A Melburnian coffee lover has left Australia divided with their question on coffee complaint etiquette. That question? Should you complain if you’re not satisfied with your caffeinated kick to the head (aka, morning brew)?
The question led to a broader discussion on just how bad your java has to be for you to be justified in asking for a refund or a replacement, and whether or not you are really doing the coffee shop a favour by making them get back behind the machine in These Difficult Times.
The Reddit user, u/xFromtheskyx, wrote the following in Reddit’s r/melbourne community: “Is it acceptable to return a bad overpriced coffee from a small local shop that I really want to do well?”
The statement was accompanied by the following photo.
Commenters from all corners of Australia chimed in. Some said in these tough times, where the hospitality industry has been plagued with shutdowns, you should save the staff the headache, and suck it up.
Others reckoned you’d be doing the cafe a favour by complaining, so long as you do it the right way.
One member of the r/melbourne community, @coffeedoesntcare, suggested: “Politely ask for a remake and explain in simple, non-blaming terms why you’d like another, eg ‘I’m sorry, I think the milk got burnt on this one.’”
“Mistakes are made and accidents happen,” they added. “A business would rather have you satisfied than at risk of not returning.”
“Also, it may not seem like it sometimes, but hospitality folk actually do want you to have a good time and enjoy what they’ve made for you and that you have chosen to spend your hard-earned money on.”
“If they’re not okay with remaking one, then you know for absolutely sure that they’re not worth supporting.”Reddit user coffeedoesntcare
This turned out to be the most “upvoted” comment of the thread.
Another response came from Reddit user avonrac. They wrote: “I returned a milk shake once because it was flavourless. They apologised and made me a new one. It was fantastic so I returned to the shop. The girl who served me originally hid when she saw me coming, so I told her coworker to tell her the replacement was amazing and the best I’d ever had.”
“They fixed the mistake and did it well, which deserved kudos. I don’t blame the girl for thinking I was coming back to complain again!”Reddit user avonrac
Another commenter said: “My family used to have a franchise coffee shop 20 years ago. During training the guy from head office said: ‘you have one happy customer, he may tell 5 people about it. You have one unhappy customer, he will tell 50 people about it.'”
“You want the customer come to you first, you fixed his problem, make him happy, before he goes on telling anyone.”
Another Reddit user said: “I just hold my breath and drink down my miserable coffee because I’m not the type to return anything.”
Another illustrated the potential perils of complaining, saying you could just be subjecting yourself to a double dipping of disappointment.
“If it’s so goddamn awful (and assuming it’s a place I’d like to succeed/I’d likely return to) that Satan himself would call ‘time out’, I’ll do as you say and politely suggest that maybe the coffee was burned.”
“Sadly it’s about 50/50 on whether or not they f**ked up and can recover, of if they just have no idea how to make a coffee.”
Another user told the story of the time he told a cafe owner their coffee sucked.
“I remember once my coworkers all stopped going to the cafe downstairs as they found a better coffee shop up the road. I don’t drink coffee so still went in sometimes to get a drink and the owner asked me why no one came any more as he could see my coworkers walk past each day.”
“I felt super awkward but figured he better know, and said that I had heard his coffee wasn’t as good as up the road’s coffee. He got SUPER mad at me and I regretted saying anything! I mean I was just the messenger too and told him I didn’t drink coffee so had no opinion but given he had asked I would pass on what was said.”
“So yea if you tell them be prepared they might get really upset with you! Personally if I ran a business I would want the feedback though.”
Three other suggestions were: “Don’t return it but perhaps give some feedback,” “Looks like you ordered tea” and “Looks like instant coffee.” This led into a discussion around whether or not flat whites should have microform (“this was just coffee and burnt milk”).
The overwhelming consensus though, was that “the business prefers (respectful) customer complaints as it’s an opportunity to retain the customer.”
This sentiment was perhaps summed up best by Reddit user EmperorRowannicus who said “it is entirely possible to be diplomatic, courteous and assertive without being confrontational or aggressive.”
“It’s constructive criticism, not a complaint, and you could even mention that you support them and would like to see them prosper.”
“And in the long run they’re much more likely to do well if they make drinkable coffee.”
We’ll drink to that.