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I blame Starbucks....(Layer Cake in Irvine) [moved from L.A. board]


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I blame Starbucks....(Layer Cake in Irvine) [moved from L.A. board]

mikester | | Jun 24, 2009 04:37 PM

I'm not mad at Layer Cake, really I'm not. I can't say I'm totally happy with the way they handled the situation, but maybe I could have handled it differently, as well.

I blame Charbucks for this....and the fact that I've became an espresso snob, since discovering what espresso drinks should taste like when done well (as opposed to what's become the Starbucks norm, over the past five to ten or so years).

Here's the deal - so I go to Layer Cake in Irvine today, for a nice slice of one of their generally very good cakes and an espresso drink. I end up ordering a slice of the white cake with white chocolate filling inside and green tea buttercream frosting outside. It was good.

Also I ordered a double espresso macchiato. In the classical parlance, this is an espresso "marked" with just a bit of steamed milk or, sometimes, foam.

What I got was a 12-oz paper cup filled to the brim with a dense, stiff foam. Somewhere down there, I could tell, was a good amount of liquid which told me that there was not only the 2 to 2 1/2 ounces of espresso that should constitute a double shot, but also a good deal of milk.

Once I took the lid off and discovered this, I stared at it awhile, trying to decide if I could live with it or not. After a few bites of the cake (waiting until the counter person was not busy with other customers), I decided no, I should explain what I had in mind versus what I received. I wasn't rude (I don't think), but I didn't say "I'm sorry, but this isn't what I had in mind" either - it probably would have gone smoother if I had. Instead, I said in a reasonable voice to the young lady at the counter helping me that this isn't a macchiato.

She made a bit of a face and said "well this is how we make macchiatos here". Would you like an espresso instead ?" When I answered yes, I would, she started to ring it up as another order. When I said that the fact that they were going to charge this was not making me very happy, she made more of a face and called the manager and went over to her to explain the situation. The manager made a face and said something (probably "give it to him"), and the counter person swept away the original drink and dramatically poured it down the sink. It got quiet real fast.

So while the young lady was doing the espresso (now in a smaller paper cup), the manager came up to me and she said that what they gave me was a macchiato. I explained that no, actually what I got was probably more like a latte and she said well, yes maybe but this is how Starbucks makes their macchatos. To which I replied well that's not macchiato either....well we pretty much left it there.

It was basically a draw, I got my double espresso (which actually wasn't bad), but nobody was particularly happy. I was surprised about the poor customer service in a way (sure, they replaced the drink but it was all done very grudgingly ) -- so who really won here ? Will I be back soon ? Probably not...unfortunately. I don't go to a place to pick a fight - though that's what happened in a way.

I guess the lesson I take away is, that it's really tough to get both a nice slice of cake and a great cup of coffee. And especially, you need to be really specific when ordering a drink that Starbucks has monkeyed around with, because it's now assumed that the Starbucks way is the correct way - because that's what most people now expect.

I've worked retail and a bit of food service, and I do understand how hard it is, and especially in these tough times. But because of that I also understand the value of a happy customer experience versus an unhappy one. My old boss (a wise man) used to say "A happy customer will tell one or two of his friends, but an unhappy customer will tell ten of his friends".