September 23rd, 2009

A Little Change Can Do You Great

As I’m writing this I am feeling more than a little annoyed by the fact that a service provider, one that I’ve been a customer of for more than 12 years, has failed me on several accounts today: bad customer service, amount of red tape I had to go through to get my problem heard and their general lack of flexibility.

When I was working in my previous job at a company situated in a glitzy part of town, I had my own secret coffee haunt. The unassuming shop was tucked away in a little side street quite a distance from the main road. You really have to know your way to get there. But it was so worth the walk.

The coffee came in a large cup and it was dirt cheap. And good. Very good. To this day, no other cup of coffee has come close to being as good as the one I got from that shop. To top it all off, the service was excellent. Within a few weeks of frequenting the joint, the lady taking my order knew exactly what I wanted. She would also personally hand the freshly-made coffee to her customers herself (as opposed to leaving it on the counter).

In my previous post I talked about how the coffee shop I currently patronize — part of a larger, efficiently-run establishment — has finally acknowledged me as a worthy customer but only after 6 long years. I can’t complain about the coffee served at this place. Though the price could be better the shop is oh-so-conveniently located, so there’s no strong reason for me to find an alternative. The person who regularly serves me is friendly, but she just did not think about going the extra mile until recently.

These two coffee shops illustrate the differences between a small business fueled by passion and sometimes necessity and the less-personal, protocol-orientated nature of larger corporations.

I am not a very demanding customer. All factors considered — convenience, price, product quality, service quality– I’m happy to settle for just 2 out of 4, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got The Nod yesterday.

It takes just a little extra to go from good to great. But unfortunately this simple concept is usually lost in between promises of “customers first” and the compulsive act of ”watching the bottomline”.

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September 22nd, 2009

The Coffee Nod

Today, the lady where I usually get my coffee from gave me The Nod. Sure it took 6 years, but we have finally reached a level of understanding where I don’t need to say anything to communicate my order and she’ll get my coffee ready just the way I like it. She even told the other two ladies working there how I like my coffee. I am reveling in the power of being a respected customer.

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July 16th, 2008

Happiness Is A Warm Bun

When I got to the bakery today, I found a batch of freshly-baked (and still warm) coffee buns. Perfect timing!

Not so happy, warm bun

The buns were not too happy about being eaten though! :P

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June 30th, 2008

Wisdom Tooth, Warm Coffee and World Domination

Wisdom Tooth

Wisdom teeth are so named because they appear in the late teen years or early twenties, when one becomes an adult, hence wiser. I had my wisdom tooth extracted last week.

My first wisdom tooth surfaced when I was 27. I have a two theories on why it came out so late:

  1. The lack of calcium in my diet has impeded its growth.
  2. I wasn’t wise enough in my late teens nor early twenties to rightly acquire Teeth of Wisdom.:p

Does wisdom come with age?

My nephew announced that he wasn’t keen on finding a girlfriend because that would mean he’d have to get a job “to keep her happy”. He doesn’t want to start working now because he needs to play while he’s still young and “that’s why you have these big ambitions for later. Wise words, from a boy barely 6.

Me? Despite the dentist’s advice, I kept rinsing my mouth regularly the first few hours after extraction, causing the protective blood clot that formed at the former site of my Tooth of Wisdom to be partially unplugged.
Not very wise. :\


Warm Coffee

I had my first cup of coffee today after days of having only water and yoghurt. I had to drink it lukewarm so as to not aggravate the newly-formed plug in my mouth. Though I had to be content with tepid beverage, the service was sunny.

While waiting for my coffee to cool, I observed the catering staff busying themselves in tasks with clockwork efficiency. Everyone had a part to play. The cheerful old lady has been serving me coffee for the past 5 years. It wouldn’t be wise to assume that she is without lofty ambitions. Probably one of her goals is to provide excellence in customer service.

If that is the case, she has succeeded.

Do all ambitions need to be of grand scale?


World Domination

I believe there is room in the world for all kinds of ambitions, all types of people. Our world needs all types of people to keep it running smoothly — the ones to do the job and the ones to lead, and the ones who’ll rise above and beyond the rest in terms of influence and reach because they can and because what they do may have the potential to make the world just a little (or a lot) better.

Which type are you? Which would you rather be?

Dashed Line

If you’re interested in being the latter, Chris Guillebeau of the Art of Non-conformity has recently launched A Brief Guide World Domination.

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June 11th, 2008

Reboiling Points
Boiling Water Multiple Times Not As Harmful to Health As Thought

There was an elderly tea lady (let’s call her Mrs D) at the place I used to work. She wasn’t a tea lady in the traditional sense who’d wheel her trolley of goodies at teatime — she prepared refreshments for our weekly meetings — but she loved observing me while I brew a cuppa in the office pantry, which made me slightly nervous at times.

I was about to make myself a cup of instant coffee one day when I found the electric kettle filled with enough water to make a warm cup of coffee. Because of the ridiculous subarctic temperature of the office, I preferred my coffee tongue-scalding hot so I did what I thought was the obvious thing to do — I turned the kettle back on.

Shocked Tea lady Already anxious by her mere presence, I was startled silly when Mrs D boomed, “What on earth are you doing?! Why are you boiling the water again? You’re not supposed to do that!”

I told her about my coffee temperature preference but she continued disapprovingly, “but you’re not supposed to reheat water that’s already been boiled!!!” When I tried asking her the reason why she kept saying that I wasn’t supposed to. I asked another colleague who happened to be there and she said the same thing, “you’re not supposed to boil water multiple times because it’s not good for you!!!”

Outnumbered with no desire to argue, I left the scene with a less-than-hot cup of coffee.

Being the naturally curious person that I am, I decided to ask the rest of my colleagues about this. The consensus was nearly unanimous(a few had never heard of it) — you shouldn’t boil water more than once — the reasons were similar – reboiled water is not good. Why exactly? They didn’t have an answer.

I wasn’t convinced and brushed it all aside as old wives’ tales. However, despite my numerous make-coffee-while-no-one-is-around attempts later, I kept forgetting to research the reasons and origins for this theory.

Coffee Beans

5 years later

I was at a coffee house while waiting for my camera to be serviced the other day when out of boredom, I decided to read all their coffee and tea leaflets. There was a section devoted to the importance of using fresh water for brewing coffee and tea. I didn’t think much about it until much later when I was making meyself a cup of coffee at home.

Remembering the Water Mystery from half a decade ago, I consulted my friend Google: Reboiled water causes cancer? – not true unless your water is already toxic to begin with. Reboiling causes water to harden? – not true either. Then I found this:

10 Tips for A Better Cup of TeaTea Leaf

The more oxygen that is dissolved in water, the better it tastes. So, to make sure you use water with the maximum amount of oxygen, don’t re-boil any leftover water in your kettle. Water that is boiled too much becomes poorly aerated because oxygen atoms escape in the form of steam. By always filling your kettle up afresh, you are ensured fully aerated and tasty water.”

Ten Tips for a Betta Cuppa-Fresh Water, Best water MSN Encarta

Mystery solved.

Edit: Thanks to the comment by Mihai, I suddenly remembered learning about water aeration in school. Here’s a bit more on that:

Aerated water is, correctly speaking, distilled water to which purified air is added to improve its flavor. Wikipedia”

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May 7th, 2008

Healthy Ambitions
Small Steps to A Healthier Me

A friend of mine, Will, told me he has quit smoking cold turkey for a few months now. Though I was happy he did that, I was also shocked with this sudden change. Cigarette Smoking Is Not Recommended By Doctors Worldwide He then revealed that three months ago, he was diagnosed with a thyroid problem, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and gout. He needs to be on regular medication from now on and he’s not even 30!

Weirdly, he told me that when he asked his doctor what measures he should take to reduce his cholesterol levels, he was told to consider smoking! A doctor telling his patient to smoke? Sounds like someone needs a new doctor fast!

I am not taking my health for granted. I am not gonna wait for my teeth to fall out or hip bones to crumble before doing something about it so I’m making small changes to my diet and lifestyle in a bid to improve my health. [Read more....]

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