It was on my 6 a.m. train ride to work that I discovered with delight Sprudge’s takedown of my last post, “How Not To Order Espresso.” Sprudge, which I’d never heard of but admittedly now enjoy, is a site that focuses on coffee news and miscellany–and, apparently, writes critiques of other publications’ coffee-related items. The meat of Sprudge’s argument was that, being in the food service industry, baristas are meant to smile and silently suffer the indulgences of even the fussiest customers. “You’re in the service industry!”–they write–“Your job is to serve, honey.” They go on, telling me not to “queen out on behalf of the coffee industry.” They were then kind enough to offer me a $100 check as incentive to quit coffee for good, which, given what I’ve done for less, is quite generous.
If the retweets of the article–mostly from baristas who commented with things like “RIGHT ON!!” or “take the $100 from @Sprudge and get out of coffee. You’re making us all look bad and it sucks”–are any indication, more people than just the Sprudge dudes felt very strongly about my need to get out of the biz. Clearly my opinion, and Sprudge’s subsequent response to it, had aggravated some people–people who need to take a long look into their perfectly pulled ristretto and realize it’s something we ultimately end up pissing down a drain.
The Sprudge guys and others who fetishize coffee while publicly condescending to those who don’t are curators of the worst kind of customer service, one too highbrow for most people to stomach. A disappointing air of elitism has stifled café culture, and has scared most everyday customers from deviating from the norm, causing them to stick to drip or cold brew or lattes for fear of being scoffed at when asking for the details of something less common, such as a flat white. That’s the kind of pompous customer service that makes baristas look bad. My poking fun at guys who take 10 minutes to decide between a Guatemalan or Costa Rican pourover doesn’t really do any harm. It just makes the grind all that more bearable.
So, unfortunately for Sprudge, I’ve got to reject the $100 check. I’ll continue quietly condescending to those who themselves insist on being condescending, while trying to charm a dollar here and there from the kind of customers I like: the ones who couldn’t give a damn about tasting notes of fig, and just want their coffee done right, and done well.