On my recent trip to the US I had the occasional argument when it was time to pay for the coffee I was going to drink. Â They were friendly arguments, I suppose more like short debates. Â I generally did a very bad job of getting my point across, and still struggle to do so. Â (This is at least the third draft of this post.) Â I’ve been meaning to post for a while about why I am even worse than usual at accepting people’s kind hospitality.
It has become, over the last few months, increasingly important to me that I pay for the coffee I drink in people’s cafes. a This might seem like a staggeringly obvious thing to say, but free coffee is unsurprisingly shared between those inside the industry – a sort of alternate currency. Â In the past I have gratefully accepted, genuinely thankful for the gift and, while happy to pay, it would have felt rude to argue.
What has changed? Â In truth not being able to pay has begun to inhibit my enjoyment of coffee. Â Accepting a free drink means, to me, the following:
– You give up the right to take up a seat unless the place is extremely quiet.
– You give up the right to take up any space at all if the place is busy.
– You give up the right to take up the barista’s time if they are busy.
– You give up the right to ask for a second drink.
I don’t know what has crystalised my change of mind on the matter, perhaps I am simply more aware of the exact cost of a cup of coffee to a business. Â Not just the raw materials, but the cost of the barista, the equipment, the rent, theÂ utilitiesÂ and everything else that goes into the costs of a great cafe.
Perhaps it is because I worry that if, as someone passionate about coffee and retailing it well, I don’t think a cup of coffee is worth my hard earned cash – then why should anyone else think that way? Â Is it hypocritical to talk about wanting to raise the price of a cup of coffee so we can spend more further down the chain, but at the same time accepting or even expecting something for nothing.
There are a few caveats to this (of course). Â As a coffee supplier coming round to check how things are tasting then I will accept an offered espresso (though I would be happy to pay if you asked me to). Â I am also aware that a cup of coffee can be used as an excellent bartering tool in the real world, and can be carefully traded with great returns. Â I am not against this at all! Â I should also add that this is a very personal post, and in no way am I prescribing how I think things should be done or not done.
I (embarrassingly) can’t remember who put the phrase “Friends Pay Retail” in my head, but it certainly makes sense to me. Â If I am a fan of what you are doing, and enjoy what you sell then surely the worst thing I can ask you to do (as a friend) is to take up your product, resources and time and expect you to give it away for nothing.
Contrary to what you might believe, this isn’t a shock-jock post or anything like that, and I worry that in trying to get my point across I’ll seem like an ungrateful, arrogant so and so. Â It is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.
- I am aware that I failed to pay in a couple of places in the US, for which I apologise and am a bit embarrassed (back)