obscene display of wealth by some people in the city and general tendency to be unprofessional in daily dealings has become an inherent trait of the city.

  7. Shwet: there's an interesting discussion going on in the comments section here. Incidentally, though I agree in principle with your points about Dilli-wallahs (given that it's a generalisation, of course), be advised that you're feeding a troll - that Anon commenter has made a career of coming here and posting nasty comments about Delhi-ites, mostly for no reason other than to be rude.

  8. I know, most of the times I have chided this buffoon as well. However the statement about diliwalas was to a large extent correct. (In a generalized way of course)

    About Delhi , I believe it is but a few people in a sample size of thousand who give the city its bad name, it is these bad fish who have spoiled the pond.

  9. good and things keep happening but still i would say that COSTA is the best coffee chain around..........better than CCD and Barista

  10. Oye, it's Great India Place Mall not First India. but the Robert De Niro analogy was hilarious...and eriously these lil managers actually act as if they own the world. some of them are so rude to their staff that drinking/eating outside is actually a health hazard, u never know who's spitting in your food. i think live counters are the best...

  11. The Costa Coffee outlet in Juhu specializes in the worst Cafe Mocha and Chocolate muffins. Can someone confirm if the darn chain has no stock of cocoa powder at all??? Hate to agree but the loud horrible CCD is where you can hope for a decent bite and coffee atleast in Juhu.