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.