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Tuesday, June 29

Myth Up

Here's the quick version of this tale. I had a stressful day on Saturday. It involved a certain amount of driving around more than I had expected/required and I wasn't in the best of moods. Stressed and feeling like time was a weight on my shoulders, I decided to take a stop for a coffee/tea break in the Esso garage on the local dual carriageway; it has a Costa "in-shop", a licenced version of the popular coffee chain, run by the Esso people.

My girlfriend wanted tea and I wanted coffee.

Me: May I have a medium sized tea...
Her: We only do small. We're a coffee company, so we only do one size of tea.
Me: Can you give me it in a medium sized cup with a bit of extra water.
Her: No. Sorry. It's company policy.
Me: How about you give me a small tea in a small cup and give me a medium cup separately, with a little extra water in the bottom.
Her: No. It's not allowed. Company policy.

At this stage our "Hero" starts to lose his temper.

Me: Which company?
Her: Costa.
Me: But I've been into Costa and bought tea of this size before without ever being refused.
Her: They're the shops, though. We're just a licence. They won't let us do it.

Then I had a tantrum. I bellowed at her to stuff her fucking tea up her arse and get her jobsworth face up there with it. I screamed that she was being belligerent. I didn't need this sort of shit added to my day. There was no logical reason for this restriction and it sounded like a pile of bullshit that was either there to piss people off, or to avoid litigation that would never happen. That was my tantrum. It lasted about 8 seconds. The member of staff didn't experience any of the things I just described. This is because I just my eyes and my mouth and waited carefully until all of these thoughts and visualisations of unnecessary rage had abated. I'm not an angry person. I get crabby and irritable, but I don't perform acts of violent abusive behaviour on a Saturday evening in a roadside services. When I opened my eyes again, in a calm and measured voice...

Me: I'll have a SMALL TEA please.

I also had to explain to my girlfriend why she was getting a small tea. She, quite reasonably, next to me in the queue, described all the same "workarounds" I'd just asked for and I calmly, in a voice which warned her not to push because we'd both end up savaging the little old lady serving us, used sarcasm to explain to her why it was obviously NOT POSSIBLE.

After the aftermath
So, we got on with our lives for the rest of the weekend and I vowed to exact some sort of revenge on the people who had so smited us with their irritating behaviour. This morning I decided I was calm emough (and bored enough) to give it a shot. Here follows a description of the chain of calls I made in order to solve the problem. I should point out that there was something bugging me about this "policy". It seemed like a myth. It seemed very unlikely that Costa or Esso stood to gain anything from this belligerence - it seem more like a "cult of the no". So, perhaps I could actually fix it.

Call 1 - Costa Customer Services
Me: Excuse me, is there a policy which stops the licensee from providing me with tea in a medium sized cup?
Them: We just sell the Esso garage the cups and the tea and the coffee and the equipment and they can do what they like.

Call 2 - The Garage in Question
Me: Why can't you sell me a medium tea?
Lady: We're not allowed to. By Costa.
Me: Costa say that they don't prevent this. Where's this policy actually come from?
Lady: Not me. You'll have to write to head office.
Me: Can I have their number.
Lady: No. You can have their address, and this is it...

Call 3 - The Head Office
Google is quite good at giving telephone numbers for head offices
Me: Can I talk to the person responsible for coffee shops in Esso stations?
Reception: We don't give out names and numbers.
Me: I don't want their name or number, you can transfer me.
Reception: Are you a sales rep?
Me: No. I'm a customer. I need to talk to the person who made the policy where...
Reception: You should call customer services.

Call 4 - Esso Customer Services
Me: I was in a garage, I wanted tea. They were mean to me. They said there was a policy, where did it originate?
Her: I'll have to contact the area manager for you. Give me your name and number.

Call 5 - Area Manager Rang Me
Him: Hello, my name is something you can't hear because I didn't say it clearly. What seems to be the problem.
Me: You wouldn't sell me a medium tea, which isn't pragmatic.
Him: I wish it wasn't the policy, but it's not our choice. Costa dictated it. You're not the first to complain.
Me: But I spoke to Costa and they said they didn't care.
Him: They provide us with menu boards and brand guidelines. We can't deviate from those guidelines. We get audited, so can't put a foot wrong. We can't sell you a larger tea than small. It's not allowed.
Me: Your staff could just be helpful and provide a larger cup on the sly when requested. Why be so obstructive?
Him: We're not allowed, by Costa.
Me: Who at Costa? They said they were happy. Give me a name and number.

Call 6 - Costa Sales Manager
Me: Hello, I'm a customer, tea, medium, why can't I have one?
Him: But you can.
Me: What that's what I would have thought.
Him: You can have your drink however you like. The brand requirements are a minimum standard. If the customer wants their drink their way, it should be ok.
Me: Sounds like a myth about what they can't do then. Can you tell them that they're allowed to do it, please. I'll also ring the manager I spoke to and tell him.
Him: Sure thing.

This guy was a really laid back pragmatic fellow. I'd buy him a coffee any day.

Call 7 - The Area Manager Again
Me: Great news. I've solved the problem. Costa say that you can sell me a medium tea. It's a misunderstanding.
Him: Well, I'll have to hear it from them.
Me: Got it covered. The chap will be in touch to tell you. Isn't this brilliant, though. We solved the problem.
Him: ... general sounds I can't remember ...

If you ring enough people in the two organisations I managed to ring, you may get an answer. In general, though, people should use their fucking common sense and make me a fucking drink when I ask for it.


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