Panera's Gets Nasty
I never thought I'd be a Starbucks person (I still think of them as pretentious fancy latte-sipping consumers of overpriced stimulant beverages and nothing makes me cringe more than when some high-maintenance yenta steps to the counter and insists on substituting organic soy milk for her ridiculously decadent latte concoction-du-jour), but with the demise of my neighborhood's Starbucks-wannabe, Caribou Coffee (which had a cool staff) and the ghettoization of Panera's (now frequented almost exclusively by tasteless college kids and semi-ambulatory seniors and staffed by surly high school grads and excessively inked ex-cons), I find myself getting my daily fix at Starbucks (where the sharp-and-savvy college-age staff is quick, courteous and professional). Always hot coffee, mind you, and always plain and sans-girly flavors and frills. Still over-priced, admittedly. But I got hooked - blame it on my brother and brother-in-law for giving me all those Christmas gift cards.
But I still would sometimes frequent Panera Bread when I was getting food. Until this past Saturday when I went to Panera's for a bagel and a coffee. I always love it when hey have those sliced bagel samples, and today they had chocolate chip and some raisin variety samples out. And tongs. I have never used the tongs. And I have rarely seen anyone else use them. So, I picked up a chocolate chip slice, put it in my mouth, grabbed a napkin to wipe off a chocolate chip smear on my finger, and grabbed another slice. Again, the piece I grabbed went straight into my mouth, without any subsequent contact. But as I approached the cashier, I was suddenly called out.
The cashier loudly announced, "Please use the tongs when eating our samples. When you use your hands...that's nasty!"
Realizing she meant me, I said, "Are you serious?" (This was after I stood in front of her for several seconds while she finished her conversation with her co-workers...but I digress.)
"Yes," she replied. "Don't you think that's nasty?" She wouldn't let it go.
"No, I don't think it's nasty. I washed my hands before I came in here and I grabbed a bread slice and I didn't lick my fingers or anything, I used a napkin, and I put the slice I grabbed into my mouth, without touching anything else. I mean, it's not like George Costanza on Seinfeld when he double-dipped the potato chip at his girlfriend's family wake," I insisted. "It's not like something else came into contact with my mouth."
By now I was miffed. I guess I made a big deal about it because in my day job, also a customer service field, I have to take an inordinate amount of shit every day - and this time, being the customer, I wasn't going to let a slight go unchallenged. Meanwhile, the whole mood of this commercial transaction was tainted and this became more than a simple food and cash exchange.
"Well I think that's nasty,' the cashier insisted.
Well, I think you're a nut case, I thought to myself. I shook my head and waited for her to hand me my sliced chocolate chip bagel (without using tongs!).
I paid her, she gave me my change and as I counted it, thought "Now that's "nasty" - dirty money touched by God knows who."
Needless to say I will never come to Panera's again. It's one thing to object to a patron's hygiene as a courtesy to other diners (as in the case of a legimate "double-dip" transaction), but very poor customer service to characterize something as "nasty." That's like remarking "Gross!" upon a customer suddenly sneezing or clearing their throat. Added colorful commentary, in other words.
Double-Dipping On Trial
Double-dipping? Seinfeld Was Right (USA Today)