Grandpa would pull into the service station and three young men would jog up to the car.  Check the oil, fill ‘er up and wash the wind screen.  Life was good.  Service with a smile.

My how times have changed.

We can blame it on personal responsibility, say that we get crappy service because those providing it don’t care, but what happens when it is company policy to be a jerk?

I think we can all agree you think I’m some Liberal out here in SF, ranting against the corporations and against free market capitalism, and you’d be partially right.  I have seen a number of examples where a superior product or service is pushed out of the market by another.

Starbucks coffee was never very good, but it was hot (burnt most days) and easy to find.  That green logo seems to be everywhere and on a recent rough morning my preferred coffee shop was across town so I gave up quality in favor of convenience.

When I travel to and from work I use a travel mug from my favorite coffee shop.  I’ve had it for years.  Then I left it at Ted Setla’s house a few weeks back.

This morning I wandered into the coffee shop and into line with a paper cup from the day before that I had rinsed out yesterday.  I’m no environmental nut, but one less cup is one less cup and my mug is gone.

Up to the counter and I hand him my cup, as I have done dozens of times in other coffee shops, and asked for a fill up of coffee.

He took the cup, began to turn and then looked at the competitor’s logo on the side.

“Um, we can’t use your cup, it has to be one of ours…for…for quality control.”

I turned to my right to the line-up of travel mugs awaiting 600 calorie milkshakes we convince ourselves are “coffees” and asked the obvious question.

“But those are not yours.  You guys do it all the time, pretend I was here 20 minutes ago and refill it.”

Now the other cashier is involved and spinning a yarn about the health code.  I point out the more than one person in line with a dog on a leash and they have no response.

In the end I settled for getting a new cup, I’m no militant and I wanted more coffee, but I realized that it was my own fault for sacrificing what I knew to be a superior product with superior service just to shave 20 minutes off my commute time.

This is why places like this are successful.  We’re too lazy to do the right thing and support what we actually like.  I just wonder when I’ll stop doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

And yes, the coffee was burnt.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Why not leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader?