Apparently, the customer Isn’t always right…

I do not typically drink flavored coffees; the flavors of the terroir are usually enough for me. However, I admit that, particularly in the cold-weather months, I often like an espresso-blended beverage–of the mocha variety–as an afternoon pick-me-up. I tell myself that the shot of chocolate with the coffee has “less calories” than the “3pm chocolate bar” (I order it with nonfat milk). So, as it is winter, I’ve been drinking a fair amount of hot mochas.

Over the course of this past weekend, I purchased several mochas at my local coffeehouse. Imagine my surprise when the mocha I bought on Sunday was USD $.33 higher than it was on Friday and Saturday. I informed the barista/cashier that I believe she overcharged me or inputted the incorrect drink because the total is normally $4.30, not $4.63. I repeated my order. She told me once again the price was $4.63. I told her that I found it unfathomable that the price increased 16 percent overnight—from Saturday to Sunday. Her colleague heard the conversation and asked what I ordered. I repeated my order once again.

He looked at the cash register and said that was the price. He then proceeded to tell me how “the company changes the taxes a lot” (sometimes overnight without notice) and there are different taxes for the various drinks–not based on the size of the drink or base price–but on what’s in it, i.e., syrup, whipped cream, etc. I explained that’s not how food and beverages are taxed, but he was insistent. At that point, and I’m disappointed in myself for doing so, but I left because a line a formed and I felt trivial arguing over 33 cents—I could afford it.

Yet, it’s not in my nature to just “let things go” so I planned to go back the next day to see if a different barista was working and order the same drink. Sure enough, it was a new barista and the same drink cost the original price—USD $4.30. As I was paying, the barista from the day before who tried to school me on the “company/NYC” tax system came from the back of the store. I asked him if he remembered me–he did–so I informed him that I had just ordered the same drink and that the price miraculously dropped overnight to what I told him it should cost—$4.30. He then asked if that’s what I previously ordered and when I said yes, he said that maybe the barista did not hear me correctly. After telling him that I repeated the order three times and that he even looked at the register, he admitted to looking at the order total but not at what drink the barista had input. “I guess we owe you a refund,” he muttered, but then didn’t actually refund me, nor did I request it as it was more about the principle than the money.

This was probably more of a rant than a blog, and for that, I’m sorry. Is there a moral to the story? I’m not sure. Should the baristas be better trained? It certainly seems they both would benefit from more training, particularly on the customer service side. Should someone explain to them how taxes work? Yes. Perhaps the takeaway is that as consumers we should always stand our ground–politely, of course–even if it’s for only a few cents. Although, maybe a better point is that we should always ask for a receipt—don’t just rely on our app’s transaction history as a record.

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