Thursday, December 4, 2008

Short term memory loss

This is a quickie...another journal entry of daftness by yours truly. I am not the best at multi-tasking. I do best when focusing on one thing at a time. My motto is, better to do one thing at a time very well, than several things quickly and half-assed. However, that motto may just be the excuse I use for my inability to remember which drink is which as I make several at once ("several" being...oh...for example...two).

This happens to me all the time: I make two drinks, let's say a mocha and grasshopper latte, have clearly and purposefully noted their positions on the prep counter so that I can give the correct drink to the appropriate person when I turn to the front counter.
All is well and good, until someone asks me a question or otherwise dents my focus as I turn with a drink in each hand. Suddenly the mind goes blank...turn back to the prep counter to jog the memory...right hand mocha? left hand? what the...?

Fortunately, most people just smile and say "We'll figure it out."

Yep, I'm a pro...

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's me, it's me, it's Earnest T.!

This week's Earnest T. Bass daftness award goes to some knob who left his common sense at the door when walking in. Again, it has to do with that land of fools called the HTR community forum. Our hero (we'll call him "knob A") has a gripe with one of the other posters ("knob B") and, apparently letting the weight of the week get the better of him, called his nemesis out for the rube that he is.Well, a number of folks on the forum are newbies and they had no idea of the history of idiocy displayed by "knob B." They only saw "knob A" rattling "knob B's" cage, apparently without provocation. "Knob B" has a history of rudeness and stupidity that he has directed at "knob A" and other forum participants. "Knob A" justifiably (in my humble opinion) dislikes "knob B" and mocks his stupidity from time to time. However, "knob A" is a fairly intelligent chap who really ought to know better, and when he smacked "knob B" online he suddenly found himself the target of those other forum dwellers who only saw an unprovoked attack by "knob A" on "knob B."
"Knob A" was defiant and dealt with the criticism (which was somewhat justified) pretty well, and even had one or two other folks throw their support his way, which of course was gratifying to "knob A."
My certificate of achievement
Let this be a lesson to you other knobs out there. Forum combat is most often a losing battle, regardless of the justification of your cause. There are just too many dimwits and sourpusses in that land of fools. You'll get raked over the coals regardless. I should have known better...wait, I mean "knob A" should have known better! Yeah, that guy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Election Year Daftness

Now that the election is over we can hopefully get back to the every-day-garden-variety daftness of the coffee shop. I read and heard more daft pronouncements from friends and acquaintances concerning both major party candidates than I care to recount. Neither camp was immune to dopiness, and I'm sure you've already heard your share of curious opinions and statements concerning either candidate.
I ran into one friend who was/is an ardent Obama supporter..."ardent" might be an understatement...and they (I'm using "they" rather than he or she so as to completely avoid any identification, because these folks are friends and while I think they deserve a little teasing, I don't wish to embarrass) became a little peeved with me when I didn't take their position as seriously as I apparently should have.

Let me be clear that I am an equal opportunity teaser. Zealotry for either Obama or McCain would have and did receive some good-natured ribbing.

They said that they may not have been in the shop lately ostensibly because of something I may have said in jest and that "This is serious [presumably Obama getting elected]. There are poor people in the world."

"Well, go get 'em, tiger," I replied.

"There are poor people in the world." (?)
The inferences are that if Obama were to get elected there would be either less, or perhaps even no poor people in the world as a result? And that the other candidates perhaps weren't as concerned about poor people as Mr. Obama? Puh-leeze. What does one say to that kind of blind devotion (obamania)? Well, "go get 'em, tiger" is as good as anything I suppose.

On the other side, a supporter for Mr. McCain, while in the shop brought up the idea that Obama might just be that fellow that the Book of Revelations refers to as ushering in the end-times. Yup, that honey-tongued deceiver of biblical prophecy. When you hear something like that it's difficult to not reply, at least it is for me. "You're not serious are you? Good grief, that's even more ridiculous than some of the drivel I've heard from the Obama camp."

My opinion: Both of those men (Obama and McCain), as well as their running mates (and the attacks on Palin were particularly nasty and childish), are a combination of honorable and opportunistic. Neither one of them deserved some of the criticism they received and they both did deserve some of the criticism they received. We always hear about how the public hates it when campaigns go negative and attack the other side. That's bull. The public does not hate that kind of campaigning (and both Obama and McCain engaged in it) because the public engages in it themselves! Nothing either candidate said concerning their opponent could rival some of the nonsense that we say ourselves (e.g., Obama is going to eliminate poverty; McCain only cares about rich people; yada, yada, yada... Such nonsense).

People have been asking me who I voted for. The candidate I voted for did not get elected. I have real concerns about the new President-elect's philosophy and stated policy desires. I do, however, believe that he will do the very best he can, I hope that his tenure is a positive one for our country, and that the system of checks and balances will keep things...well...balanced and in check.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rules of Etiquette

The behaviors and attitudes of people are a never-ending source of curiosity to me. In the retail dining or drink business one of the more curious creatures is the "camper." A camper is, of course, someone who comes into a shop and sits down to read, use their laptop, chat with friends or just hang around...who purchases a single small item and then tries to nurse it for several hours or, even more offensive, thinks that they can use the space without purchasing anything at all. The first we barely tolerate, depending on the situation and person; the second we don't tolerate at all. We don't have a specific "you must purchase something in order to stay here" policy posted, but we do strongly encourage it, for both social and practical reasons. And a lot of it does depend on whether or not the person is alone or with others, their reason for hanging out (if, for example, someone comes in from the rain while waiting for a ride, well, of course that's ok), how they behave, even whether they give off a good or bad vibe.
Clueless Morgan
I realize that people generally don't consciously decide "I'm going to go into this place and make use of their facility and return to them little or nothing in the exchange." They don't consciously decide to be rude or self-centered, but that's really what it comes off as. As much as shop owners enjoy the sense of community that cafés promote (that's a big part of why many of us got into this business) they also have practical considerations to deal with, like paying the monthly bills...and a guy sucking the shop's electricity for 2 or 3 hours to run his laptop, on one cup of coffee, just doesn't cut it.

I personally can't imagine the cahonés it takes to go into a restaurant, tavern or café, plop myself down to read the newspaper or watch their tv, and not have the common courtesy to at least order a drink.
There are also those few folks who occasionally visit on a weekend night when we have live music, who come in to enjoy the performance but who try to get by without ordering anything at all. This is a doubly heinous act of rudeness, because not only are they taking advantage of the shop but they're taking advantage of the musician too. We have to pay musicians to perform, and it ain't much let me tell you. For a small operator like us artist pay is based directly on how well we do that particular night. We do have a one drink minimum per hour requirement for live music nights, but there are always a few people who either don't know that and/or don't care. Fortunately (I suppose), most people are simply unaware of this common courtesy and once informed are happy to support what they enjoy and make use of.

But on a recent Saturday evening when we had a musician here a woman came in and went to the back to relax on the couch while listening to the performance. I waited a while until it became apparent that she had no real intention of getting a drink. Walking back I politely asked her, "What can I get for you?" "Nothing," she replied. "I'm good."

"No" I said, "I'm afraid we have a one drink minimum policy, and especially on live music nights."

"Well, there's nothing that says that on the door," she retorted.

'Gosh,' he thought, 'it doesn't? Well that changes everything!'

"Nope, it doesn't say that on the door...but I own the place and that's what it is," I smiled nonchalantly.

She smiled back and challenged me, "So what if I don't, what are you gonna do, kick me out?"

I smile even more sweetly, "Yes...I'm afraid I will indeed."

"You would not!" she blurted out, still smiling and clearly thinking I was bluffing.

I just kept smiling and enjoyed the moment, "Oh, you bet I will."

She suddenly got a little perturbed, but still smiling got up and went to the counter and ordered a tea. As I made it and gave it to her I sincerely said, "Thank you for not forcing me to kick you out."

She maintained her even keel and sweetly sarcastic tone, "Oh, I enjoy being bullied into buying something at a coffee shop!" clearly trying to get a reaction from me.

"Oh, I wouldn't say you were bullied," I pleasantly replied (I was enjoying this little battle perhaps a little too much). "This is a business, after all, not a library."

I give her credit, as she conceded "Yeah, that's a good point I guess."

And all was well that ended well.

So, don't be a camper...campers are weenies.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best Smarty-Pants Entry in the Guest Book

This past Sunday we had our 2nd Anniversary party and wine bar opening at the Stump. We passed around a little journal for people to write in...thoughts on the place, comments, wine list suggestions, secret fishing holes, horse track tips, whatever. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was so, so kind and complimentary. It was actually rather humbling.

But the best wise-ass comment must go to our pal Ric Prucha, who wrote:

earday iaryday,

congrats -- ouyay aray the estbay!

Kim u run a beautiful place -

David you suck -

from Ric

Outstanding! LMAO!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Forum wiseguy takes the nerdy kids' lunch money

The Herald Times Reporter online community forum is an interesting place. Definitely the home of the good, the bad and the ugly. I've often likened it to an "old man's bar," where disenfranchised local yocals get to gripe and whine, believing or hoping that someone is listening and maybe even cares about what they have to say. There are, of course, a goodly number of engaged, intelligent and thoughtful folks who participate in the discussions but, by and large, it is the domain of sourpusses, sad-sacks and the ill-informed...the loud, the obnoxious and the stupid. And frankly, it can at times be entertaining.
As I do occasionally participate in discussions on the forum I also am at times subject to those who don't like what I have to say or the way I might say it. Those moments where someone tries to come after me tend to backfire for them as I confess that I take some measure of guilty pleasure in verbally smacking those ne'er-do-wells into submission. Most of them, after getting a taste of the lash, decide that retreat is the wiser option and are not heard from again...some, it takes one or two keyboard kidney punches before they tuck tail and slink off. In any case, they often provide some good fodder for the "Diary of the Daft."

Here's a recent series, with some background comments in blue (original spelling errors mostly corrected). My screen name is JavaTikiKing, although I often state my real name and have made it clear numerous times who I am (for some reason, the new forum would not allow me to use my real name like the old forum did).

1) The spark:
I too have went to a local business, numerous times, always had good food, then after bragging it up that I never had a bad meal there, we went and I had a bad steak, ok try again, bad the next week, well I talked to the owners and came to find out they were trying a new vendor and with all the complaints they changed back.
Posted by JethroB

The gal below, Huntersmom2, started a thread that did nothing but complain and criticize a local restaurant for a bad experience she had there. I suggested that rather than coming onto the forum and badmouthing the place she at least first bring her concerns or complaints to the management of the restaurant, giving them a chance to correct a problem that they may not have even been aware of. Kind of a Golden Rule approach rather than publicly raking someone without being dignified enough to address them directly first.

This initial discussion criticizing the restaurant continued for a few posts until JethroB's post (#1 above), at which point Huntersmom2 attempted a sarcastic reproach of me in her post below.

2) Huntersmom2 doesn't like me telling her to be nice:
I guess I know now why all of the others have discontinued posting their opinions. It seems like we aren't allowed to have negative feelings and express them on this forum. I like the others will not use this forum to post anymore. I am sorry if I offended anyone.
Posted by Huntersmom2

3) my reply to Huntersmom2
"all of the others"...? Wow, I am suddenly drunk with the power I apparently have to cause others to discontinue posting their opinions. All bow before my unbridled power!
Posted by JavaTikiKing

One of the forum's more impressively intelligent posters, carppy, chimes in with a pearl of insight and wit.

4) This is priceless:
Posted by carppy

5) my reply to carppy

Whoohoo! That's awesome carppy! I'm definitey going to use that line in some promotional marketing. While I've never met you or even had any contact with you on the forum I'd love for you to come in and introduce yourself sometime...we might have a position for you here, seeing as you have a gift for intelligent, mature discourse and fantastic sound-bites (see, you really can achieve something whether you graduate from junior high school or not!). So please do stop on in sometime and say hi.

Posted by JavaTikiKing

Carppy disappears...only to reappear sometime later on another thread concerning meat eating vs. vegetarianism:

6) carppy...conciseness is his forté.
You stupid fools killing is killing for luch or not.
Posted by carppy

7) Giving me the chance to needle him a little more.

Yeah, "stupid fools," right carppy? Or "morons," right? Yeah, I'm with you there've got such a way with language, after all, and no-one can counter your brilliantly worded arguments. Keep up the good work!

It's almost time for luch now...have to go.

Posted by JavaTikiKing

8) I like how Bradd picked up on the "luch" thing
It's luchtime!

Anyways, vegetarians are hypocrites too unless their vegetables are hand picked because very many field animals are killed by modern harvesting techniques. Cats, squirrels, rabbits, field mice, even a baby deer one time I have seen when I worked at lakeside. Even if no animals are hurt, what about the plants themselves? Plants have feelings too!!!
Posted by Bradd

Huntersmom2 and Carppy disappear for a while, until a discussion about Taco Bell develops, at which point Huntersmom2 jumps in with an unprovoked jab at me, following someone's comment on the lack of cleanliness at the Taco Bell. She's obviously been stewing over our last encounter, waiting for the chance to say something smarmy to me:
9) Now, now. Not a very good idea to express your opinions about restaurants food or cleanliness on this forum. People have a tendency to jump all over you. I wrote an article awhile back and some posters on here thought it is RUDE!!!!!!!! If you don't like the food or the service you should WAIT and speak to the Manager or Owner. They will correct the problem. Right Stumpjack???
Posted by Huntersmom2

10) Well, you ring the dinner bell, girl, you ought to expect someone to sit down at the table. My reply:
You're learning...glad I could help in your continuing education.

Although I would separate food and quality may be a matter of needing to be informed and/or educated, while lack of cleanliness is something we have little tolerance usually shows a lack of diligence or care.

But keep reading huntersmom, and don't worry about tuition as I'm more than happy to be of assistance.

Posted by JavaTikiKing

11) She is clearly pissed and overheated now...too funny (her misguided reference to Dave concerns another discussion she's somewhat clueless about). Love all the exclamation points and the all caps JERK!!!!
Shouldn't a coffee shop be swarming with customers at 7:30 in the mornin
g? When I ran my business for 13 years I didn't have time to sit on the computer and demean, criticize and make fun of people such as DAVE all day. And these same people can be YOUR bread and butter!!!!!!!! So if I were you I'd spend my many dollars on figuring out how to TREAT potential customers. And stop being a JERK!!!! I don't know who you think you are? Now put on one of your many HATS and get back to work!!!!!
Posted by Huntersmom2

12) My reply to Huntersmom2:

Swarming? You bet, my 12-person staff is on top of it right now, huntersmom, thus enabling me to enjoy this sparkling repartee with you. Thanks for the business advise, I'll be sure to log that little gem of business acumen into the handbook. Thank goodness you're here to edumacate me...I've felt directionless until that pearl of wisdom.

Don't worry about Dave and I. We've actually become pals of a sort now, and I'm sure Dave will stop in next time he's in town and we'll share a laugh over a cup of coffee.

Finally, who do I think I am? Well, I'm obviously the guy who gets your dander up. And frankly, I find that to be a little enjoyable too. Have a beautiful day, my dear, seriously.

Posted by JavaTikiKing

And Huntersmom2 was ne'er heard from again. It's funny how much these silly little battles make me's too easy and too ridiculous how easily manipulated people are (I'm no different in that regard, and am as susceptible as anyone to jumping the gun when I feel slighted...difference is, I'm just a much better marksman than most of these fine folks). Mess with the best, cry like the rest...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Everyone needs a "whippin' boy"...I got mine, I guess.

I've become very popular lately among certain corners of the very small coffee universe here in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Well, perhaps despised and scorned would be more apt terms than popular. A few weeks ago a fellow who runs a coffee shop on the west side of Manitowoc submitted a letter to the editor of the local paper (Herald Times Reporter) on the heels of Starbucks' announcement that they would be closing several hundred stores throughout the country. I submitted a letter to the editor with a slightly different viewpoint, which was published both in the paper and on the paper's website. The other coffee shop owner apparently didn't agree with my point of view and decided that, rather than addressing the issue as an adult, he would get personal and come after me with some online attacks.

Rather than recite the tale I'm just going to copy and paste the whole thing f
or you here, in chronological order and with a few additional voices thrown in from others who joined the discussion. It should be noted that the boldened titles before each letter to the editor are from the paper and not the authors. Also, the various comment postings were spread between the two published letters, I'm just listing them here in mostly chronological order for convenience' sake.

July 6
, 2008 - the first letter to the editor by my coffee buddy:

Starbucks displays 'shallow commitment'

"Starbucks to close 600 stores."

A day of reckoning. If Starbucks closes the Manitowoc store, we will see the shallow commitment franchises such as this have to our community.

It will be a notice to the leaders and residents of Manitowoc, who think this overproduced brand is an asset. There are local residents such as myself and a few others who were born and raised here and have invested their savings and hard work into their local cafes.

It's not about a quick Starbuck!

Richard Bouril

Culture Cafe, Manitowoc

July 9, 2008 - my rebuttal letter published in paper and online:

Starbucks helps area communities

While Starbucks stores are generally company-owned and are not, technically speaking, franchises, it is nevertheless an oversimplification to paint all franchise operations as mercenaries with no care, commitment or ties to the communities in which they exist.

Franchise operations are generally owned and operated by entrepreneurs who are born and raised or live in the communities where they run their shops. I said it when Starbucks opened in Manitowoc, and I feel the same way today: Starbucks is an asset to the community.

While it is probably fair to say that they are indeed an "overproduced brand" (which I'm assuming is a bad thing) they are also a successful brand by many other standards and do bring positive things to a community.

Their presence can also be an asset to surrounding businesses, including other coffee shops, and creative entrepreneurs will make use of Starbucks' presence to support and increase their own businesses.

If they do happen to close the Manitowoc location, we will be more than happy to welcome them to downtown Two Rivers. There is, in fact, currently an open space available just three doors down from our shop that would make a great location. Are you listening, Howard Schultz?

David Smith

Stumpjack Coffee

Two Rivers

7/9/2008 8:29:37 AM - my coffee buddy is pissed...his first volley:
You (tikiboy) make alot of assumpions and generalizations, for someone with no experience.A Starbucks in Two Rivers would only ruin the "unique factor" Two Rivers has, and kill any chance you have of surviving.

7/9/2008 10:11:04 AM - my response to his post above:
Well, Rich, let's see how many assumptions and generalizations we can count in your letters:
1) Franchises have shallow commitments to their communities.
2) Franchise owners don't invest their own savings or hard work.
3) Manitowoc county franchise owners are not born and raised here.
4) A store that you personally do not like is not an asset to the community.
5) I have no experience (don't know who I am or much about me do you, Rich)
6) Starbucks would kill TR's uniqueness (then we better get rid of the Cousins Subs, Subway, Pizza Hut, Family Video, Kwik Trip, Mobile, Pick & Save, Piggly Wiggly, & any other chain or franchise operations).
7) Starbucks would kill our chances of survival (no, Rich, it would boost my sales...but you can't understand that and don't have the time or inclination to give you marketing lessons).

No, I'd say you've got the market cornered on assumptions and generalizations.

I do like the "tikiboy" moniker, though...shoulda used that as a screen name, dangit!

7/9/2008 8:07:10 AM - his post on my letter to the editor online page:
obviously this smith has no experience. it's easy to be a armchair quarterback who lives on coat tails of investors. I've done everything well before him and have been in business for over 17 years. I know what I've experienced. Starbucks is nothing more than greed.

7/9/2008 11:09:39 AM - my reply to his post above:
Rich, your "Starbucks is nothing more than greed" mantra may or may not be true, depending on one's point of view. But that cliché really has little to do with whether or not that business is an asset to the community, which I thought was your original assertion. If that's what your argument is then that's where you ought to make it, rather than making childish ad hominem attacks that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

7/9/2008 11:19:52 AM - continuing my response:
As I replied to your other comment elsewhere on this site, you apparently do not know me or much of anything about me. I'm afraid I've got 10 more years of business experience than you do there, my friend. Although you may be correct in implying that the majority of our start-up financing came from an "investor," who also happens to be my father...but then I've been "riding on his coat tails" forever, and proudly so. After him, I am second in financial input, followed by my partner. I only mention this because I know that you occasionally like to yack about what you don't know and I thought this might be the time to finally correct your misinformation.

7/9/2008 1:15:59 PM - my friend Kim Geiser jumps in:
David I had to use a dictionary a few times to understand your posts below... sheesh.
Competition is only a bad thing for business if you allow it to be. We would all love it if people based all their decisions solely on quality and price but the truth is we as a nation like what everyone else has. I don't really get it but it is the way it is. If you have a Starbucks, McDonalds, Subway or any other chain that people recognize it makes them comfortable and prone to explore a little more. Heck I am an small business owner and consider myself and adventurous traveler but if I see a Starbucks in a town it makes me think ..well if Starbucks with all of their marketing power is willing to open shop here maybe there is more to offer and I am a little more likely to stop.

People like Starbucks because it is always open, offers a consistent product and has a freakishly friendly staff..follow that example and you can take far more satisfaction from stealing business from them!

7/9/2008 3:27:11 PM - my reply to Kim:

The dictionary? For what? Well, of course you're correct in what you're saying, Kim. People unfamiliar with or fearful of specialty coffee will visit a Starbucks because they are comfortable and familiar with it...just as they're familiar with, for example, a MacDonalds. They will go in and find out that this specialty coffee thing isn't so intimidating after all. Their next thought might be "I wonder what that other café is like...I'll give it a look-see." And once that happens most people will choose the friendly and distinctive local shop over the cookie cutter "franchise" shop...where the folks owning and running the local shop have a passion for what they do as opposed to a hired staff with probably little vested interest in the place where they work. Now that's a generalization, but a fairly accurate one. That scenario will only work, of course, if the local shop serves a better product and has better service than the chain store.

Another thing to realize is that where there are a number of similar businesses, and dining businesses especially, there is greater attraction and greater potential for success (to a point, but we are no where near a point of saturation in this area). People are attracted to areas where more things are going on, where more options, not fewer, are open to them. There is an odd sense of fear of any competition and even schadenfreude among some in the business community of this area. "That new store is like us, so they're going to hurt my business. I hope they fail." It's very short-sighted thinking. Competition is almost always good for the consumer, and can also be good for business makes you operate more creatively and forces you to improve what you have to offer. None of us are immune to failure, but rather than griping about competition we ought to be supporting one another for the betterment and success of all. There are enough slices of the pie to go around.

7/9/2008 5:52:51 PM - some gal from Tulsa chimes in:
Helps community??? How in the world are people going to support themsleves on 9.00 per hour? Wait isn't that a bit high for this area?? Why not bring some decent paying industries to the Manitowoc area and pay people decent wages. Wouldn't that be nice? Starbucks employs just a few people and really, why not support local roasters rather thatn a huge corporation.

7/10/2008 7:42:31 AM - my reply to the Tulsa gal above:
All cafés in the area employ "just a few people," but yes, please do support the local cafés and roasters...absolutely! A little off track here, but is $9/hr or the wage that a business pays its employees really the only criteria by which we judge its value to a community? Of course not. Besides, the days of anyone "bringing" an industry to a community (offering decent paying jobs or not) are gone. Traditional big industry supporting a community is far too precarious in today's world. And when they do pack up and leave a location, which is inevitable it seems, they end up devastating the community. More and more, I believe, we will see smaller technological enterprises and service industries forming the core economic foundation of smaller cities. We might do well to scrap the outdated notion of needing some big industry to support the community, and rather get into the 21st century.

7/10/2008 8:04:00 AM - A Stumpjumper joins the conversation:
First of all David it is so nice of you to welcome your competition; shows good sportsmanship of coffee industry. Starbucks is not really competition to the quality of our locals but does show progress in our town when we see these big chains coming in. If we didn't have these chains people would be complaining too that the mayor wasn't doing his job. Its a damned if you do or damned if you don't. Would not want that mayor job whatsoever. I've been to Starbucks and it's nice; very good, pretty, and somewhat pricey. I've been to Stumpjacks and it is great, pretty decor, and reasonably priced (mint latte-yum!) I would definitely support a great business but most of all an owner with a great attitude! Thanks for your shop I love it and so do many others-it has a big warm welcome mat!

July 18, 2008 - the paper runs this story days later:
Manitowoc Starbucks dodges corporate hit list
The Manitowoc Starbucks will keep brewing coffee for now. The Starbucks corp. has released its list of 600 stores that will close in the next few months. Six of the closures involve Wisconsin locations - but Manitowoc's Calumet location is not on the list. Wisconsin stores that are closing are located in Eau Claire, La Crosse, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Madison and the Fox River Mall store in Appleton. Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle and has about 11,000 stores in the U.S.

7/18/2008 6:22:27 PM - to which I reply:
Darn it! I was really looking forward to that day of reckoning.

7/18/2008 6:25:08 PM - and:
Does this mean that they do indeed have a strong commitment to our community?

Down goes the muppet...


It's been said that it's good to have enemies (or at least adversaries) and I tend to agree. But, gee whiz, I'd like a better class of adversary than this guy. It's like sparring with someone with the intellect of a muppet (a muppet with no one working it even). At least he appears to have had the sense to realize that he was getting verbally beaten like a cheap rug and decided to hightail it outta there. Haven't heard or seen hide nor hair of him since, but I know it won't last, because this guy is the kind who holds a grudge and who hates everything that doesn't exist outside of his own self-created world and can't help but shoot his self-righteous mouth off about it, regardless of logic, facts or common sense.

Not sure why some of the fonts are different in this post...glitch with blogger?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My poodle will have a skinny mocha please.

This one happened several months ago but is worth telling anyway. One weekend during a streak of warm weather we had the door open in the café, to allow the breeze and sounds of outside to blow through. It was a moderately busy morning as I recall, just busy enough to keep things moving but also slow enough so that I could get out from behind the counter and enjoy chatting with friends (I remember Larry and Peggy were in at the time).

All of a sudden a gal bursts in hurriedly trailing several small to medium sized dogs leashed to her hand. I stopped my conversation with Larry and Peggy and said something like "I'm sorry ma'am, but you can't bring those dogs in here." She shot back impatiently "You mean I can't even get a coffee!" to which I again replied while moving toward the door "I'm sorry but you can't bring the dogs in, but..." I actually didn't quite get to the second "but" because as soon as I said "can't" she sharply turned on her heel, sputtered "For crying out loud!" and stormed out, power-walking down the sidewalk.

Out the door I followed to tell her that I would be happy to bring her out a coffee if she wanted to tell me what she'd like, but she was already jackbooting her way down the walk and didn't hear anything I said. I walked back into the shop to be greeted by several open-mouthed and wide-eyed stares. "Well, that was interesting!" "She really thought she could bring those dogs in here?" "People are funny creatures aren't they."

Well, we made hay with that one for a while, until one day several weeks later a gal who is a semi-regular was in with her friend, Bob (also a regular), and in the course of conversation she revealed that she was the one who tried to get in that day with the passel of dogs. My own eyes got a little wider and I looked at her, looked at Bob, looked back at her, and asked incredulously "That was you!?" At the time of the incident I didn't recognize her, because she was wearing sunglasses and everything happened so quickly.

"Yeah, that was me!" she said. "And you wouldn't let me in or give me a coffee!"
I shot back, smiling of course, "You dumbass! What the hell's the matter with you thinking you can bring a bunch of dogs into a dining place? You own a restaurant yourself!"

Bob rolled his eyes and laughed. She started laughing a little and said "But all I wanted was a coffee!" I said "I would've been happy to bring one out to you, ya dope, but you took off like a screaming banshee." Bob just shook his head and laughed, "Oh man..." So we gave her a hard time for a few minutes, and all laughed about it.

The epilogue to this little story is that we've become friends, and this gal (might as well say her name now...hiya Shellie!) has opened a new shop in the downtown, one that caters to...yup, you guessed it...dogs! Or more accurately, dog owners. Bark, Bath and Beyond is a beautiful little space where you can go to give your dog a hassle-free bath in a big washing trough with hoses, soaps and other stuff that'll make him or her look and smell clean and fresh. They also have healthy, organic dog foods and treats and other good stuff for Balto or Lassie. And (this is also a little ironic I suppose) we've worked out an arrangement where they offer Stumpjack coffee to their customers.

How's that for a happy ending?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The gift of cat poop

People give me stuff. I'm a barista in the state's coolest coffee shop (well, that may have sounded a tad self-serving...let's just be completely honest and say the coolest coffee shop in middle America!) and as such, we've met a goodly number of customers who have over the course of time become good friends. And you know how it is with your own friends, you want to share things with them, things that you enjoy and that you want them to enjoy as well. So, friends have brought us a list of goodies that includes cookies; cakes; pickled eggs; smoked fish; venison steaks, bacon and wieners; home smoked beef sticks; cheese; whole 15 lb. salmon right from the lake; and homemade fudge (if that doesn't sound like a Wisconsin menu I don't know my cheese).

Well, one of the shop's most loyal friends is a spunky gal who has brought a lot of good humor, fun and occasional amiable psychic swordplay to the party. Now then, in order to protect the identities of those involved let us just call this dear lady, oh, just for the sake of brevity let's call her "Lucy." So Lucy has shared with us all sorts of interesting and delightful tidbits and ephemera, including relevant newspaper and magazine articles, books, works of art, sugary yummies and so on. She is also a cat owner and devotee. One day Lucy, my stepdaughter Heidi and I were talking about cats. Heidi owns a couple of cats herself. While I suppose I like felines well enough (I'm really a dog person) I am not at all ambivalent about the smell they produce. Can't stand it really. I maintain that you can identify a household with cats as soon as the front door is opened, regardless of what measures are taken to inhibit the odor.

Lucy insisted that she used a specific cat litter that, according to her, entirely and completely eliminates all catbox odors. I, of course, expressed my doubts and likewise declared her to be a biased and prejudicial participant in the stinky cat debate, whose opinion on the matter should be judged invalid because of her professed affinity for cats in the first place. She dismissed my entirely objective and tactful pronouncement (I think I said something like "No way! You're out of your gourd!") by pretending I wasn't there, and continuing the conversation with Heidi alone, whose opinions also, I might add, I had judged to be without merit. And so, now that I had been effectively pushed out of the stinky cat debate (which was now no longer a debate at all, as I had been the only one actually debating the issue) I took solace in the fact that Lucy and Heidi inwardly agreed with me but were too stubborn to admit that they were wrong.

The next day in walks Lucy holding a small brown top-folded paper bag that clearly contained something at least a little weighty. She held it in front of her as though it were a trophy she had just won for bowling a perfect 300 game or baking the first-prize winning carrot cake at the County Fair. Smiling a little too smugly, she handed it to me on the side of the counter with a "David, would you please give this to Heidi?"
"Uh, sure...what is it?" I asked.
"This is a sample of the litter we talked about yesterday. I wanted her to see exactly what it's like and how effective it is."
" this is cat litter?" I asked again, a little confused as to why anyone would even care to parcel cat litter for someone else.
"Yes," said Lucy, "there are actually two separate samples in there. One of fresh, unused litter. And one that has been soiled."

My three outer fingers immediately recoiled from the hold I had on top of the bag, leaving my thumb and forefinger lightly pinching as small a portion of paper as I could without dropping it. Extending the package as far from me as I could I said through curled lips "You mean that there's cat poop in here!?"
"No, no," said Lucy in a singsong voice. "The soiled sample just contains a little peepee litter, and it's in a ziplock baggie. Go ahead, smell it. You will not smell any cat odor whatsoever." (
Of course what she was really saying was "David, you silly man, here's what I think of your opinions on cats and cat litter.")
" thank you," I replied, which may have come out sounding something like "No way! You're out of your gourd!"

"Gee," I said in mock dismay, "you used to bring me cookies and brownies. Now I'm getting cat crap. I'm not quite sure how to take this."
Lucy, of course, parried my sarcasm with a good natured laugh.

I did store the bag for the better part of the day, half-thinking that maybe Lucy was being legit and really did want Heidi to have it in order to confirm what they had been talking about the day before. And then I realized that "hey, I'm saving a bag of cat poop...just paint 'all-day sucker' on my forehead."

Every now and then I bring up the time that I was gifted a bag of cat poop. You can hardly top that.

Ok, that's two posts now that are scatological in nature. I better remember to do something different for the next one or people might start to think something weird is going on here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"This is shit!"

This one occurred a while back, during one of our weekend live music gigs. We had booked an improvisational jazz trio billing themselves as TRiP (each capitalized letter representing the first letter of each guy's last name, and the word 'trip' perhaps signifying the mind jarring, if not hallucinogenic experience their music would impart to the listener). The instrumentation consisted of electric cello, upright bass, keyboards and accordion and all three artists were highly trained and skilled musicians with years of performing and teaching experience under their collective belts. It was strictly and entirely improvisational, non-melodic and experimental jazz...really more discordant aural stimulation than what most would consider music in any traditional or recognizable sense.

We had quite a crowd this particular evening, young and older, individuals, families and couples. And the response from the audience to what they were hearing was as varied as there were people in attendance. "I like it. "I don't know if I like it." "I'm not sure what to make of it but it is interesting." "Kudos for bringing in something so different." "I don't care for it." Personally, I thought it was very cool, not especially for the the music but rather for the experience of watching these guys play off of one another. The audience response was also so dynamic and diverse that it added another dimension to the overall experience.

The kicker, and real subject of this story has to do with one particular gentleman's response to the music of TRiP that evening. He was an older gentleman, maybe 75 or so, a regular customer and friend, and something of a cynic and curmudgeon. The fact that he was in the audience at all was a little unusual. His musical tastes pretty much ran the wide ranging
gamut of 1950s polka music to 1960s polka music (perhaps it was the mention of the accordion in the concert posters that persuaded him that the music would be comfortably familiar and nostalgic. Little did he know, this wasn't going to be your mama's accordion music).

He sat right up in front, two feet from the band, at the smaller and higher two-person table, wincing and grimacing with every sound that TRiP made. I took a break from making drinks and was making the rounds to say hi and chat with folks, but I knew if I went over to his table that he'd give me an ear full about how he didn't like the music or that it was too loud or when are we going to have some good music here (translation: polka music).

Well, his critique was even more pointed than what I expected. "Hi _____ ," says I. "Good to see you here tonight. Interesting music, eh?"

His eyes widened in mock astonishment. "Music!? Music!!? I sure as hell wouldn't call it music!" Then he tilted his head slightly toward the band, which, again, was just a cou
ple of feet away, and said loudly, "THIS IS SHIT!"

Whooaa... While I didn't expect him to like TRiP's music one bit, I was nevertheless angered and embarrassed by his loud and rude pronouncement. "All right," I said, "that's enough. I'll talk to you later." I got up and went back to chatting with other people. He left shortly after, obviously having heard more than enough shit for one night (and frankly, I was amazed that he stuck around as long as he did).

At first I was pretty ticked off. But after a while I started to think about what fun I could have with this by needling Greg, the keyboard and accordion player, with our friend's critique of his music. Greg is a serious musician with a serious musician's background, but he also has a wry and sardonic sense of humor. I figured he would get a kick out of it.

And so, after the last set and after most everyone had left the café, the three guys and I were sitting around idly talking about the evening's performance. Greg asked, "How do you think it went? What do you think people thought?" I told them most people indicated that, if not necessarily easy listening, they did find it interesting and dynamic, and certainly different from the usual music scene offerings in the area.

Then I asked if they recalled the older gentleman who sat right in front of them. "Oh yeah, he didn't look like he was digging it too much," said Greg.

"You didn't hear what he said when I sat down with him?" I asked.

"No, we weren't really listening to anything other than what we were doing."

"Well, it's even better than that!" I replied gleefully, ready to smack him with the zinger. "I asked him what he thought of you guys and he practically shouted, and I quote,
'This is SHIT!' "

Immediately they all started laughing. "Oh that's funny!" "Oh man...well you can't please everyone." "We have to use that! You gotta blog that!" "We're changing our name now...from now on we're SHIT." "When can we bring our shit here again?" "SHIT returns to Stumpjack!"

Of course now we were on a roll. "I can't play with you guys anymore, you both sound like shit!" "What a shitty thing to say. I'm way shittier than you." "You can't even come close to my shit!" "This whole deal is shit!" "We gotta get our shit loaded into the car." "You need help loading up your shit?" "This is the shittiest place we've ever played!" "Why thank you, we're shit and proud of it." "Okay, thanks guys. Thanks for the shit performance." "Our pleasure. Have a shitty night."

All truly is well that ends well.

The moral of this story: Sometimes people say some real shitty things, and it's often better if you can respond with a laugh and have some fun with it rather than getting bent out of shape over it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A freshness zealot.

A middle-aged fellow who I'd never seen before comes in a while back and he seems a little fidgety. I greet him "Good afternoon" and he doesn't answer me so I say again "Hello!" to which he glances at me and offers a rather disinterested "hi." He's looking around furtively and distractedly, as though he's looking for something specific but can't find it. He goes over to the brew pots lined up on the counter, peers down over the top of his glasses and seems to be quickly reading the labels on the pots. He asks without looking at me "Which is your freshest coffee?" I reply "If you mean of these brewed coffees, they're all fresh. They were each brewed within the last hour or so and these brew pots are designed to keep them fresh and hot."

"I know, I know," he says, a little irritated. "But what's the freshest one, the one brewed last? I only drink fresh coffee and I can tell when it's not fresh."

"Well," I say, smiling a little, "I made this Colombian last, so it's maybe 7 or 8 minutes fresher than than the one before it. But as I said, they're all fresh and since they're each different coffees you will taste the differences of each one more than you will any difference in degree of freshness."

"Fresh coffee is everything. It's all that matters. I know coffee and I know fresh coffee from stale coffee. I'll know whether or not this is fresh." Now he's looking at me and I think he might realize that I'm not amused by his silly declaration that he can taste the difference in coffees brewed minutes apart from one another over the differences of origin and variety. I raise a slightly dubious eyebrow, ignore his implication that we might harbor stale coffee, and tell him that fresh coffee is what Stumpjack is all about, that we get small deliveries in once or twice a week for that very reason, so that nothing stays around for very long. "But," I say with a little sarcasm of my own, "if you can taste freshness that precisely...well, that's quite a sophisticated palate you've got there."

"Yes it is," he declares. "My palate is sophisticated." I'm not making this up...he really said that, out loud.

I hand him a cup, he pumps a little coffee into it, smells it and tastes it like he's tasting cheap wine (that is, rather perfunctorily), fills his cup and hands me $2.00. As I hand him his change I ask a little too cheerfully perhaps "Well, whaddya think?"

He doesn't look at me again and curtly says, as though it's a single word " 'tsgood" and walks right out.

I picture him getting in his car, a mid-70s station wagon, and taking out a well-worn notebook that lists all the coffee shops in the country, with columns on the right that are labeled "fresh" and "not fresh." He takes a stub of a pencil and mutters "damn" as he puts a check mark in the fresh column across from our name. Then he rides off down the road to other coffee shops in other towns, keeping a silent record of freshness that no-one will ever see.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stiffed by some guy who may or may not remain nameless.


Part I
Deciding whether or not to post this first entry was initially a little dicey for me. I generally think the best of people until, and often even well after, they show that they are performing at far less than what I'd consider "their best." I wrote this post several days ago, posted it on A Stumpjumper's Meandering, and then almost immediately pulled it, thinking I'll give the guy even more time to do the right thing than I have already (which was a lot, given the circumstances). I also questioned whether or not A Stumpjumper's Meandering was the right format for this particular post, as I didn't necessarily want to put up a bummer post after posting so many upbeat posts. But after getting a little supportive feedback on the issue from another successful blogger and friend, and after getting a call from the guy referred to in this post, I said screw this, this merits posting...because his behavior was wrong, because he shafted me, because he tried to shift responsibility, and because I'm pissed about how the whole thing was handled.

So, firstly, here's my initial post as I first told the tale:

A brief rant and change of policy:

Several days ago a fellow came in and ordered 5 pounds of pure Kona coffee. This fellow is someone I do not know well, although I met him at a party several months ago and a few times since then and thought him to be decent enough. So, we put the order in for the Kona with our roaster, which is no insignificant deal because, as most everyone who loves coffee knows, Kona is not inexpensive. Anyway, while there are more details to the story, the bottom line is that the guy stiffed us for the Kona. We took a pretty substantial hit on this and I am disappointed and ticked off by the lack of character and common courtesy displayed (the guy didn't even have the decency to return my phone calls to let me know his intentions). And yet, because of my own sense of courtesy I've chosen not to share any other details (he's a friend with other friends of ours and I don't want them to feel awkward about anything)...although even now as I write this I'm getting irritated about it again and think "Why not! Here's his name and picture! Weenie!"

As a result of this incident we will no longer take orders for significant amounts of coffee (in either quantity or monetary value) without accepting payment first. You can blame this and photo to follow, maybe...

Part II
Ok, that wasn't so bad. Nobody would know who I'm talking about except for us at the shop and the guy himself (and his wife I suppose). Now then, here's a little more background as I continue the story (and it merits elaboration as it has continued to develop even today). The guy was going on vacation with his wife and ordered the coffee prior to their leaving, and stated that if possible he would like to get it before they left, but if not then he would pick it up upon their return several days later. So I put in a call to our roaster that we needed this coffee asap in order to get it to the guy before they left so they'd have some for their trip. Our roaster was not planning on doing any roastings during these few days before the couple left on vacation, but I convinced him to do this special roast for us so that the guy could get his coffee before leaving. So, I inconvenienced our roaster for this special order...not that the guy would or should know that, but I knew it and my roaster knew it.

So, we get the coffee in a couple of days prior to the couple leaving for vacation. The morning of their departure the guy's wife comes in to pick up the coffee. Number one, she is clearly not happy about having to come in an hour before they leave for the airport. Number two, she is clearly not happy that her husband has ordered five pounds of coffee anyway. Number three, she is even more clearly not happy when she learns how much the Kona is going to cost. Number four, she is even more than the previous "even more" not happy about the fact that we don't take credit cards and she doesn't have cash or checkbook. When I say that she is "not happy" you of course understand that she is being very vocal about it and is repeatedly promising bodily harm to her husband when she gets home. I suggest to her that she not let it ruin their vacation, "go and have fun, you can just pick it up when you get back." To which she promises that her husband (which is not the term she used to describe him) will be here Monday morning to pick up the coffee and pay for it (if he is still among the living, that is).

So she leaves and I'm feeling very weird, on the one hand hoping that they have a good vacation and don't let five pounds of coffee ruin their trip, and on the other hand hoping that the guy is honorable and keeps his word about the order, and on the third hand I'm still a little off-kilter from the tense encounter with the wife.

So what happens? Upon their stated return home the guy does not show up to pick up the coffee. Surprise! I call him, and leave a message warmly reminding him that we are holding it for him and what our hours are and that I'll be here to take care of everything for him. Then a few days later I call him again...then a few days later I call him again...and again...and again... I receive no answer, no return call, no email, no nothing. I'm beginning to think that I'm going to get stiffed by the guy (yeah, I'm slow that way...I told you earlier that I generally assume the best of people). I put the coffee in the freezer to hold it longer (and let's not get into the old fridge vs freezer debate...freezer is good for somewhat longer short-term storage). And I'm also wondering should I continue to hold it for the guy or put it up on the board and try to sell it, so I'm in something of a straitjacket there too.

Finally, I call the guy a couple of more times over a few days and leave messages asking him to at least please tell me his intentions so I know whether or not I should try to sell the coffee by the pound to the general public. Again, no reply, no answer, no nothing. Now I'm no longer concerned with being concerned for him (yeah, I know, again, finally)'s pretty clear he's going to stiff me and doesn't even have the decency to call me and say "I made a mistake, sorry, I can't afford or just simply don't want the Kona after all."

That's when I briefly post what I wrote above onto A Stumpjumper's Meandering, have second thoughts, pull it from there a little while later, and intend to post here. Then, lo and behold, when I come into work this morning there is a message on the machine from the guy. As he says his name I am pleased, thinking "good, he's going to do the right thing after all"...until he gets to his actual message. Now I am even more pissed off than before. He begins by saying "I think we both made a mistake..." Yeah, I guess my mistake was ordering coffee for you that you asked me to order for you...or my mistake was assuming that someone who ordered a specialty coffee might actually know what it is that they're ordering.

Then he says that he "did a little investigating" about Kona coffee and that he can get it elsewhere at 5 pounds for $100. Oyvey! I'm thinking, one, you may think you're getting 5 pounds of pure Kona for $100...just like you think you're buying a "real" Cuban cigar off of eBay. It is possible that you might get 5 pounds of pure Kona for $100 somewhere, but rather unlikely, and even if you did you're likely going to be paying a nice chunk in shipping fees...and it's even more likely that you can kiss any thoughts of freshly roasted 100% pure Kona goodbye too. Not saying it can't happen, but it's akin to buying that real Cuban cigar off of eBay (and even real Cuban cigars ain't what they used to be anyway).

So now he's done his "investigating" and believes he's found an honest-to-goodness Kona supplier who will charge him a retail price for pure Kona that is less per pound than what most shops can get it for wholesale. And so he questions where I got the Kona from and suggests that either I paid too much for it or that I may have priced it with "too much of a mark up" and charged him more than I should have. I'm either incompetent in my ablity to order coffee for my coffee shop (he, after all, has done some "investigating") or I'm a shyster I guess. But, he would be willing to pay for the shipping that I paid on the coffee (I didn't pay any it direct from our roaster, Two Rivers Roasting, six blocks up the road).

I call him and leave another message telling him basically everything I've said above about the likely quality of his pure Kona for $100, etc...and I also tell him exactly what we paid for the coffee ($125) and what our profit is on this particular batch ($50 or ~28%), that pure Kona generally runs anywhere from $28-$30 to $40 per pound (although I did see it a year ago at an upscale market in Chicago for $50/lb).

So, there you go...the first of what our friend Jennifer Pasquill (of Uniquely Your Pastry Shoppe) calls "Customers from Hell" stories.

Addendum: Ok, a couple of days have now gone by since I wrote the above. I'm pretty well finished with being ticked off now that I've vented and a little time has even though in the irritation of the moment I hinted that I might say the guy's name I really won't do that, so please don't ask because I ain't a'gonna tell. The point of this blog is not to publicly embarrass someone but rather to let off a little steam, have a little fun by poking fun at human foibles, and maybe (just a little anyway) quietly embarrass the one who is getting called on the carpet (although those folks likely don't read this junk anyway).