Hot Chocolate and a Muffin

Tonight sees the start of a new tv series where Mary Portas tries to help get the public get better customer service, and show up how crap some businesses are in this area. Which is ironic, given what happened to me this lunchtime.
For a while now, I’ve been working in Bradley Stoke. If you’re looking to take a lunch break around the 30minute mark, there’s not many places you can get to (and back from, obviously) in that sort of time. At the suggestion of my girlfriend, I have taken to going to the library with a book, as this is both free, and seems quite constructive. However, Bradley Stoke library is closed on Wednesdays, so today I thought I’d just go somewhere for a hot chocolate and a muffin. How hard can it be?

Well, there’s only really a couple of places you can go for this in Bradley Stoke. The leisure centre cafe, or Costa. Possibly due to this lack of options, Costa is ALWAYS rammed. I have never yet seen a time when there hasn’t been almost every seat taken AND a queue of 3-4 more people waiting to be served. I tried it a few weeks ago, but after 5 minutes of queuing, there was still the same number of people in front of me. With that sort of speed, I wouldn’t have got served for 10-15minutes, which wouldn’t have given me any time to enjoy what I was buying.

So today, I went to the leisure centre cafe. If I’m honest, I was giving it a second chance. I went in a few weeks ago, queued for an eternity (despite the ONE person in front of me), and when they made my hot chocolate, they shook a big lumpy bit of instant hot chocolate powder on top of my drink. Bit shit really. It does however have free wifi, coming from the library next door, and they offer this service, even when they are physically closed.

Today, I enter the cafe. There’s a cabinet of totally unmarked cakes next to the till. The one that might be coconut might be nice, IF it’s coconut. I might ask about that when I get to the front. For now though, there’s two pensioners in front of me, ordering a couple of soft drinks and a panini. This takes an absolute age for the woman to take the order. Having written it all down in shorthand, slowly, she then has to enter it into the till, some 2ft from where she just wrote it all down on paper. Clearly using the till isn’t her strong point either, as for the second time in my last two visits, she blames it for not working properly, and tells the customer she is serving that she’ll be glad when her shift is over and she can go home. Lovely.
Another member of staff comes out from the back, and watches her colleague fighting with the till, before ignoring her, me, and the new addition to the queue behind me, and wandering back into the kitchen.

The till seems to have accepted an order, when… oh no! The person ordering wants to pay with a note. But this till doesn’t have any change! So the staff member is off to check the other (unstaffed) tills to see if they have money in them. But they don’t. Person in front of me has found a smaller note. Maybe that’ll help? No, I’m afraid not. The staff member says they don’t have enough change for that either. Were they not expecting customers to come in, today?

By this point I’ve been queuing for nearly 10minutes. The person in front might have a table number for their order (which may or may not actually be in the till), but they still haven’t got their change.

Based on this, and the fact I’m going to have to pay with a note too, I’ve lost interest in that maybe-coconut cake, and I don’t fancy rushing a £1.75 hot chocolate. Fuck this. I’m going to Costa.

Costa is rammed, obviously. I definitely haven’t got time for that now. Mary, can you do anything about how slow shops are? Maybe I can get a hot chocolate and a muffin in 10minutes or so? Failing that, can someone open an independent place so I can shun these terrible places?

Mary Portas: Secret Shopper starts tonight, Wed 19 Jan, at 9pm on Channel 4. I’ll be watching.

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