Two opposite approaches to customer service

When I lived in east Phoenix, I used to get my haircut all the time (well, maybe  times/year) at a little place on 48th St and Van Buren. To my surprise, I found it still open. Since I had longer hair than I would like, and some cash in my pocket, I got a haircut. Not the best haircut I’ve ever had, but a close second. And the cost was $8.50.

“We were going to raise our rates,” Ross, the barber, told me, “But we figured, with the recession and all, we’d just keep them where they’re at for a while longer.”

Hair For All Seasons is open daily at 316 N 48th Street. 480-414-7866

(There is a Russian barber in central Phoenix who gives a slighter better cut – IMO – but he wants $20).

Since January 2011, the Thursday Night Writer’s Group has been meeting at Urban Beans. We do the same thing every Thursday – like network TV in the 70’s. (That reference never gets old for me.) It’s a read-aloud group, for various reasons, meaning whatever you want feedback on,you read aloud to the group. Most of the time, even in a public coffee shop, this is not a problem.

Last month, UB started a wine and beer tasting event on Thursday nights, and we contemplated moving. But as we contemplated, we noticed that the place still clears out by around 7:45, so we just moved our meeting time.

Last night, they added live music. (Unnounced, as far as we could tell. Certainly not on their website calendar). It was just a guy with an accoustic guitar plyng in the corner. So we plowed forward. It was still softer and less annoying than the expresso machine.

Halfway through our meeting, the owner comes to our table and asks if we could not read our stuff while the musician was playing.

“This is what we do.” I explained. “This is what we always do, every Thursday night.”

Yes, well, but the owner explained that she was trying to transition towards more of a wine bar.

So in front of her, I counted the patrons at our table (8) and the patrons elsewhere in the shop (5). I also noted that we all bought something.

“Sure.” She said, “Butare you going to be here next week?”

“We have done this every Thursday night for the better part of a year.”

That seemed to run her out of logic. Nonetheless, there seemed no compromise possible. She didn’t want us doing what she did while the music was going.

I can say with some confidence that 4 of the other patrons would have been there anyway. There was only one patron actually listening and responding to the guitarist. (He wasn’t bad -but he wasn’t why we were there.)

But the owner had been clapping enthusiastically on the far end of the shop at the end of every song. A clue perhaps.

OK – she owns the place. If she wants to turn it into her private wine bar, she can. We’ve brought in 6-12 and sometimes more paying customers every week, and would’ve continued to do so had we not been asked to stop. But we were effectively driven out.

That said, we have learned from Coffee Unlimited and Dolce Expresso that good coffee alone won’t pay the bills. We were very welcome in both places, but both places have shut down. So maybe this a desperate attempt to change directions before that happens. Maybe.

I suspect, though, based on what I saw,that she’d simply rather have a wine bar than a coffee shop. And we were in the way of that dream.

If you are driving away paying customers with no ready replacement for that revenue, then what you have is a hobby. That might soon suck for her employees, who have been nothing but cool to us throughout our time there.

We now meet at the Armadillo Grill, a sports bar of all things, but they have a well-lit and quiet back room, and they seemed happy to have us, so long as most of us bought something. Which most of us always do.

That barber’s been in business for 30 years, even without a mission statement on his website (he doesn’t have one I could find), and he’ll stay in business until he retires. I could not confidently predict that about Urban Beans. Not that it matters – because I won’t be back.

Now you know.

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