barred ista

I was a big admirer of the Barista coffee chain. When it opened, I became a huge fan of it's themed decor, clever copy for it's ads, and it's range of coffee concoctions. Barista was also probably the first restaurant chain in India to introduce the "laid back" approach - allow your customers to hang around your joint, spend time playing scrabble on the board you provided, or strumming the guitar that's lying at the corner of every one of your stores. While this might seem to make little business sense, this became the chain's primary customer-drawing points. In the hustle bustle of this hectic world, it was nice to find a place to let your hair down and treat yourself to a walnut brownie dipped in extra chocolate.

But, my last visit to a Barista store, was a revelation of sorts. An experience that made me decide that I'm never walking into a Barista store ever again.

It was a weekend, and my cousin and I walked into Barista's Bandra - the one opposite National College. Since we were in a hurry, we quickly ordered two smoothies to go, paid, and left. Here was the conversation that I had with the guy at the counter:

(after looking at the display that showed smoothies cost 36 rupees each)
"Hi, I'd like 2 smoothies to go please, one grape, one mango."

"Would you like an icy smoothie or one with cream?"

"uhm, with cream..."

(they start making the smoothies)
"Ok, that will be 102 rupees please."

"Isn't it supposed to be 72?"

"No, the cream was extra charge"

(realizing that it would be too much trouble to try and resolve this now)
"Well... ok... here."
(we leave the cafe)

A brilliant execution of an awesome plan. The barista (which is the correct term for the coffee server) gave me two options, and both were at extra cost, something that he didn't tell me. So this is what the strategy was. With the coordinated colors, and jovial atmosphere, they made me happy. They made me feel at ease. It wasn't just my tensed muscles that they loosened, they also loosened my purse strings along with it. Add to that a little smart talking, and they made me spend 30 rupees more for 2 spoonfuls of "extra cream". Just like the extra chocolate that I was seduced into having more than once.

I know it's not really such an evil thing to do, but these kind of acts leave a bad taste in my mouth. And what's more: there was another taste - the taste of guava, not grape. The idiot had not only tricked me into going for something I didn't ask for, he'd also given me the wrong flavor. In retrospect, I think the guy was aware that he was serving me the incorrect item. If I wasn't in a hurry, I'd have gone back and returned the stuff. But I didn't. And they profited.

Perhaps it was a consolidated bad experience. Perhaps it was the unfortunate alignment of evil planets. Or perhaps, just perhaps, Barista's true attitude isn't really different from all the other capitalistic leeches out there.

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About the author:

Arnab Nandi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him here.

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