Scary stories from a lovely place
You can’t expect good customer service in Johannesburg. Almost every shop or business or phoneline that I custom offers me poor customer service. Admittedly, I do have high standards because I worked in this industry for many years in Australia. I know how to give good customer service, it doesn’t take much. In the last shop I worked before I came to Joburg, R.M Williams, there used to be a mystery shopper program in effect. This meant that a company was contracted to come into our store a couple of times a month and pretend to be a customer, all the while marking me very specifically on my performance. That report would then be sent to the head office, and make it’s way back to my store. I was mystery shopped a few times and my scores were always pretty good, but just before I left I racked up a cool 100. It was a sweet moment.
It will be a rare experience to get 100%, or anything close, in Jozi. It used to really frustrate me, but it rarely bothers me these days. I understand that this is a different place with different concerns so of course it will be contrary to my experience in my own country.
But today I had a rather unpleasant experience at 44 Stanley’s annoyingly named coffee shop, Bean There (why must restaurants use puns?). 44 Stanley is a cool place populated by cool Joburgers who drive cool cars and wear cool sunglasses. I like it, although I do feel decidedly uncool when I visit. And each time I go I feel a rage boiling up inside me towards the pretension which increases each time I go. The best parts about it are Boat, the awesome sandwich bar that use excellent ingredients but charge very reasonable prices. And Vovo Telo, the bakery with quality bread. Otherwise I find Salvation Cafe consistently disappointing and overpriced and the Italian restaurant delicious, but also a bit expensive.
Today I went to Bean There to buy Stephen a present. I wanted to get him a stove top espresso maker and had seen one there with him that I knew he would like. I didn’t savour the visit because of the aforementioned rage, but also because I don’t like Bean There. They have a coffee roaster which seems to be going all the time which makes the shed like room stinking hot. Today it was packed full of white people reading the newspaper and mulling over ‘fair trade’ coffee. On the walls are pictures of smiling black kids, presumably from Kenya or Ethiopia, just where the coffee is grown.
I can’t help thinking that maybe the customers are feeling good about themselves as they drink their ‘fair trade’ brew and gaze at the objectified cute kids, while they marvel at the pleasurable way they are able to make an apparent difference to poor people’s lives. I seriously doubt that ‘fair trade’ is as wonderful as we all think.
I looked for a considerable amount of time for the right espresso maker today without being helped by anyone. I wandered all over the store looking in all the obvious places. As I did so I was passed by an employee multiple times, who even had to squeeze past my baby belly to get by. Would it have been so hard for him to offer to help me? But I knew not to expect much because of my previous experiences with customer service. Finally I stopped the guy and asked him if they had the espresso maker I had seen. I described it to him but he said they had never had such a thing, they just had plungers and the regular type of coffee maker. I politely told him that I had seen it there a few weeks back but he just shook his head like I was an idiot and kept going. I left pretty mad and made my way back to the inadequate street parking to get into my inadequate car.
I’ve found another place in Joburg to buy the espresso maker I want and am hoping to go later this afternoon to get it for my deserving husband. But I am most disappointed with Bean There. Everyone I know raves about it, but I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Granted, I don’t drink coffee, but I know that Stephen does think it is good. If I did I wonder if the things that annoy me about it wouldn’t matter. I doubt it. Each time I go I swelter in the heat and cringe at the patronising images of the kids smiling at me and wonder why the hell they can’t sell a pot of Earl Grey tea.