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).