Archive for September, 2010

Punching holes

I always cut off the check-out clerks from Coles before they ask the fly buys question. Between my metcards, license and debit cards there just isn’t any room for a piece of plastic that will eventually get me an ice-cream maker.

But I will always bank on a coffee card, even though I tend to feel like a cheap bastard reaping the reward.

Loyalty cards are a valuable part of marketing and ensuring customer return, but they are also about giving something back.

Our little establishment does the whole stamp card thing. Five purchases will give you five well rounded holes and then a free coffee; they are one of the most asked for items in the shop apart from coffee of course.

However, our little card has perpetuated some rather outlandish antics that have givenn rise to some new pet peeves, but also make me feel less cheap.

Here are a couple of situations I find rather intriguing when it comes to holes:

Is it this pocket? No, I’ll check the other, oops must be in my wallet, no not there, hmmm, I’ll check my pockets again. STOP. Please place you card neatly in an accessible place so I don’t have to watch you feel yourself up trying to find the damn thing!

Customers shoving themselves in the front of line after the transaction and waving their purple card like a lunatic for a hole, is annoying for all. Ok, you forgot, that’s fine but cutting is never cool, didn’t you learn anything in second grade?

Customers asking me to punch their card because they had forgotten the other day is downright wrong. Even though I always punch it, it’s really rude. It happened yesterday, the window of punch opportunity has left, let it go. Why should reward absent mindedness?

Dodgy cards are the worst because I accept them anyway. As if I’m going to say, did you punch this yourself? We have had to replaced three hole punchers since I’ve dealt with these ‘loyality’ cards, if you’re really struggling for cash, go busking, it’s far more creative than taking a pencil and shoving it through a card.

I’m not going to ask if you have your caffeine card at the end of each transaction like they do at the supermarket, so if you have one, remember it, otherwise it’s your fault not mine.

4 things you may not know about coffee

1: There are ways around high prices

I’ve seen people get rather inventive when it comes to saving money. A single shot of espresso is cheaper to buy than a latte. Usually, coffee places have a little condiments bar consisting of sugar and milk to put in tea and long blacks.

Last summer, I noticed a customer ordering a shot over ice, a common drink yet it took me a while to figure out why the complimentary milk jug was empty when he left. Then it hit, he made his own iced coffee.

We charge $3.50 for an iced coffee which is espresso shots and milk over ice; he paid $2.40 for black coffee over ice and got the milk for free. Dodgy, yes sir! But he did save over a dollar per drink.

I once pulled up a stingy student for ordering a large latte and an extra cup. If he hadn’t poured half of his latte into the requested cup then handed it to his friend in front of me, he may still be getting away with it today.

2: Skinny milk froths better than full fat milk

Coffee connoisseurs insist that the more fat in milk, the better the coffee tastes. This may be true but if you like a frothy cappuccino, skinny is the way to go.

Because skinny milk has less fat content, it froths better and looks much better when it has been properly dealt with. The froth is glossier and much thicker than full fat foam. If you can get past the slightly watered down flavor of skinny milk, give it a go next time you order a milk based coffee.

3: Are you in on the secret?

A menu board will list the most basic items offered in a café and every now and then a special. However, there are a lot of ingredients behind the counter making options outside of the menu endless.

Syrups, chocolates, teas and assorted milks can all be mixed and matched to form whatever concoction you can conjure. Trust me, I get bored behind the machine, I’ve tried it all.

The most popular under the radar order at the moment is a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Tea and coffee seems like an odd flavour combo yet the sweet taste of chai does level out the bitterness of coffee. If you’re bored of your morning latte, get creative and don’t be afraid to ask a barista for a recommendation.

4: Friends with benefits

Smile, say hi, ask questions and above all, say thank you. Manners go a long way and if there is a particular café you frequent, getting to know your barista means special treatment.

Often I will see a customer walking towards the shop, the kind that never strays from their favourite beverage and without a thought I’ll start making their drink.  A coffee ready at the counter always goes down well especially when on the go.

The key is to build a little rapport with your coffee maker, spend a little more time getting to know your caffeine administrator and we’ll spend more time making sure your coffee is fabulous and prompt!

*This post originally contained information about the price of coffee which has been taken out after concerns were raised about the accuracy of research

Trainsurfing

This was originally published on upstart.

As crowds thicken over the weekend, cafés are finding it hard to accommodate the needs of their plugged-in customers. A laptop takes up much more space than a plate of eggs with a latte on the side.

The café Wi-Fi backlash began in the United States when coffee house owners started putting tape on electrical outlets, some even went so far as to revamp their shops, replacing seating with standing bars.

Melbourne is on the verge of the same game of outlet hide and seek. Fair enough, after all is the café really the most appropriate place to double up as an office?

Trevor Simmons opened his Melbourne café, Penny Farthing, with Wi-Fi in mind as he saw it to be a good fiscal draw. Yet eight months after opening he says he has ‘had to ask people to put away laptops on the weekend because there just isn’t any space, this isn’t a library.’

The stench of espresso in Penny Farthing reminded me that I wasn’t in the business of borrowing books, but the handful of customers scattered throughout the café staring at their laptops lent a kind of silence that suggested otherwise.

Cafés were one of the first to catapult free Wi-Fi into popularity when a friendly neighbour beamed a wireless signal into an adjoining coffee shop. Ten years later, it’s time for Wi-Fi to find a more suitable setting so it can put the noise back into coffee.

But where else can you be anti-social, kill time and not type in fear of spilling a hot drink over precious technology? Why, public transport of course!

Since 2006, talk of free Wi-Fi for commuters has led to broken promises and disappointed users. The only hope we have to take back the time wasted commuting are the trials that have been going on since the middle of last year.

In South Australia, there was a six-month trial of one metropolitan bus equipped with all things Wi-Fi, but nothing has evolved from there.

Close to a year on, in February 2010, the Tasmanian Greens decided to roll out an 18-month Wi-Fi bus trial in hopes that they can meet that of ‘Europe’s train system which offers free Wi-Fi for travellers, and is widely recognized as leading the way internationally with over 70,000 ‘hotspots’.

Commercial banking companies like ANZ have also decided to try their clever marketing hand at free Wi-Fi.

Overly adorned throughout Melbourne’s Southern Cross station are banners and kiosks advertising ‘a free Wi-Fi zone’ brought to you by ANZ. It looks like someone threw up blue.

When asked about the new addition, the Metro information centre simply pointed to ‘the yellow building where you can get the best coverage’. They didn’t seem to know that the promotion, which started in June, will only last until the end of this month.

This month, ANZ also launched free access until November for sea-bound commuters travelling the 30 minute journey from Manly to Circular Quay in Sydney. They are setting the foundations because, ANZ announced, ‘the daily commute to and from work is a very natural time for consumers to expect free Wi-Fi services’.

In Europe, free and pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi is available on Virgin trains, Thalys and other public transport providers. In the United States, New York City is moving to wire close to 300 subway stations with free Wi-Fi.

The NSW government is already backing the endeavour between ANZ and the Circular Quay fleet. A little subsidising goes a long way when it comes to getting home on time.

Maybe then you’d have enough time to sit in the café without your laptop. All those hours spent throughout the week waiting and travelling could be put towards productivity instead of stealing space from the founders of free Wi-Fi.

If you see a queue, put it away, but before you do, kindly write a letter to those at Metro and your local council to praise the free trials.

Kids and coffee

With one eyebrow raised, I stared down the parent that ordered his 12 year-old son a latte last week. I proceeded to debate whether or not to weaken the espresso shot but didn’t, roughly 80 milligrams of caffeine was the order to abide.

I felt uncomfortable serving such an adult drink to a minor, the same sort of unease met when a group of teenagers approach you in a parking lot asking you to buy them booze.

It’s strange as there is no minimum age requirement to drinking coffee, just a general consensus that coffee is a grown up thing.

The fastest growing coffee consumers at the moment are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, with 13 to 17 year olds consuming 20 per cent more products containing the drug in the past few years. I guess all those babycino drinkers finally grew up.

The common assumption that coffee stunts your growth and therefore shouldn’t be the preferred beverage of a growing child is actually a myth. Caffeine will inhibit some essential nutrient absorption, but it hasn’t been completely proven that calcium is directly affected.

It is merely a suggestion to cut down on caffeine for people that suffer from osteoporosis.

So what does that mean for the tweens and teens that idolize Twilight celebrities often photographed outside a café with a 20 oz cup full of caffeine?

Not much, in fact it may be beneficial. Research Scientist, Dr Tomas Depaulis of Vanderbilt University, US, has recently come out and debunked the downside to drinking coffee.

‘There recently was a study from Brazil finding that children who drink coffee with milk each day are less likely to have depression than other children,’ Depaulis went on, ‘in fact, no studies show that coffee in reasonable amounts is in any way harmful to children.’

Health Canada also condones consumption recommending a maximum daily allowance of 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, that’s a full shot of espresso for kids between the ages of 10 and 12.

A 250 ml can of Red Bull contains just as much caffeine as a shot of espresso yet tends to be thought of as a common drink amongst teenagers. However, it has about five teaspoons of sugar, added to the kick, and you would be hard pressed to find someone that puts that much in a coffee.

Moderation is the key and teaching kids at an early age that lesson is probably more beneficial than restricting something of curiosity.

My parents gave me a glass of wine with dinner to learn how to enjoy the beverage responsibly. Drinking too much caffeine will have detrimental effects and it’s much better to figure that out sooner rather than later.


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