Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coffee Strains

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.

Related Links:
Double-Dipping On Trial
Double-dipping? Seinfeld Was Right (USA Today)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't judge all of the Panera Empire because of one rude employee (though I must admit that the Starbuck's crews are generally more housebroken). Did you complain to her or her manager that she didn't use tongues?

You wouldn't judge all librarians because of the nasty one in Sophie's Choice, would you?

5:57 PM  
Blogger Sl8ofHand said...

If she had used 'tongues' I'd have really been upset! And amazed! Most people have only one...

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