Wednesday, July 16, 2008

   from Mitsu
Dear internet peoples,

Thanks for the over 200 comments that folks have left here. Again, despite the "feedback" (to put it lightly) that I'm a [insert expletive here] for not posting the comments, I'd rather keep the death-threats and suggestions on how to fellate myself in the moderation queue, even though a significant proportion of the feedback has been very supportive. There are plenty of places for folks to rant and rave, without us having to provide that soapbox. Thanks though to those who have written with supportive words.

Like many of the bloggers out there, the fascinating thing to me is the story about the story. That is, the ways that folks have responded to this little internet tale, and the "coverage" that it's gotten online. David and I had a nice visit from a Washington Post reporter this morning, and expect to see something in the Metro section tomorrow [edit: here's the article].

While I don't want to prolong the attention to this thing, I did have a few thoughts on the subject. Read them at your peril.

If there are three main things that I've been ruminating on, they are about:
- coffee, and whether or not it's something that someone should try to do well
- the way people should or should not treat each other
- blogs, and communication in general, can get really weird when subjected to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

I can appreciate that a lot of folks think that it's ridiculous that anyone would take as much apparent effort (as we do) to do coffee. Before opening our first shop in Georgetown a few years ago, I certainly didn't think that there was any more to being a barista as there is to flipping burgers or being a Pez dispenser. The fact is, there's a lot more to coffee than people think, and there was a time that a career position like a "sommelier" was completely absurd (before wine became "fancy") too.

There's a craft to coffee, that most people haven't been exposed to. When we first opened our shop, nobody had ever seen "latte art" before, or was thinking about coffee bean varietals. Just as the average person understands at least that a "merlot" is different from a "chardonnay," maybe someday people will understand that a coffee brewed from bourbon varietal from a particular coffee farm in El Salvador is different from a particular lot of Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia. Right now, to most people, coffee is coffee, just like a Diet Coke is a Diet Coke.

We take pride in, and put a lot of effort in making great coffee... NOT because we're full of ourselves, or because coffee is our only obsession, but because we want our customers to have something good. Our standards are such that the average person-on-the-street, my own mother, a homeless guy, or the World Barista Champion (yes, there is such a thing) will get the same quality cappuccino from us, because people are worth it. Having the standards that we do are in support of that, although it may seem antithetical.

Coffee can be much more than what you've experienced before, whether you believe me or not.

The way people should or should not treat each other:
The fact is, I believe that people should treat each other with dignity and respect. When a homeless person asks me for money when I'm walking down the street, I look them in the eye and say, "Sorry, but no." rather than just walking by and ignoring them. When it comes to my shop, engaging in the transaction that makes us customer and barista, or customer and "server," means that we've engaged in a transaction, and we have an obligation: to give you the best product we can, with customer service that's equal to the respect and courtesy that any two people should (hopefully) expect from one another.

With road rage (and its milder iterations) being the norm, more communication tools disconnecting face-to-face interactions, and the growing expectation from people that their wants and needs being met are an inalienable right, people sometimes forget what common courtesy is. We're people, and we're going to do our best to treat you as we would a friend or guest.

The customer in question, when told that it's our policy NOT to offer "espresso over ice," got angry right away. Regardless of how you feel about the merits of our policy, the fact that he got angry (in my opinion) is the crux of the matter. There are things in life to get angry about. There are matters that demand an elevated heart rate. This is not one of them.

The other thing that's worth mentioning is that David, the barista in question, contrary to what many seem to believe, was NOT voicing his objection to the espresso over ice per se. He was admonishing him for his poor behavior toward the barista at the register, and toward our policy. Many have written me saying, "Once it's in the customer's hands, it's out of your hands." That's absolutely true. David was telling the customer that it wasn't okay that he'd act-out to the staff the way he was. As in the guy's own blog-recounting of the incident, David was interrupted before he could finish, and Mr. Simmermon proceeded to mock David, then following it up with the infamous dollar-bill.

The guy admitted on his own blog that he "acted like a total dick here." He also writes, "But it's not like I didn't have probable cause." I'd hope that something like a coffeeshop policy about what we do or don't offer doesn't constitute "probable cause" for this sort of behavior.

Blogs, and communication in general, can get really weird when subjected to the Law of Unintended Consequences:

These days, blogs, online forums, and the like are their own form of recreation, with more in common with playing an online video game than with actual reality. Speaking for our murky coffee blog, it's a way to disseminate information, and to inject a little bit of our own personality. With the printed word, however, it's hard to really convey intention, mood, and subtlety. I'm sure that Mr. didn't intend to have as many readers as he did when he wrote his blog post. I sure didn't for ours (15,000 on Tuesday, up from 250 site visits on an average day).

Being snarky, confrontational, parsing words, and personal attacks, are all common practice in the online world of blogs and forums. God knows, I've engaged in a healthy amount of online b.s., and I know for a fact that Mr. has too. The hard part is dealing with what happens when the online world creeps into the real world, and being able to clearly differentiate between the two. Movies like "Enchanted" or "Cool World" aside, some things are supposed to be separate. Sometimes, it's not up to you though.

My now infamous "punch you in your dick" comment was absolutely meant as a retort to "the only way I'm ever coming back to Murky Coffee in Arlington is if I'm carrying matches and a can of kerosene." I was as serious as he was, no more, no less. When people email me saying, "I'll never visit the shop of someone who would threaten bodily harm," I sorta throw up my hands. "Don't they get it?" But that's the way the written word is.

For the sake of my own peace of mind and my own integrity, I'll unilaterally withdraw my written threat. It was indeed childish and dumb. In the future, when it comes to that sort of swagger or bravado, I'll do my best to keep it contained to the place where it's most appropriate: when I'm playing Street Fighter 2 Turbo online on my XBOX.

I'll reiterate my earlier advice to you, the reader: call your mom and tell her you love her. Then dream with me of a day when people will honor that love that people share between friends and family in the way we treat each other.

Happy brewing!


Blogger Dante said...

It would appear this is getting bigger, as it's now on the WAPO web site.

A few thoughts, though hopefully without suggestions for fellatio.

"I can appreciate that a lot of folks think that it's ridiculous that anyone would take as much apparent effort (as we do) to do coffee."

- I don't think anyone takes issue with your 'effort' to do coffee. People are annoyed- and I suppose I would be as well- at your 'soup-nazi' attitude towards other people and their personal tastes. That brings me to your second point...

The other thing that's worth mentioning is that David, the barista in question, contrary to what many seem to believe, was NOT voicing his objection to the espresso over ice per se. He was admonishing him for his poor behavior toward the barista at the register, and toward our policy."

Now, this is a tough one. On one hand, having worked in a customer service job for years, I can understand how someone might see a customer 'acting out' and feel rightous in 'admonishing' that customer. On the other hand, I firmly believe that there is almost no circumstance under which 'admonishing' a customer is acceptable, unless it's an incredible situation. I think most people would not accept being talked down to by their server- yes, I'm using that word here because in the end, they're being paid to suck up their pride (just like I had to and I'm sure many others have had to).

7/16/2008 4:13 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Is this even real, or is this an attempt at free publicity using some sort of viral marketinglike campaign?

7/16/2008 5:19 PM  
kamagra Has Bean Steve said...

Big Respect to you Nick, your a top guy and people who know of you know that you are a good person. You don't deserve the crap thats been written about you some of it made my jaw hit the floor.

Keep doing what your doing and the people will keep coming, and the others will go else where.

Big manly hug at you from accross the ocean.

7/16/2008 5:30 PM  
Blogger Lana said...

Great post. Now what I want to know is how many people have come in to order espresso over ice just for kicks....

7/16/2008 5:41 PM  
Blogger SMNYC said...

Thanks for the post and add this to your tally of "supportive" comments. I completely understand where you're coming from.

7/16/2008 6:19 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I'm new to this whole dispute, but think it's pretty hysterical. Yeah, the dude may have acted a little coffee-ragey from the get-go, but your "open letter" to him doesn't really give you much room to be all high-roady now.

7/16/2008 6:25 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I've been going to Murky's since you were in that teeny tiny place in Georgetown. I mourned the closing of the Capitol Hill store. But now, yikes, man, you are a royal jerk. This current post doesn't excuse your last posting - count me out as a customer.

7/16/2008 7:32 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Could either of you be more petty? Yes, he looks like a total tool and will have to go somewhere else, but thats where his punishment ends. You sure as hell are not going to gain any customers from this action, and you will probably lose some.

Next time some tool comes in there, treat them the same way the person would be treated at Nordstroms. Otherwise you just hurt your own business in the end.

7/16/2008 8:26 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Jesus, how does thinking about how people treat one another blah blah trying to NOT sound like a d-bag relate to a giant superiority complex and telling people what they should and shouldn't enjoy? Get some perspective, and stop thinking you're the only person on earth who knows how to serve good coffee.

7/16/2008 8:28 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Instead of berating customers, why don't you try something different, like PAY YOUR DC TAXES.

7/16/2008 9:06 PM  
kamagra Ocean said...

The fact that you want to make great coffee has nothing to do with the fact that you are unwilling to let a paying customer enjoy his coffee how they want to drink it. That's really the bottom line here. Get a clue.

7/16/2008 9:12 PM  
Blogger jeffrey said...

murky is about craftsmanship and the art of preparing coffee. tell mr. brooklyn to try that crap at 9th street espresso. he'll be introduced to Avenue C the hard way. or maybe he should go into a great french restaurant and curse at the sommelier for not having french fries, french toast, french's mustard, or french dressing. c'est absurde!

so, yes, there are instances when you can and should stick up for your products, your staff, and your business, even against a lame customer. and that lame customer? he's so dunkin!

7/16/2008 9:49 PM  
kamagra Nick Isanasshat said...

Glory be - the douchebaggery in this post is overwhelming.

7/16/2008 9:53 PM  
Blogger bell Janeway said...

I support your right to serve your drinks as you please.
Not every restaurant is a Burger King, folks.
And as a service worker, THANK YOU! for supporting your barista.

7/16/2008 10:39 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Even when you are trying to set things straight you still come across as a dick.

7/16/2008 10:40 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

My thoughts upon seeing this story on Consumerist were that you and the customer both acted like assholes. You are now, however, upping the prick ante.

Here's a reasonable policy: Move the dairy condiments back behind the shelf and charge a minimal upcharge for them. (Notice I said MINIMAL.) Anyone who is looking for a "ghetto latte" will probably be turned off by the upcharge. Explain that your store has been forced to do this due to abuse of privileges and rising dairy prices.

Explain to anyone who orders iced espresso that it will not taste very good, and why, and let them still order it if they want. Let them know that refunds will nto be issued in that case, if you want to, but I wouldn't go that far.

Focus on making your policy work for you AND your customers, not on trying to prove that the dissenting customer is a douchebag.

7/16/2008 10:46 PM  
kamagra DebC said...

Years ago, when I was a waitress, we were told that 'the customer is always right' and that, if a customer ordered something not quite they way we normally served it, we were to try our best to respect that.

You have your 'vision' of how coffee should be served and consumed, but so do the people buying and drinking your coffee.

My husband would have come into your establishment and ordered expresso and a cup of ice, too. He can't drink it straight hot because it hurts his teeth. His father and brother have the same problem. Your snobbish policy would discriminate against them for drinking it the way they can enjoy it.

I do not agree with the "tip" which was given or the tone of the infamous blog post, but I also do not agree with your black and white notions of how a beverage should be served or sold. You should go back to 'the customer is right' and start treating the people buying your coffee with more respect.

7/17/2008 12:28 AM  
Blogger Cath said...

Dear Mr. Cho,

I really admire your dedication to your craft, and I meant that without sarcasm. Murky's is definitely a place to get a good cup of coffee, but I wanted to relate an experience that happened about month ago when my husband and I came into your shop for the first time.

I ordered a green tea and my husband ordered espresso. The barista prepared my tea and then started on my husband's drink. My tea was waiting on the other side of the ledge and I watched in despair as it steeped...and steeped...and steeped, for over five minutes. Even a Bush League tea drinker knows that green tea shouldn't be steeped for more than three minutes at the utmost (ideally, 1-2 minutes for the Japanese blend I ordered), or else it turns bitter, and destroys the taste profile.

After that, I was amused to see, in your WP interview that you justified your reasons for not serving Mr. Simmermon on the "certain acidic reaction that makes the drink sour." Won't you please instruct your baristas on this point, if you're going to offer the product for consumption? Especially given your dedication to preserving the quality of your product, all the way down to the molecular level.


7/17/2008 12:40 AM  
Blogger Cath said...

Murky's is definitely a place to get a good cup of coffee, but I wanted to relate an experience that happened about month ago when my husband and I came into your shop for the first time.

I'm a tea-drinker and I ordered a green tea and my husband ordered espresso. The barista prepared my tea and then started on my husband's drink. My tea was waiting on the other side of the ledge and I watched in despair as it steeped...and steeped...and steeped, for over five minutes. Even a Bush League tea drinker knows that green tea shouldn't be steeped for more than three minutes at the utmost (ideally, 1-2 minutes for the Japanese blend I ordered), or else it turns bitter, and destroys the taste profile.

After that, I was amused to see, in your WP interview that you justified your reasons for not serving Mr. Simmermon on the "certain acidic reaction that makes the drink sour." Won't you please instruct your baristas on this point, if you're going to offer the product for consumption? Especially given your dedication to preserving the quality of your product, all the way down to the molecular level.

7/17/2008 12:41 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

It's not up to you to decide how a person wants his or her drink..he knew what he wanted, and that's what he ordered. I found the cashier to be very rude..he does not have the right to "admonish" a customer for his own preference. I respect your desire to make good coffee, but as your pretentious establishment was the only coffeehouse that the person knew about, it is your JOB as a coffeehouse to provide what he wanted. Please, respect people's wishes, he is just one customer who wants his cold espresso..

7/17/2008 2:33 AM  
kamagra kamagra Douchebag said...

I still say we're ALL douche bags, especially kamagra posters.

7/17/2008 2:41 AM  
Blogger rutgers_girl said...

I for one, am happy to see people on both sides so passionately defending their coffee choices. It put a bright spot in my day and reminded me that there are more things in life than the same dull 9-5 routine I've fallen into.

Thanks for making me laugh and think twice about how I drink my coffee.

7/17/2008 8:56 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

The disrespect given to Mr. Flynn from Mr. Simmermon is typical of many Americans who have the attitude that they can get whatever they want whenever they want. It is NOT a right protected in the Constitution to get whatever you want from a retailer. I applaud Mr. Flynn and Mr. Cho for sticking to their policies. Too many retailers today let people like Mr. Simmermon walk all over them just to keep the peace. I do hope Mr. Simmermon orders decaf from now on, and that his employer back in New York has observed his obnoxious and completely inappropriate behavior and gives him a pink slip. He's publicly made a fool of himself.

7/17/2008 10:25 AM  
kamagra Monika, Arlington said...

Nick, I applaud your posting/reaction/defense. As a girl from NY, I'm ashamed that this jackass was even able to rationalize in his head that what he did was appropriate or that he had probable cause. Too often I see bad behavior at restaurants and it sickens me. When has it EVER been appropriate to treat people in such a disgustingly rude way? I've never been to Murky Coffee but I drive by occasionnally. One of these days I will stop in, grab an espresso (served per your rules lol) and hopefully get to shake your hand. Kudos for standing up for your employees and for letting this jerk know where you stand.

7/17/2008 10:32 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Both you and customer had your rights and reasons for what you did/said and both of you admitted that in part you acted like jerks. However, you lose because you've shown yourself to be a hypocrite. You were quoted by Post as saying, "Ultimately, it's just coffee." If you believe that, then what's with the insistence that coffee has to be prepared and served only in certain ways? If you don't believe that and you were just being sarcastic, then apparently you don't understand how sarcasm works b/c you couldn't read the sarcasm in Simmermon's kerosene remark. Sorry, dude, but you're kind of full of it.

7/17/2008 10:44 AM  
kamagra Ken Shepherd said...

Nicholas Cho and the Murky Coffee gang:

I support you guys and your policies. Look, if a customer doesn't like it, they can go elsewhere, and if too many of them do, I'm sure you'll see a drop in biz and you'll change policies.

But Lord knows small businesses have enough headaches as it is with taxes and regulation than to have one or two random a-hole customers cause a ruckus.

Small businessmen and women are my heroes. So next time I'm in Arlington and craving a coffee and/or pastry, I'll hit you guys up.

If only you could open a shop in Old Town Alexandria, where I work.

Grace and peace, guys,


7/17/2008 11:07 AM  
kamagra Not Going To Murky Again said...

Dear Mr Cho,

I expect the menu you serve to be your idea of the best way to serve coffee. However, my taste buds are not the same as yours. If I ask for a modification to your regular recipe, I will listen if you explain to me why you don't think that modification is a good idea, but ultimately I know what I like, and if I ask for the modification anyway then I expect you to carry it out.

If your business is not interested in providing me what I want in exchange for my money, then I will be more than happy to give my money to someone who will give me what I want. That's the nature of business, and it's why smart businesses don't dictate terms to their customers the way you have.

If, on the other hand, this is all a cover to stop people from making ghetto lattes, then grow a pair and say as much. If it's about the money, pony up and admit it's about the money. That, at least, would be respectable.

A (as of now) former customer

7/17/2008 11:34 AM  
kamagra Cough E said...

"No questions will be answered about the $5 Hot Chocolate (during the months we offer it)."
"These are our policies. We have our reasons, and we're happy to share them."

You're happy to share the reasons for your policies... but no questions about the hot chocolate. A little contradictory, don't you think?

7/17/2008 11:39 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Having been a business owner myself, most businesses strive to accommmodate/cater to the customer. "Customers come first, customers are always right." This is the norm, this is our motto.

But there are those rare occurrences when the customer is NOT right - like when a person goes overboard and tries to address an issue in an unpleasant/rude manner. And that's what happened here. Sure, the barista should have explained to Mr. Simmermon about the alternatives to an iced espresso right from the beginning (which was wrong). But it was Mr. Simmermon who acted in a grossly unreasonable manner, based on his account of what occurred (his attitude) and leaving that tip with those inciteful words inscribed in poor taste. That's when a customer who is "right", has turned terribly "wrong"....

7/17/2008 12:32 PM  
Blogger translucent_eye said...

Murky pours a good shot. I happen to be a Murky (and Common Grounds) customer and a friend of Jeff's. No matter how things went down, a business should be more professional.

And I have to say as a DC resident - I do question why this business didn't pay its taxes (yeah, the rest of us get the cover that now), no espresso over ice, but the Americano is okay?

Maybe now is time to take the high road, and preserve some of your customer base. The short term spike from the story might be great, but I think your post leaves a bad taste in the mouth's of longer term customers...acidic I might say.


7/17/2008 1:03 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Wait, so you *do* answer questions about your hot chocolate in the months you don't offer it? Do you offer it in July? If not, could you please tell me why you don't answer questions about it in other months?

7/17/2008 1:12 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Why not just charge an additional twenty-five or fifty cents for espresso to-go or on ice, to more than cover the cost of the few ounces of milk that would go into a ghetto latte?

7/17/2008 1:18 PM  
kamagra Steve Skojec said...


I've been a customer for a couple of years. The way you make coffee changed my coffee-drinking habits forever.

I've been proselytizing people. I've got a number of my co-workers patronizing your store. I've even used what I've learned about coffee from Murky to write an article for a magazine about religion. I almost started a shop of my own (and may yet, some day.)

I get what you're doing. Your obsession with making the "best damn coffee" sometimes comes at the expense of everything else. If people just want a cup of Joe, it's a hell of a lot easier to get it from Starbucks. You offer the market something unique, even if it's sold in a common setting.

The sense of entitlement customers have gets on my nerves. You make it pretty clear - "We offer something specific, something special, and it of necessity that experience can only happen by following certain rules - if you don't like it, that's fine, but there's a Starbucks on every corner, so we think you'll be OK."

A lot of people probably don't realize that even your roaster, Counter Culture Coffee, wants to ensure that any shops selling their beans meet certain quality standards. It's about a reputation for doing good work, and not letting it be spoiled through even the most unintentional ignorance.

Nobody goes into a body shop and asks the mechanic to do shoddy work on their car, or hires a construction company and tells them to build a house that isn't up to code. Even if they are willing to pay for it, those companies know that the work they do represents the integrity of their business.

On a smaller scale, it's the same thing with food. Americans don't look at food the way much of the world does; we're too busy stuffing our faces. Artisinal food takes time and care, and the resulting experience can be amazing. (If you don't believe me, try a triple-creme French Brie like Brillat Savarin, then show me where you can get something like that from an American producer.)

I appreciate your rules and say you're entitled to them. I go out of my way to come to your shop, to buy the beans you sell for my home espresso maker, and to tell my friends that if they want good espresso, Murky is the only game in town.

Your exchange with Jeff was over the top (I still laughed) and not particularly charitable (Still, there was the laughing) and not something I would have done (though I emailed it to a bunch of people so we could laugh some more). I think that what you wrote here as a matter of clarification shows you're a man of integrity, and I appreciate what you do.

You'll keep my business, and the business of all those I continue to recommend you to. If a bunch of other people leave, at least maybe I won't have to wait so long in line.

7/17/2008 1:21 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

you never addressed the fact that the quadruple iced americano you happily serve and the espresso over ice the man wanted are EXACTLY THE SAME FUCKING DRINK. I had this stupid coffee art when I lived in tastes the same. Perhaps you should work on your logic skillz before you deny a man the same type of drink you serve, just b/c it goes by another name. May you swiftly die from fan death.

7/17/2008 1:40 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

OY! what a buncha babies...I'm just sayin'

7/17/2008 1:51 PM  
Blogger johnrich said...

I have been a Barista for many years. I have always worked at independent shops and understand the puriest idea of coffee. Espresso over ice is bad coffee, and bad form. You were right in now serving this guy. I know all too well about ghetto lattes (Shots over iced, then they full the rest with milk). If people want bad coffee or bad espresso, go to a corporate coffee shop.

Good for you guys in not serving this asshat.


JR (Xtremebean Coffee Shop)

7/17/2008 2:00 PM  
Blogger Bud said...

Pan_Irish says:

that customer that I just read about on the washington post is in dire need of psychiatric services.

He shouldn't ever try to treat his mental disorder with the caffeine molecule, it won't help.

7/17/2008 2:11 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Who do you think is right? Many people are debating it here:

7/17/2008 2:12 PM  
OpenID katelynjane said...

I can appreciate good customer service and craftmanship in ones work, it's an effort that needs to be tought in school as a life-skill.

I love the thought that you guys offer top knotch items and service and dont' stand for anything less. I think it makes your company an step above all the others! If people want a cheap drink, they should go elsewhere. If they want novelty and a true and elite experience, they should go to you guys.

Good work boys!

7/17/2008 3:09 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...


-this guy nick is either a genius (and this is a fantastic buzz marketing campaign launched to drum up business after the demise of the capitol hill store)
-he is the pompous owner of a coffee store that doesn't know much about customer service.

7/17/2008 3:28 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I don't particularly care for coffee but because of this debate, I'll gladly come spend my money at your shop.

I respect your policy and I think it's ridiculous this has been blown out of proportion.

Plus any dollar I can spend to stick it to the evil Starbucks bullshit is a dollar well spent.

7/17/2008 3:36 PM  
Blogger Joel said...

As someone who lives in the DC area (Alexandria), if I'm ever in the neighborhood I will NOT be stopping in Murky. As someone who HATES hot weather and loves cold coffee, I enjoy iced coffee. Perhaps many people do not, that's fine, but understand that my taste buds are different from yours. There are MANY other people like me. To completely refuse to serve me iced espresso if I ask for it is idiotic to the Nth degree. By all means, give me a warning that your belief is that iced espresso shocks the coffee, and you do not recommend it...but you're a coffee shop. You sell espresso. You have ice. If I want iced espresso, put ice in it.

Yeah - You'll never get a penny of my money. Also - I hope you have goodluck with your civil suits in settling with your former landlords in DC over the rent you failed to pay or the $427,000 of DC taxes you owed, dating back 2+ years.

Good riddance.

7/17/2008 4:03 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

If that's your policy, it's a stupid one and you don't know how to run a business.

Next time I want my espresso however I want it, I'll take my business to Starbucks where they would allow that.

You really care about giving the customer the best product that they can get? Why not offer the man a cup of ice with 2 shots in it, and simply recommend that he try the 3rd one to prove how proud you are of your coffee. He had every right to be angry.

Fuck you, and fuck your family. I hope you go out of business.

7/17/2008 4:11 PM  
kamagra NuclearPeon said...

Dear Nick, Owner of Murky Coffee,

Reading the details on this whole fiasco was pleasantly surprising to me. I've worked as a barista for a year and a half, so I completely understand where you come from. I also understand what it is like dealing with customers such as Mr. S.
What intregues me most about your response, laughable comeback aside, is how calm and sincere you remained. Such integrity is admirable. What gets me even more, is that you understand that "the customer is always right" method of thinking is indeed bull. As a customer, I am uneducated about most things I interact with, which is unfortunate, but working in retail has provided a most useful perspective and I am generally more sympathetic and patient with those who work in retail. All this aside, there are a few points I want you know:

- Working as a barista was most enjoyable for me, and there is much pride in such a job.
- That said, I dislike coffee.
- That said, I invented some amazing drinks.
- Ice is not cheap. The cost of energy required in order to freeze water isn't chump change.
- It's insulting to modify a drink that is made with such passion
- In some coffee shops here, milk / cream and sugar are added when the coffee is made which helps prevent theft or overuse. It's not a method I support though.

I for one would like to trust my customers. But then you meet certain characters that shatter those expectations. It's not just common courtesy that's missing in today's society, it's maturity, respect, and passion for life.

Nick, may your punches be swift and accurate.

7/17/2008 4:12 PM  
kamagra Onnie said...

Serving coffee the way your shop wants to? Perfectly acceptable. Telling a customer that he or she doesn't have a right to be angry and/or irritated with your service? Pure BS.

It's fine to have standards, but don't tell other people what to do or how to feel. That's their choice.

I love good coffee but good service is much harder to find, and frankly your attitude towards your customers could stand improvement. Wouldn't it be nice to go to a coffee shop where customers were treated with as much respect as a bag of beans?

7/17/2008 4:46 PM  
kamagra Melissa said...

Nick - Hello from Pittsburgh!
I am constantly astounded by the feeling some people have of a god-given right to get whatever they want, whenever they want it, no matter what. SO MANY people on andiamnotlying completely overlook the fact that you have a right to SELL whatever product you want to SELL. All they can see is the customer has the "right" to buy whatever he wants to buy. I mean, can he walk into a Chevrolet dealer and demand to buy a Ford? Of course not, and Mr. andiamnotlying and his supporters would never think of doing such a thing. Yet, he feels completely justified in demanding that an employee ignore a written store policy (that's in plain view, no less).
What about the position his demands put the employee in? Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and it is wrong for a customer (once informed of the policy) to put an employee, who is giving their best effort to comply with company policy while providng great customer service, in the position of having to choose between employer policy and customer non-policy-conforming demand.
Anyway, we always dissect customer issues to see what we can learn from them, how we can avoid such situations in the future, and how we can improve. (I think that your improvement, obviously, is to erect a large blinking neon sign on all 4sides of your building enumerating your policies, so there's no chance anyone could miss them.)
No, seriously, Nick, stay true to yourself and your vision, and keep serving the best damn coffee DC has ever and will ever know.
Take care, Nick.
Best regards,
Blue Horse Coffee
PS - Since the guy admitted that he was a "total dick," I guess you could punch him anywhere on his person and hit the target. I'm just sayin'.

7/17/2008 6:47 PM  
Blogger Mellow Yellow said...

As someone who founded a coffeehouse from scratch (I built my own counters and cabinets, even,) I say the proprietor of Murky Coffee has a seriously flanged stick up his ass and will eventually run himself out of business. There just aren't enough customers in the world for a business person to allow his staff to be condescending to any of them. Customers too often make asses of themselves, but the onus is on the service provider to keep his cool. It may not be fair, but is just how it is.

Getting religious about coffee, especially espresso, is fun. Proselytization is not cool, though. I know Mr. Cho, the proprietor, has gotten kudos from some people because he stood up for his staffer. Those people have forgotten one important thing. The barista's first job is to be polite and respectful to the customer. Very often the people expressing support are other service industry people who wish they had a boss that didn't consistently force them to do the first part of their job -- be polite and respectful to every customer. If you have a surly attitude or a tendency to pretentiousness, the service industry is not for you. I don't care if you can pull a perfect ristretto or can make a cappuccino that looks like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. None of that matters if you cannot force yourself to be polite and respectful to every customer every time.

I had an employee who was generally excellent. However, he got too hung up on the cleaning and would be surly to customers who came in near closing time. I found out about it, explained to him that I could not countenance him treating customers in a less than cheery manner no matter the circumstances and gave him one more chance. It didn't work out and I had to fire him the next week.

So, Mr. Cho, as a fellow Korean American and a past owner of a coffeehouse that made truly excellent coffee (I really have a hard time believing you're that serious about coffee when you don't do your own roasting; I mean how can you insure your espresso beans are used between 72 and 144 hours after roasting?) I offer some unsolicited advice. Swallow your pride, publicly apologize to the offending customer, hold a meeting with all of your staff explaining that customer service matters above all and fire both staffers that were on duty when this incident occurred. Call the reporters you talked to and explain why. You might be thinking that the reaction to all this has been roughly equal in terms of the positive and negative. That would be wrong. The people who represent the superior business opportunity are not on your side here and are mostly quiet. You'll likely see a spike in traffic from people just wanting to see if all this pretentiousness is justified. Once they stick their mounds of sugar and half-and-half in the drinks, do you think they'll be able to tell the difference between Murky Coffee and Starbucks? Yeah, most of them are going to think it's the same overpriced muck that Starbucks serves, but with more attitude and childishness (especially with those signs and policies.) They'll go to Starbucks where they know they will always be treated nicely. You will have lost some of your regular customers because of your boorish behavior and are going to have a harder time attracting new ones. Oh, but you'll be a hero to the demographic from which you draw your staff. Maybe I'm just a cold-hearted MBA, but I don't think that demographic's disposable income will sustain your business.

7/17/2008 7:00 PM  
Blogger bobcat said...

Online man-drama YAY!

When is Street Fighter coming out for XLBA damnit?

7/17/2008 7:52 PM  
Blogger vermicious knid said...


jeff is friend of mine. not an honest to goodness, in the flesh, i ate his delightfully delicious turducken at christmas. i was super ready to be 100% on his side--in a militant anti-murky sense. something changed my mind. i love that you stand behind your employee, david. nick, you're okay in my book--and afterall all of this internet fallout, i'd be happy to visit your coffee shop.

i feel that after all this hubub, ultimately, you and jeff have both helped each other--exposure wise. i also suggest that you come up with an iced espresso variant that you can get behind, and name it the simmermon.

jeff's friend--and future customer,
david salonen

7/17/2008 8:28 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

No, I wouldn't go into a French restaurant and order French toast--because it's not on the menu.
Likewise, I wouldn't go into a Chevy dealership looking for a Ford.
However, this shop HAS espresso on the menu and also has ice. The customer paid full price for the espresso. I don't think it unreasonable to ask the barista to take 5 extra seconds to combine the two to give the customer the product he enjoys and is already paying handsomely for.

I worked for years in the service industry--clothing stores, deli counters, as a waitress through college--and have seen my share of jerk customers. That's why I tip well for good service; I know the business is hard. But by the same token, that's why I have absolutely no tolerance for crappy service anywhere--I always worked my hardest to provide good service--I expect the same from every other service person I encounter. The barista should have kept his mouth shut, thrown a couple of ice cubes in his cup and given the customer what he wanted with a smile.

And BTW, the customer's reaction was absolutely justified from the minute the barista admonished him about diluting the espresso being really "not cool." The guy paid for a cup of coffee, not a dose of sanctimony. His response was right on the money, extremely well worded and hardly the over-the-top filth-fest that those on Murky's side are trying to make it out to be.

Finally, to Nick: "No questions will be answered about the $5 Hot Chocolate." Oh really? Get over yourself, prig.

7/17/2008 9:15 PM  
Blogger littlemissme said...

Well, as a DC-ite and coffee lover, I have to say--I'll be visiting Murky Coffee soon. Why couldn't my Starbucks barista, who talks my ear off, tell me that my quad espresso over ice is bitter for a reason? I complain about the lack of good coffee here, and cherish visits to my boyfriend in California, where every other street corner has a coffee shop that is not Starbucks.

As for the way people should treat each other -- I've worked retail my entire life, and customers just do not seem to understand that just because I am on this side of the counter does NOT mean I don't have feelings. I beg your blog readers to have a JBN policy. (Just Be Nice.)

Looking forward to my Iced Americano.

7/17/2008 9:58 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Why do you want to tell a customer how to drink their coffee? I understand its your policy, but if the customer wants bad coffee, why not let them take it that way?

7/17/2008 10:12 PM  
OpenID prodigal said...


There's no disputing the fact that Jeff overreacted. That being said, however, it's also clear that if he hadn't gotten the lecture from David when he went to pick up his order, he'd have been at worst a quietly irritated customer, rather than losing his shit and blogging about it afterward.

7/18/2008 12:32 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Nice advertising for your store with this.

Fact is I'm hardly a "customer is always right" type of thinker, however, no matter that you feel your product is art because you have a couple snotty hipster baristas that can talk all day about Colombian Vs Ethiopian beans and use a straw to draw pretty hearts does not mean the customer was wrong.

Coffee shops, including your, put all kinds of crap in coffee that masks the natural flavors, a little bit of ice won't do much more harm than adding a bunch of cream, mint, sugar and God knows what else.

Get over yourself and maybe realize that as artful as your coffee may be, it'll be flushed down a toilet a couple hours later.

7/18/2008 3:46 AM  
Blogger Fabuloso said...

Sorry, Mr. Cho. Only taxpayers are allowed to punch people in the genitals.

You say you're standing behind your barista in this matter. But when your employees loose their jobs because you didn't pay your rent or your taxes, are you really doing right by them?

For someone who describes himself as a people person (as you did in the March article in the Post about your tax evasion and nonpayment of rent issues), you show reckless disregard for the economic interests of your employees through your mismanagement and very likely criminal mishandling of tax receipts.

I'm all for letting small businesses thrive, but the market needs to shake out those who threaten customers and those who collect sales tax and then pocket the taxpayers' money.

7/18/2008 4:31 AM  
kamagra Chip said...

The tempest in a coffeepot this has turned into leads me to wonder -- like "kamagra" above -- if this was a fiendishly clever plot to get the Murky brand name some recognition.

I never heard of the place before. But now that I know the name. And I know that the Murky crowd is obsessed with coffee.

So next time I'm out that way, I plan to give the place a try. Anybody that obsessed must have some good product.

If it was a viral campaign, it worked.

7/18/2008 6:47 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I'd call my mum and tell her I loved her but she died when I was a teenager. Surprisingly enough this does not endear you to me, as perhaps you had hoped. Taking pride in your craft is one thing, getting superior about ice and beans is just rude. You were both rude. The customer probably would have been less rude if you hadn't acted like an angry teacher and embarassed him over a preference for something you find distasteful.
Great business policy you have there.
Thanks for reminding me of that which I do not have.
That was a South Park reference. I bet you wouldn't debase yourself by watching it.

7/18/2008 7:43 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

What a 'Tempest in a Coffeepot"!

7/18/2008 7:53 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I've been a customer of your for many years now but after reading about this- and the fact that you don't pay your taxes....


It's not like you're any less expensive than anyone else. It's not like you have better service than anywhere else. It's not like you have better coffee than anywhere else. And if I choose, I can't even get the drink the way I like to drink it? What makes you think you deserve to stay in business?

For me, it's time to move on and get my coffee somewhere else as I have serious doubts that with the way you conduct business- you'll be around for much longer anyhow.

Another EX-customer

7/18/2008 9:00 AM  
kamagra BarkingDogShoes said...

I read the story this morning in the Chicago Tribune while enjoying a homemade cup of coffee (I will put the remainder over ice this afternoon). Never refuse a paying customer his/her morning coffee no matter how he wishes it prepared. There's always a Starbucks around the corner.

7/18/2008 9:18 AM  
Blogger Teena in Toronto said...

And it made today's Toronto Star on page 4:

7/18/2008 10:05 AM  
Blogger Chompers said...

Shouldn't you be training your baristas to offer alternatives to customers who request items that you don't serve? I respect your commitment to high quality, but if you refuse to educate the customer as to why this commitment should matter to them you shouldn't be surprised when customers get ornery.

7/18/2008 10:22 AM  
OpenID sanity-escape said...

Your response to mr. is professional and intelligent and I appreciate that.

My first boss many years ago told me that the customer is NOT always right and clearly in this case, the customer wasn't right.

He is, unfortunately, a typical modern American.

If I am ever in the DC area again I will be sure to stop in your store.

7/18/2008 10:24 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

your coffee is kind of gross. it usually tastes like the beans were burned.

7/18/2008 10:35 AM  
kamagra kestrelmas said...


I bounced in here from, and incidently, I'm visiting the D.C. area next week... I think I'll have to visit your place. :) My area's inundated with Starbucks, and I can't wait to visit.

Looking forward to it!
Rochester girl

7/18/2008 10:40 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Thanks for a thoughtful and rational response to a very bizarre situation. I wish more people agreed with you about the ways in which we should treat each other. Despite what popular culture seems to tell us, it is not ok to vent your anger on people whenever you don't immediately get what you want.

7/18/2008 10:51 AM  
kamagra Avolition said...

Despite the BS, I'd still try out your coffee. The policy might be ridiculous, but you know what? I enjoy coffee. I'd go back for quality coffee any day. Maybe I'm weird when it comes to consuming.

I do commend you for sticking with the policy. This might be a douchey thing to say, but I feel the consumer is intensely spoiled, so if this keeps people in their place, kudos.

7/18/2008 10:54 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Well said Nick. Hats off for sticking to your vision for the coffee shop and more importantly, sticking up for the folks in customer service who take daily abuse from morons who think it is their right to abuse others simply because they are giving money.

BTW, try ordering a triple espresso on ice in Napoli and see what happens! :)

Peace all.

7/18/2008 11:01 AM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I just have to weigh in on a single thing: "The customer in question, when told that it's our policy NOT to offer "espresso over ice," got angry right away."

Now, that is true. But what you have failed to mention is that your "Barista" did not treat the customer any better from the get go. He was snide, snotty, and apparently had a "greater-than-thou" attitude. And I'm sorry, but being immediately snide is no better than being an "ass" in my opinion.

Do not make a post completely defending the actions of your Baristas and attacking the actions of the customer when both were being equally rude.

Here is a poem your Baristas should probably take to heart (and you yourself, Mr. "I Am All For Brutal Honesty" Owner):

Tell the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight,
The truth's supreme surprise,
As lightning to the children eased,
With explanation kind.
The truth must dazzle gradually,
Else every man be blind.

In this case- blind with rage.

There are plenty of intelligent posts out there commenting how when faced with needless and inappropriate snooty-ness it is common to react aggressively. So how about instead of just telling this one customer to "sod off" you also tell your employees to not be needless douchebags?

7/18/2008 11:08 AM  
Blogger Isle of Palms CPA said...

Your attitude is horrible. I do not know how you stay in business.

7/18/2008 12:16 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

While I completely agree that the customer is not always right, and that you are entitled to your rules, the barista lost the right to say anything once he accepted the customer's money. THAT is where he screwed up. He should have refused service and shown him the door.

7/18/2008 12:48 PM  
kamagra Dan said...


I think you make some really good points. Getting pissed over a company policy is stupid. If he didn't like it he should have just left. He did have every right to do what he did with his purchase and your barista should have just shut the fuck up. The fact is David made the situation worse. You make the point that coffee is not something to get angry about. This can be applied to your barrista as well. The dick punching and arson comments are both completely stupid. You both should really calm down.

7/18/2008 3:10 PM  
Blogger The Family Net said...

Word to Jeff's Friend David!

Thank you so much for standing by your employees, your integrity and your values. I appreciate your hard work and dedication.

I am seriously debating driving to Arlington (which I haven't visited in years) from St. Louis just to give you a hug.

Breeah - Caffeine freand and wife of a pretentious-as-a-bugger coffee drinker.

7/18/2008 3:25 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Wow, Dick, I mean Nick, you've just completely proven his point. Good job. You know what? Nobody gives a flying rat's patooty about YOUR opinion on YOUR coffee, you pretentious fuck.

7/18/2008 3:49 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

Dear Mr. Cho:

Go fuck yourself. You're what's wrong with this country.

7/18/2008 3:56 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I don't get it. Personally I think Dunkin Donuts coffee is the best. And they serve the coffee in a manner that pleased their customers.

7/18/2008 7:32 PM  
Blogger Beth Budwig said...

The very first commenter on this wrote "On the other hand, I firmly believe that there is almost no circumstance under which 'admonishing' a customer is acceptable, unless it's an incredible situation. I think most people would not accept being talked down to by their server- yes, I'm using that word here because in the end, they're being paid to suck up their pride (just like I had to and I'm sure many others have had to)."

This is the kind of guy I went on first and never second dates with when I was single. Treating "servers" with empathy and respect is a basic sign of Not Being An Asshole. I don't really care about the rudeness of your own blog responses... the original customer just needs to get on over to Starbucks or act like a grown-up instead of passive-aggressively blogging & rude-tipping.

I hope you get some good new customers out of this, and ditch some bad ones!

7/18/2008 8:40 PM  
kamagra kamagra said...

I have a metaquestion: do you really answer *no* questions about the $5 hot chocolate, or would, say, allergy-related information be available? I am curious because I have to be able to find out if certain ingredients are in drinks before I order them, or I may have a pretty bad reaction--it's not something I enjoy discovering the hard way.

7/18/2008 9:50 PM  
kamagra Alex in CA said...

Mr. Cho:

What your employee did was correct; he reminded the customer that you did not serve espresso over ice.

I fail to understand why the customer in his utter arrogance simply did not ask either to speak POLITELY to the manager or how to find a nearby Starbucks. Actually, McD's sounds more the guy's style.

7/18/2008 10:02 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

"We're people, and we're going to do our best to treat you as we would a friend or guest."

A friend or guest? Yeah, right. If my friend and host refused to serve me a combination of two things that he'd offered me separately, because he personally didn't like that combination, he'd quickly cease being host and friend.

If your definition of how you treat a guest involves not only arrogant mockery of his taste, but violation of the most basic principles of hospitality, then you're insufferably rude by anybody's standards, and have no right to sympathy when your justifiably offended guest is rude right back to you.

7/19/2008 12:17 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

"BTW, try ordering a triple espresso on ice in Napoli and see what happens! :)"

Here's what'll happen: your waiter will serve you, take your money, and say thank you. Then he or she will walk away and call you a barbarian animal... *when you can't hear*. That's how it works.

7/19/2008 12:22 PM  
Blogger target9905 said...

Nick, you're a smug little bitch aren't ya? You write like a child and look the part too - I've seen your face in the Toronto Star.

You're what's wrong with this country....and the world for that matter. I'd kick your juvenile ass at Street Fighter as well you fucker.

With all this publicity, you DO realize your store has alienated every potential customer right?? You're business will fail in 6 months tops. Good stuff threatening to punch a guy in the dick. That must be your specialty you gay cock sucker.

It's time for you find 'yet' another job....something your kind are not good at holding for any more than 6 months...

...trouble just follows you around every corner doesn't it??

Happy Brewing =]


7/19/2008 3:53 PM  
Blogger Jose said...

I'm very late to this bar fight, and I'd just like to second those who are kerfummoxed at why there's a rule against putting espresso on ice.

Is it in Leviticus somewhere?

7/19/2008 5:47 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

For all the talk about the evils of ices espresso, here is the comments directly from the people who supply Murky their beans.

"The customer is always right" isn't meant to be about entitlement, but to be about good business practices. Be grateful that people want to give you their money, and be nice about taking it. That's just good business.

That said, this situation never should've happened and the fault for that lies on your end. HOWEVER, my sympathies for the customer end with the delivery of the "tip."

All in all, both sides behaved badly and neither he or you should be pointing fingers at the other.

7/19/2008 5:57 PM  
Blogger Jacob said...

Your store is totally in the wrong here and you should be ashamed.

7/19/2008 7:50 PM  
OpenID american-midol said...

15,000 hits up from 250? How lucky for you that your employees are such assholes. Enjoy your 15 minutes.

7/20/2008 12:46 AM  
Blogger Andi said...

Nick, I love you and I for one stand by your original open letter to your pal Jeffrey.

7/20/2008 1:13 AM  

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