Anyone that knows me, knows I loooooove a coffee shop. I love the atmosphere, I love the smell, I love the people in it, I love the actual coffee too. I have a few favorite hangouts, most of them use an expensive machine (my rationale is that if a place is going to invest in an expensive machine, they are going to train their baristas well and source fresh coffee). Unlike most self proclaimed “coffee snobs” (not a term I ever use to describe myself, although the assumption is often made) I have actually seen a real coffee tree in my life, I can explain the process of washing, fermenting, washing, de-husking, sun drying, roasting and packaging to you. I know that “100% arabica” is one of the most obvious statements to make, robusta is bitter and more likely to be used in instant coffee. I know that a bad barista can mess up even the best and freshest beans if they get their method wrong. I believe fair trade is a market altering consumerist trap and that there are no rules about adding milk or sugar – if you like it, put it in, but hold the pretentious comment if you disapprove!!
Coffee is supposed to serve a social function and a chemical one. And then millennials happened. And their parents. And everyone had a smartphone and a sense of entitlement and it became a wild game of “one-upping” and pretentiousness, complaining and gluten free treats to accompany it.
A few things are obvious on social media at the moment. There is very little regard for other peoples feelings, the context surrounding a situation and what is appropriate to share and what is not. We are lazy and so for convenience sake, we have apps that use GPS and ratings to recommend coffee shops and other restaurants near us. I am most familiar with one specific app – unnamed, but very popular and perhaps easy to guess. The last time I scrolled through the reviews of a restaurant that I often go to I was disappointed. Not in the restaurant, but in humans. Is it our natural instinct to complain? Are we at a level of ungratefulness and entitlement where waiting 20 minutes for a pizza is worth a 3/5 rating and a rant about slow service? Lady complaining about the pizza, have you ever made a pizza yourself? The irony is, and this is what our consumerist culture really needs to remember, is that if you have the money to splash on over priced restaurant pizza, you probably have a relatively comfortable life. Especially if this was paired with a craft beer and you took the cauliflower base because “carbs”. Consider whether the first person you see begging at a traffic light would have minded the 20 minute wait. That person has a very real reason to complain about real unfairness in this world. The review warrior, however, needs to save the next one from waiting 10 minutes longer and so makes their stamp on this world via the foodie app and slashes their previous rating to a 3. What a champ.
On these rating apps, you can get a “foodie” level/status. The more you rate the higher your level or whatever moves up in the ranks of pretense. Think about this incentive. In the same way that likes on a photo encourages more and more self-centred posts, so does this system encourage more ratings and more entitlement. You may be a master rater on the app but are you fair? Did the fact that the waiter (who happens to be human too) overlooked your table really warrant a five sentence review about bad service? Did you look the waiter in the eye? Did you maybe notice that their day was long and that perhaps they also have things going on in their lives? When you decided not to tip well because of this, did you think about why this person who has just dealt with your rudeness and entitlement did not jump at the opportunity to appear at your table every 5 minutes? And why that 10% less tip you gave means more to them than the inconvenience did to you? Do you know what a spiteful rating on an app does to the business of a coffee shop? Did you call the manager and talk about your grievances before you used the coffee shops own wifi to write a bad review? Judging by the responses I have read on reviews, usually not.
So… let’s be honest. You probably don’t know coffee as well as you pretend to, you probably can’t taste the difference between 5 different blends and single origins, you probably expect people to treat you well in your own job and expect people to trust that you know what you are doing there. How about you give the same courtesy to the coffee shop owner, the barista and the waiter at the next place you decide to drop some cash on a medium, dark roast (insisting on arabica- of course) cappuccino with a gluten free muffin that is preferably organic (whatever that even means) and warmed to exactly YOUR liking, all served of course, within minutes because you are the only person in a rush today.
Enjoy coffee shops for what they are, restaurants for what they are and coffee for what it is … don’t be a **** about ratings and reviews!