Monday, March 17, 2008

What are you willing to compromise on?

The other day we had a request...actually, in delivery somewhat more of a declaration than a request..that I scald the milk for a latté, to the point that it goes beyond a safe heating temperature and is in fact "scalding" hot. Without getting into too many personal details of the specific situation, it nevertheless brings up a worthwhile issue that we have addressed once or twice in the past (and will likely have to address again sometime in the future): When a customer makes a request that may be considered outside the lines that define who you are as a business, how far do you also go outside those lines to accommodate the customer's request?

We've considered a substantial number of issues that all have some measure of influence, to varying degrees, on what the end-vision is for Stumpjack Coffee, that is, how we wish Stumpjack to be defined and perceived. All sorts of things like cup sizes, menu ingredients, color schemes, music, graphics, etcetera, all have an impact on the overall vibe we want to produce. Some things, by themselves, may seem insignificant, but taken together these things are not insignificant and contribute to (or detract from) the whole.

Our vision has always been to have a coffee enterprise that represents the highest quality product that we can afford and institute (with "product" being a term that covers a number of aspects of the business, including and beyond the commodity of coffee itself). Concerning the basics of drink preparation our objective and focus is to create the best sensory experience that we possibly can. Anything that diminishes that effort is cause for concern and consternation. Thus, the quality of the drink you get from us is one of the foundational legs upon which we hope to build and grow this enterprise.

Which brings us to the specific issue of milk preparation and quality in the drink. Let me preface this by stating again that we constantly assume a "we can improve, let's do this better" attitude, and we're not yet at a place where we can feel entirely comfortable (there are a few very specific areas of milk prep in particular that we need to address). But if we have yet to achieve excellence in all areas of this part of the equation, we can nevertheless avoid doing those things that run counter to what constitutes high quality. Burning the milk would be one of those things to avoid.

That seems simple enough doesn't it.

Yet, when someone says "I want my latté scalding hot," what do you do? You try to explain the reasons you discourage that (quality, taste and safety issues...and that includes safety for the person preparing the drink as well, not just the customer). If they insist that they want it their way anyway (which they of course do) you then either, one, throw your mission and desire for excellence out the window and give them what they want...the integrity of the vision crumbles a little perhaps, but you make a sale (and sales are very, very important)...or, two, you tell them sorry but we won't compromise on this, and so you end up losing the sale and possibly a customer, maybe a regular customer at that.

In a small market such as the one we're in every customer and every transaction is very important, and yet, the old cliché "the customer is always right" is just that, a cliché, and oftentimes an excuse for weak vision or lack of creative thinking by business (and possibly for less than empathetic behavior by some customers). The fact is, as anyone in business truly knows, the customer is not always right. Try asking for your chicken to be undercooked next time you're at a fine restaurant, or ask an elite pastry chef to please decorate that cheap birthday cake you got at the local chain-store supermarket, or ask the sommelier of a fine French restaurant to please heat to scalding that glass of Château d'Yquem for you. Well, why not? That's the way you like it, and the customer is, after all, always right.

We have every right to ask for things to be presented to us the way we want them (or the way we think we want them)...and a business has every right to say "We're sorry but no, that's not who we are." And as customers we ought to respect that, so long as we are treated with respect and courtesy as well. Again, that seems simple enough doesn't it? We would love to accommodate you and most any request you might have, if we are at all able to do so without denigrating the integrity of the mission and vision.

But no, don't ask Stumpjack Coffee to please play your favorite '70s hair-band CD, stock the beer cooler with Miller Light, reheat your coffee in the microwave because it got cold during the hour you were chatting with your friends, or to scald your latte until it blisters your tongue. Well, you can ask...of course you can ask...but don't get indignant when we politely refuse to compromise who we are or what we do (we promise we won't come to your workplace or home and tell y
ou how to run your "business" either). I realize that we cannot please everyone or be all things to all people...nor do we wish to be. Stumpjack customers are, it seems to me, on the whole, a much more discerning group, who appreciate something different from the norm. That's one of the big reasons this job is so great and why we like and appreciate the people who visit us every day.

Final note: If you should say something like "I get it my way at every other place around here and you're the only one I have trouble with!" I will take that as a compliment, thank you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


In order to further needle my friend, Kim Geiser, who is leading the charge in the organization and realization of SputnikFest that will take place in September this year, I am hereby publicly and legally laying first copyright and trademark claim to the following term


SputniKing©® (a term that I am also now laying claim to as my title concerning all things Sputniky©®... today, SputnikFest; tomorrow, the world!!! bwahahahaaaaa...)

Yes, any future monetary renumeration or compensation derived from the use of all or any of these terms (as well as any other ones I can think up in the next few minutes) should be mailed to me in care of Stumpjack Coffee in Two Rivers.

Click here to see the real SputnikFest site and what's going on with that fun project.

Addendum - newly copyrighted and trademarked terms:


Sputnikoffee©® (perfect!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sad day in Mudville...

Well, my heart skipped a beat a few minutes ago with the news that Brett has decided to call it a day in Green Bay.

Favre Informs Thompson He Intends To Retire

Get ready for lots of discussion about who's the greatest of all time. I admit that I am most certainly biased but nevertheless Favre is still the greatest quarterback of all time and maybe the greatest football player, period. What a ride it's been with him these last 16 years.