Thursday afternoon I was out with my wife. We were in town, had a couple of hours to spare, and decided to park ourselves at a cafe to get some work done.
We came across this outlet on the third level of the building we were in. It was bright and spacious, there were seats available. And most importantly, we spied two power outlets on the wall.
We took our places and placed our orders. We plugged ourselves in and got down to answering emails. And that was when the madness started.
Our server came up to us and politely informed us that we are not allowed to use the outlets. Incredulous as I was, I remained equally polite and asked him for the reason.
He was obviously new, so he went back to Lady Boss and repeated my question. I could see from the corner of my eyes the situation unfolding. I could hear the Lady Boss telling him – because it is not a public place.
You are not in a public place
Like the dutiful New Employee he was, he came back and parroted the same line ‘Sorry sir, you cannot use the plug because you are not in a public place’. Wanting to spare him further agony, I asked to speak with Lady Boss.
And once again, I could hear in the background Lady Boss telling New Employee from behind the counter that she is not coming to me, and that if I needed to ask her something I should be the one going to her instead.
Now up to this point I was more amused than upset. Her pompus attitude managed to put me off a little more, but since we were already plugged in and comfortably settled, I chose to ignore and returned to the task of replying emails.
Lady Boss, probably seeing that I was unyielding, came over. The conversation went like this.
You cannot use the plug
LB: You cannot use the plug
Me: Why not?
LB: Because you are not in a public place
Me: Sorry excuse me, this is a cafe. If this isn’t a public place then what is?
LB: This is a private cafe.
Me: Private? Really? The last I checked I walk in uninvited to a cafe and I intend to pay for my tea and cake. How private can that be?
LB: If you want to use it you should have asked.
Me: I never have to ask at any cafe I go to. If you don’t want people to use it, put up a sign.
LB: You are my customer. You have to ask. This is my cafe. I don’t want to put up a sign. Cannot use means cannot use.
Me: Exactly I am your customer. And is this how you treat paying customers?
LB: You are very rude. I am calling security.
I choose the cafe because of the power sockets. If I had known that I cannot use the plug I would have moved on to another one. If they could have shown me a sign I missed that says ‘no usage’ I would have relented. If they were to tell me that using it would trip the appliances I would have given in. If Lady Boss comes along with an apology I would have accepted and complied.
But all I get is this triple hit combo of a presumptious Lady Boss, crazy logic and coercion into submission. That I would not have.
I sat tight and security never came.
This is not a hate post. I write it not to instigate people to boycott the cafe.
In fact, when I left the cafe an hour later I felt somewhat morose. I felt sorry for Lady Boss because she is missing out a few simple truths and understanding them would make her life so much easier.
First of all precious few people go to a cafe because they need a coffee or a cake. It is a place to rest, a place to read, a place to meet friends and chat and for some a place to plug in and get some work done. This fact was lost on her.
Secondly, the customer is always right. I have never been a demanding, obnoxious fellow. I know the abuse and the amount of ridiculous stuff service staff have to put up with and I have always reminded myself to be most polite and appreciative.
And despite having to deal with me-who-is-always-polite-and-appreciative, Lady Boss managed to mess it up royally. What chance does she stand against higher opponents? What chance does she have keeping her customers?
Finally, even if you do not believe that the customer is always right, then at least the customer should always come first. Lady Boss mentioned more than once that it is her cafe. And she has every right to do what she likes. I can understand the pride and joy that comes with owning and running a cafe. But by putting herself ahead of her customers, is this not a recipe for disaster?
I walked away thinking that it was such a tragedy. I really felt like going up to her to explain these little truisms. Not to give her a piece of my mind, but to help and make her life better. Of course I did not, and given the dirty look she shot me while walking out, I highly doubt she would be receptive.
I wondered how is it that she ended up running a cafe when she had absolutely no inkling of what it entails.
Was running a cafe something she has always wanted to do, and hence jumped in heads first when the opportunity came about? Did she know she had not a single customer service gene in her body? Did she have unrealistic expectations before she started? Did the people around her know what she is like, put two and two together and tried to talk her out of it? Or was she cornered into it unsuspectingly?
Do we know what we are getting ourselves into?
I see the same scenario playing out with retail investors every day.
Some of us get seduced by the promise of unlimited profits and obscene riches and we end up making investments we do not understand. Other discover trading and see working the Forex or Options market as a form of passive income that will pave their way out of the rat race.
And there will be investors who see Warren Buffett as the Investor of the Century and go all the way out to emulate his strategy in order to achieve his level of success.
But do we ever spend time looking within ourselves? Have we considered if our chosen road to riches is indeed the right fit for our level of knowledge, time constraints and temperament?
The truth is, not every one can be Warren Buffett, not every one has the discipline to succeed as a trader, and investments with returns beyond the norm are never as simple as they seem.
Retail Investors must know what they are getting themselves into. Do not end up as Lady Boss!
image credit: straightmalefriend.com