What’s a good cup of coffee really worth?

At a coffee shop where Brigitte and I liked to drop on Saturday mornings, the coffee was pretty reliable.  One day it was particularly good, and as I was paying, I said “Who was the barista today?”

“Why?” said the girl behind the espresso machine.  “What was wrong?”

“Nothing,” I said, “I just wanted to say it was a great cup of coffee today.”

She was flummoxed, from which I deduced that she is regularly told when someone finds something wrong with their coffee (“not hot enough”, “too strong”, “low tide”) but very little positive reinforcement of a job well done.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to say to someone, “Thank you, well done.”  And the only thing I find discouraging about it is the all-too-frequent look of surprise on the face of the person to whom I say it.

Standing behind an espresso machine for hours, pulling coffee after coffee and trying to make every one of them just right, has to be a real labour of love. “Half-shot skinny latte”, “soy decaf”, “extra-hot double strength cappuccino” – everyone’s an aficionado, everyone wants their own special brew.

Then there are the coffeenistas, who come in and order “flat white”, like it is the ultimate test of comparative barista skill – as if the next flat white will be lined up against all the other aspirants who have tried and failed to deliver the mythical perfect brew.

Making good coffee, cooking a fluffy omelette, leading a well-paced gym class – people go about their daily tasks regularly doing a great job, but the responses they get, if any, seem to be complaints about something that hasn’t gone right, rather than acknowledgement of the things they have done really well on a continuing basis (that is, if they get any response at all).

But when the surprise gradually melts into a little smile of appreciation, it’s worth it, that very small effort on my part.  The return on investment for a simple “great coffee!”, when it really is great coffee, is enormous.

The last statistic I read was that the ideal ratio of positive feedback to constructive feedback was 6 to 1.  But hey, who’s counting?  Just go out there and make someone’s day.  It won’t cost you a cent.

And that’s BEFORE we arrive at work in the morning, where “well done” takes on a whole extra importance and significance …..

David Rowan White


    • Syd
    • December 12th, 2011

    I couldn’t agree more and I must admit that I do try to thank everyone through the day – the bus driver, waitperson, barista, taxi driver, etc. They have far tougher jobs than we will ever have and rarely get any thanks, let alone genuine appreciation.

  1. You’re a legend, Rod Fussell

  2. This is Rod Fussell’s comment, which he texted to me. He is a train guard in Sydney (and an all-round top bloke).

    “You should see the looks people give me when I randomly say hello or g’day, (I am always being reprimanded for talking to strangers). At first it’s a look of astonishment (a complete stranger just said hello), like I’ve just spat on the ground at their feet. Then after a couple of seconds (I keep looking at them), their face usually turns into a smile. So sometimes you don’t even need to say thanks, just a simple hello. It makes me feel good and I am sure it makes them feel good too”.

    I am intrigued as to who is responsible for those reprimands…

  3. Awesome post. It really is the little things that count sometimes.

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