A cafe owner in York responded to a bad review on Trip Advisor by detailing the costs involved in supplying a customer with a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon.
The story went viral. Some defending his stance, others critical of him. There were many comments around the attitude of both the manager and his staff, but don't we all react differently in these situations and one persons assertiveness may be another's rudeness.
When it comes to the bare facts a cup or pot of tea is no more than a tea bag infused in hot water. The cost of a tea bag may in fact be less than that of a slice of lemon.
Managing The Kitchen has taught me that the costs involved in serving customers go way beyond the price of the ingredients. And when it comes to ingredients we refuse to compromise or use products that exploit workers or animals.
We've all heard stories of cheap labour, poor workmanship, exploitation of people. To rise above these and ensure staff are treated and paid fairly can be costly. We bear some of those costs but ask our customers to share in this too.
However. If a customer is unhappy we will do everything in our power to turn their experience around and make it a positive one. A slice of cake seems too small? Speak up - we can cut some more! Drink not quite hot enough - let us make you a fresh one. Serving hundreds of customers a week, and training young or inexperienced staff to do so, does mean that there may be times when we could do things better. Please tell us and not Trip Advisor!
We believe business is about more than money. Our business is very much about building community - hence our involvement with Link4Growth. We charge what we do to ensure our suppliers and staff are treated fairly, and our aim is to treat our customers in exactly the same way.
Sometimes we give things away - every Wednesday cupcakes are buy one get one free! We sell our cake scraps for 20p. We offer a milkshake for £1.00 including a free cookie. We are happy for customers to use our staff toilet and baby change facilities. And we never charge for tap water.
But we understand the response of the business owner in York. If his rent was due, if he was worried as to whether he could pay his staff this month. If he needed to order stock that would disrupt his cash flow... a review like this on Trip Advisor could make him angry and upset and why wouldn't he seek to justify himself?
The answer to that may be because in doing so he didn't do himself many favours. But perhaps he did by igniting this debate and causing us all to stop and think for a moment.
A comment was made about other retail outlets, and how we don't question their costs. Some of us do I know but perhaps more of us could ask questions about why things are so cheap. Are workers exploited in making disposable fashion items? Is the fabric produced in ways that damage the environment?
I don't have all the answers but one thing I do know. Next time I am in York I will be popping in!