Hey there people,
Just wondering if any of you have some cheap customers that come into your shop.
Over the past couple months I have seen people a few...

1- One person asked for an espresso shot and hot water on the side, they then mixed them and used the milk on the tables to make a little flat white.

2- Another comes in almost daily with her own tea bag and asks for hot water but refuses to pay, she just sits there and drinks her own tea.

3- And finally the last one is people sharing tea, I've had people order tea then their friend comes up a couple mins later and asks for a mug of hot water and is less than happy when we charge them for it but when she returns to her table she takes her friends tea bags and sticks it in her water.

All of these people sit at tables and wont move for well over an hour while they chat away to their friends.
Have any of you had customers like this?

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ha i had this lady a while back ask for a double in the largest cup filled with ice, i was suspicious but gave it to her any way. i hand her the double, she literally turns around and goes to the bar with the half and half and fills the cup up with half and half, then sits down and uses our internet for like four hours it was ridiculous.
haha

we keep small jugs of milks on the tables, I have seen people do that but they went to other customers tables and took their milk to build up enough for a whole cup.

Beau Stumberg said:
ha i had this lady a while back ask for a double in the largest cup filled with ice, i was suspicious but gave it to her any way. i hand her the double, she literally turns around and goes to the bar with the half and half and fills the cup up with half and half, then sits down and uses our internet for like four hours it was ridiculous.
you haven't had a single cheap customer? wow..
We are in the west end of town and people in that area are richer than in any other part of the city but we still get people trying their luck.

Thomas Ervin-Ward said:
Yeah our customers just aren't that cheap.
Oh, and I guess I should have pointed out with the whole bringing in food thing that we have a very extensive menu, and a fricken delicious one at that. Paninis, Pizzas, Crepes, Salads, Apps, Desserts (why am I capitalizing all of these...), you name it. I mean, we're a music venue/bar/cafe/restaurant so it all ties together.

People are certainly starting to figure out that if they show up with food from another place they quickly leave with that same food from another place. I normally try to throw in something kinda catchy/funny like, "I know McDonald's atmosphere really blows, so that's probably why you decided to come here, but their food blows too... could you stop hurting the vibe and stinking up the place?"

With our customer base (mostly college students, like 90%) this sort of comment is taken greatly, and usually with laughter. Of course you can get the feel for what customers you can make this sort of comment to and which ones you can't.

-bry
You sell food too? Bryan, I thought you only did SO espresso! ;)
Number 2 and 3 happen a lot where I work (Blackbird Coffee, Milledgeville GA). We also have events held in our basement (acoustic nights, poetry, improv) which are free and open to the public. Unfortunately, a number of kids that show up for those events don't want to buy anything...at all. We charge 50 cents for water, basically a cup charge. Recently one kid has been showing up for all of our events and asks for two paper cups, which I ask him 50 cents each for...it is a basic cup charge. He freaked out completely but bought them anyway...and then asked if the sink water from our bathrooms was okay. It is one of the big problems of working in a college town where you know everyone has their parents money but isn't willing to spend 50 cents to support a local, independently run business.

But long story, yes this unfortunately happens all the time at my shop.
Fraser Jamieson said:
You sell food too? Bryan, I thought you only did SO espresso! ;)

No amount of LOLs or LMAO or ROFL can tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed that comment. Oh, man... my stomach hurts and my eyes are watering.

-bry
Hi! Interesting discussion here. I have never worked for a coffee shop, nor do I care much about coffee itself; I'm just someone who frequents coffee shops regularly (~5 days a week!) and have always wondered what the people behind the counter consider acceptable behavior.

A few comments and one question:

1) As any economist will tell you, the second cup of coffee has less value to the customer than the first cup because of the phenomenon of marginal or diminishing returns. The consumer needs the second cup less, therefore there is less demand. Therefore, it makes sense to charge less for it, especially since the marginal cost to the coffee shop is so little, probably pennies a glass. It doesn't make the coffee seem any cheaper, because everyone knows that no cup of drip coffee actually costs anywhere near $2. Most of the value is in the intangibles of a coffee shop.

2) It's not a good idea to forbid outside food. First of all, why should you care, so long as they buy *something* from your shop? If you sold newspapers or internet access, would you prevent people from bringing their own reading material or 3g network access? No, that would be ridiculous. Second, many people -- especially religious/health conscious people like myself -- have strict requirements as to what they can and cannot eat. My regular coffee shop sells food but I can't eat most of it because the sandwiches aren't halal and the sweets are just unhealthy lumps of calories. I usually come after a meal, but there are sometimes I do bring food with me. Fortunately, the shop owner does not mind. I would go elsewhere if he did and he would lose a coffee sale.

3) When the coffee shop is busy and tables are limited, then I don't stay too long, and I make sure I don't hog more table space than I need when there are people around. But when the coffee shop is not busy, I don't see anything wrong with sticking around. It would be nice if this was considered formal coffee shop etiquette. I make an effort not to look slobbish, so that I don't detract from the atmosphere. :-)

4) Lots of coffee shop patrons care little for coffee. I just want a nice place to get some work done-- I like the buzz of people, good lighting, so on. I *always* buy something -- either a coffee, a tea, or (in past days) a muffin, but really, when I actually want good coffee I head for McDonald's, which is better than Starbucks or Second Cup. :-)


And now my question: What is the actual cost of a small cup of coffee, drip or americano? Has anyone actually calculated it? Can someone break down the costs (raw materials, cup)?
I'm only going to comment on number 2, I'll let everyone else hash it out on number 4.

2) Good for your opinion, but I still strongly stand behind people buying something from me and me only in my business, call it greedy. Walking into a business with outside food is like slapping me in the face and saying that you don't like what I'm selling, but you are willing to take up space anyway for the free internet. It's extremely disrespectful. I'll restate my example... when was the last time some one was allowed to bring outside food into any establishment that wasn't a coffee shop? When you go to McDonald's for that "better cup" (are you kidding me right now?) do you walk in with a Subway sub, a Burger King onion ring and then proceed to the counter where you aren't expected to get dirty looks as you hold items from two competing establishments? I should think not! If you sit in my place and eat food from another establishment you are directly advertising for them in my shop. A different customer may look over at what you're eating and think, "That looks good, I think I'll get that" instead of buying something from my shop. *Now* I have lost a food customer for an uncommitted coffee customer. That's not worth it to me. Where do I start drawing the line? What happens if someone walks in with outside coffee but wants one of my scones? Now I have a customer sitting down with a Starbucks cup sipping away. Three other customers who are new to my place walk in and see the Starbucks cup sitting there and think that we don't care if you come in and just use the internet on our dime even if you are drinking outside drinks. Now you've cost me even more customers. The examples keep stacking up and I could go on for hours, but I don't need to. I think you get it, or at least by now you should.
Walk into my place with outside stuff and you'll soon be walking right back out, plain and simple.

-bry
Hmm...well, sometimes coffee shops have to close down because it costs them more than $2.00 to sell a $2.00 cup of coffee. There's that thing called rent and that other thing called tax. Some places actually pay their staff. I'm not about to get into the accounting of coffee charges, here at this point, because I'm due in a meeting soon, but suffice it to say there's costs involved.

As to point 2: Bryan and I work at different types of places. At his sort of place, bringing in food would be rude. One look in the door and a person should be able to tell that. Where I work, it's a bit different: Clients will often ask if it's OK to bring in pizza from Gino's or Pizza Pizza, a sandwich from across the road or from the Greek place two doors down. As those places are clients of ours, and buy our coffee, even though they also sell coffee, we welcome their food patrons into our store so long as they buy from us too. Someone bringing in a Star Buck's or Timothy's cup is not looked at in a nice way. That doesn't happen all that often...because people know it's rude.

Again though, NORMALLY, it's not something that people do.

As for point 4: Well, I really don't want customers who don't like coffee. I'll not be rude to them, but if they are there to look for Tim Horton's or MacDonald's coffee they're in the wrong place. Drip coffee I don't personally like or drink, and that's not my department anyway; as for espressos, cappuccinos and lattes...ours are better than any place within 15KM. That's not me saying that; that's my customers saying that. We are open to attract coffee lovers and I'm working to bring in coffee lovers. There's a public library just down the road for laptop users.
Fraser Jamieson said:
There's a public library just down the road for laptop users.

Hell yes... well put.

-bry
Khalid said:
... Most of the value is in the intangibles of a coffee shop...

You say "intangibles", I say "overhead".

Khalid said:
... And now my question: What is the actual cost of a small cup of coffee, drip or americano? Has anyone actually calculated it? Can someone break down the costs (raw materials, cup)?

I'd say that every shop owner on here has calculated it. It varies, and depends on several things, but for a ballpark number is generally priced at 25-30% COGS... which may be enough to keep the establishment in business and prevent the owner from starving.

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