Friday, January 09, 2009

Is the cafe's decor 'distressed,' or ought I be as a customer?

So Melbourne has developed a rather cool style of cafe that I guess you would call 'distressed.' You know the kind; heaps of recycled timber furniture, exposed brick, chipped paint, concrete floors, big old communal table; that kind of thing. A lot of places carry it off well. Really well. See: BBB, St Ali, Auction Roooms, for example. Props to MD for making it cool at his bar. The question is where, exactly, does 'distressed' become dilapidated?

I think that I found the answer earlier in the week. I turned up to a cafe that shall remain nameless and ordered a coffee; to give the barista a bit of slack, I even ordered a milk-based drink. I went to help myself to a glass of water and noticed that the cheapass duralex glasses were utterly filthy, with so many scratches that they started to move beyond being beaten up and towards almost looking like they had been scratched in a regular pattern. As I tilted the glass to take a drink, the light caught it and I noticed a definite brown tint and some dried milk stains on it. These glasses had clearly been in the game for several years and had clearly never been looked after. I looked around the cafe and it continued the theme. The floor was filthy, the glass cabinets scratched and the wall speckled with milk spittle. Finally, my coffee arrived, with an extra helping of attitude. I took two sips. It was ashy and acrid. I got up to pay for the coffee and leave. $3.50. Tightarses always try to gouge that extra thirty or forty cents out of you, but refusing to spend fifty or sixty cents on new duralex glasses every now and then really is going above and beyond.

You know, I'll go to pretty much any cafe if the coffee is decent, but in this case, I don't see the maths working out:

Undrinkable coffee + unpleasant staff + unhygenic glassware + dirty surrounds = premium price?

An extreme example, to be sure, but at least I have established my own answer to the difference between distressed and dilapidated. Clearly, though, the market thought otherwise - the place was packed.



At 10:08 AM, Blogger yeeza said...

Did you order your 3/4 milk flat white? If so you even got ripped off with how much milk you got haha

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post, I remember polishing glasses in my first job while we were really busy and thinking who would care about a water mark on the glass. Now I can see that everything matters, different things to different people but still, every little thing makes a difference.

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Luca said...


Worse - ordered a piccolo!


I can certainly forgive a water mark on a glass, particularly if a place is busy. After all, I have spent more time than I care to bleaching and polishing glasses myself. What I found repulsive was that this was no mere omission; it was a pattern of neglect that suggests that either the staff don't care, or the owner is slack. Whatever the case, it's pretty difficult to convince yourself that you are valued as a customer if the owner won't spend some of the cash from your drink on cleaning the place or replacing glassware. It is pretty unsurprising that the place served crappy coffee. It's also a pet peeve of mine that places like this can trade of the cool factor generated by people who put in a lot more work and produce a better customer experience.



At 4:52 PM, Blogger Theodore said...

Some places are because only due to location.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Theodore said...

Theodore said...
Some places are busy only due to location.


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