Saturday, 24 July 2010

Boycotting chains

'They are not my rules,' the woman is saying.
'But they are stupid rules,' is the best reply I can come up with because I have not had my first coffee of the day. Because of her.

For the past 18 months I have bought a black Americano (95p) from the coffee bar in the staff canteen. It takes the edge off the first hour of work and helps my brain boot up. The Argentinian working there says hello and something nice about my hair. It has become my non-alcoholic equivalent of Cheers!, where everybody knows your name, or at least how you like your coffee. But things have changed. I am boycotting the coffee bar.

A coffee chain has taken over. The Argentinan has gone. She has been replaced by an evil Kirstie Alley type who does not know my name or comment on my fringe. And they have brought their cups. Stupid red cardboard cups. Stupid red cardboard cups that cannot hold hot liquid, which instead trickles through the seam and onto your fingers, forcing you to decant the contents into several tiny plastic cups from the water cooler and drink them like a selection of luke-warm shooters.

To save my fingers I have been doubling up, placing my cup inside another empty, stupid red cup - like coffee cup Russian dolls. But despite the sense in my actions I am being told by this new woman to pay 'an extra 20p' for my protective shield cup.

It backs up my love of small independent cafes. My first job, when I was still at school, was working for a little bakery/sandwich shop called Brysons. I would walk the two miles to work along with a local farmer and his herd of cows and then sell iced buns and Cumberland fruit loaves to old ladies and add up the sums not on a till but on the back of a paper bag with a pencil (this was 1996, although it sounds like 1886). You had banter, you had regulars, and if anyone did make a complaint (which was rare) you would pacify them with a meat and potato pie. That place had soul. This place has none.

'Well you can make a complaint to my manager then,' the woman is telling me.
'Oh I will,' I think. 'Because complaining is one thing I do very well.'

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