Con the consumer

Con artists or coffee makers?With the dawn of the New Year, I reflect on one of last year’s irksome moments which I had put off blogging for quite a while. If there is a new motto that marketers and companies across are adopting, it seems not to be ‘the customer is king’, but con the consumer. There are several instances that come to mind that make me think of this. Strangely this comes at a time when most companies are afraid of their ‘social image’ and the fallout of negative chatter that happens online.

The brand in question – Costa Coffee. Last year they opened a new outlet at Sterling Cinema near VT, South Mumbai. Now this outlet comes as a new addition on a street that already has two other outlets, Barista and Café Coffee Day. Still a new coffee joint so close to office couldn’t be resisted, even though this was a more premium one.

The first oddity that I observed was that when ordering a cup of coffee, one of the Costa Cofee sales people (there are two running in two different shifts, but more about that later) is the size of the coffee. Now a regular size cup of coffee is not exactly called the regular size. In fact a small size is what you want if you are accustomed to the ‘regular’ coffee that you get elsewhere. If you are not careful most of the times you will be provided with a medium size coffee. Once I got wise to this I decided that I should ask for the smallest size. This was of no avail. The greatest insult one day was that the person manning the desk told me that they were out of small size and therefore gave me a medium size coffee and charged me for it! At the time it slipped my mind, only while I was walking away did I wonder, if you are out of cups, why can’t you just pour a little less in a regular cup? The perfect con from a sales person who was trying to make a quick buck.

One finds this experience to be quite sad really, because while this sales person has always resorted to this, there has been the exact opposite experience with another bespectacled sales person who mans the stall during later shifts. Unfortunately having one friendly sales person doesn’t help negate the effect of another conniving sales person. The impression one gets is that Costa is out to fleece you for your money, even though their price tags are higher. Having shied away from that particular outlet for Costas for quite a while, I for some reason returned one fine day. This time when I did ask for a normal small cup of cappuccino, I am then asked if I want to add some additional flavour etc. Classic up-selling. Are they really concerned about how my coffee tastes, or is it a case of just plumping up the bill? Go figure. This is definitely not Starbucks (I miss the mint coffees I had from there at Hong Kong). For now on an average day I have become a Barista Boy 😛