Published on: August 23, 2012
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One more story from my trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer...
As I've mentioned here before, one of the many pleasures that I discovered in Portland, Oregon, was a place called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. It is a wonderful local coffee shop where on weekends you can wait for 15-20 minutes to make your way to the counter, but where the coffee is terrific, the ambience is authentic downtown Portland, and the people-watching can be rewarding.
I enjoyed going there and ordering both a black coffee and a large nonfat latte - I generally had a lot of reading to do, emails to peruse and some papers to grade, and this combination of drinks pretty much got me through.
But something happened one morning that I thought I would share with you.
I ordered the large nonfat latte, grabbed a seat at counter, pulled out my iPad and started going through email. I kept one eye on the barista and noticed when he seemed to start making what was going to be my latte. A couple of emails later, I realized that I had gotten my drink so I took another look ... and he seemed to be starting the process all over again. I didn't think too much of it, and went back to my emails .... but noticed this time when he got almost done, took a look, dumped it out and started over yet again, this time calling over someone to help him.
The third time was the charm, and when he handed me the latte, I couldn't help myself. So I asked him: "I'm just curious. What was wrong with the first two?"
The fellow who helped him, who I later learned was named Bo, came over and explained that the barista was in fact just several weeks into training and wasn't certified yet. However, Bo also said that, in fact, a large nonfat latte was one of the hardest drinks to make - skim milk doesn't hold together the way whole milk or even one percent or two percent milk does, and so if they get to the end and they're ready to put a design into the foam and it isn't holding together right, they dump it and start over.
Now, I was fascinated by this. I've been drinking large nonfat lattes for more than a decade now, and nobody ever told me before that it was a hard drink to make. And then I asked him: If I'd been getting this to go, and you were putting a top on the cup, would you have gone to all this trouble to make sure the squiggle was right?
Bo grinned. "It's not worth doing if we can't do it right," he said.
I have to tell you. That was exactly the right answer. And it is just that kind of dedication to excellence that every retailer should be seeking in its employees.
Because the thing is, sometimes we can see the stuff that matters, and sometimes we can't. But it all matters. Even the little stuff.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: