With coffee enjoying a new cult status among the young these days, and with coffee shops like Starbucks being considered a hip place to hang out in to be seen, it is amusing to listen to young people order coffee without knowing exactly what they’re ordering. At Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at TriNoma one time, for instance, there was this girl, speaking in English with a decidedly fake twang, who was complaining why there was no foam in her iced coffee. I was next in line and I had a hard time trying to stop myself from giggling. The barista tried to explain that she ordered iced coffee and there’s no foam in iced coffee. But she wouldn’t listen. The barista asked if she meant to order a frappé instead (see a related article), she said no, she wanted iced coffee and she wanted foam on top of it. The repetitive exchange went on for a few minutes and I got bored listening after a while. I just wanted to kick the stupid and maarte girl off the line so I could order my coffee.
That’s the problem with the hip crowd in hip coffee shops — there’s a huge difference between ordering coffee because you like and know your coffee, on the one hand, and ordering coffee because you just think it’s cool to order one in a hip place, on the other. Makes the saying that “the customer is always right” so, so wrong.
But cluelessness can be found on the other side of the counter too. At the Mall of Asia Krispy Kreme last month, I saw new products that didn’t look like donuts, I asked the guy behind the counter what they were, he said they were kruffins and pointed to the poster just behind him. I asked what kruffins were and he told me they were muffins with holes. Is that all, I asked, just muffins with holes? Yes, he replied. And they’re all the same except for the flavors? Yes, he said again.
Speedy, Alex and I ordered three different flavors of the kruffin and coffee.
Alex had bacon and cheese…
I had something with cinnamon…
And Speedy had apple streusel.
And the texture of the bread of all three were different from one another. Alex’s bacon and cheese kruffin was more like a pull apart bread, Speedy’s apple streusel had a very cupcake-like consistency and my cinnamon thingy was really more like a muffin. Pull apart bread, cupcake and muffin are made differently. The first is a layered bread, the second is a small cake made with cake batter and a muffin is a muffin made from a batter that is lumpier than a cake or cupcake batter.
After finishing our coffee and kruffins, I was so tempted to go back to the guy behind the counter and ask him (sarcastically, I’m sure) if he knew at all the products that he was selling. His generic answers might be good enough for ninety percent of the customers but there are people who do want to know exactly what they’re paying for and they have a right to the correct information from people who are supposedly well-versed in the product line.
It’s a sad story that one finds in so many restaurants, eateries and coffee shops these days — waiters and waitresses (or food attendants as they are sometimes called) who can’t explain, even in simple terms, what the dishes in the menu are. But those food attendants at Krispy Kreme? Gee, if they can learn to speak English so fluently, surely they can learn about the products they’re selling.
Okay, maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s not the fault of all the badly trained food attendants everywhere. Perhaps, it the fault of management that is more concerned about training their staff to get customers to order more rather than get them to order well. You know, teach them lines like “Would you like fries to go with your burger?”
Or, maybe, it has to do with the fact that the staff in many food chains don’t last long enough to learn their jobs. The Labor Code says if you’re employed for more than six months, you’re a permanent (regular) employee entitled to full benefits including vacation and sick leaves, thirteenth month pay, security of tenure, etc. But that is circumvented in different ways. One is when a restaurant contracts with an entity to provide labor. The workers are, technically, not employees of the restaurant but of the contractor. The contractor re-assigns its people to different restaurants or branches every six months and no one becomes a regular employee. With a set-up like that, well, you can imagine why food attendants don’t know what they’re selling and serving.