Thursday, 19 August 2010

Let them eat cake!

The latest ridiculousness to be filed in the customer-is-always-righteous file is the recent issue of 'cakeage'. Thankfully, it is not quite a scandal or we would be hearing predictable stories of cake-gate.
Apparently a group of folk went to a restaurant in Richmond to celebrate a 70th birthday and were charged $12 to eat a cake they had baked themselves and brought along. They were 'disgusted' (I can but imagine their spurius indignation) and contacted their
local paper to complain; note, incidentally, that they didn't discuss this with the restaurnt owner at the time. He later expressed himself to be 'shocked' by the response - you can't beat a dash of hyperbole in the kitchen.
I wonder what makes people think they can take their own food into a restaurant. Would these people go to a pub and crack out their own home-brew? Are these the people who go to the theatre to watch a performance and conduct their own conversation? Probably.

It is not the same as the service charge applied on public holidays, which is simply ludicrous. Some 'hospitality' outlets insist it costs more to open on these days; to pay staff an extra percentage on their meagre wages to compensate for them missing out on time with their loved ones or leisure activities; a cost which, apparently, is not recovered by the increased custom. In that case, this cost should be factored into the prices for the rest of the year. It's not as though Christmas is a surprise to anyone; even Easter may be a moveable feast, but you know it happens every year. That way the cost is spread through to everyone and is negligible.

But why should others shoulder the financial burden because you want to have your cake and eat it (in public) too? Why don't you just have it at home? This is similar to parents who bring their own food to cafés to feed their chidren. Their argument is that the café is making money from the mothers who buy a coffee. I've seen these meetings. Children throw food, drink and various bodily excretions around the place. They run, wriggle, fidget and scream.

All normal people are driven away or take one look at the bedlam and decide to eat elsewhere. After the mothers' mayhem has gone, the café is left to clean up and replace the tables and chairs to their original position, plus dispose of semi-masticated food that they haven't even provided. Some cafés are happy to provide this service, and fair play to them. I avoid such places.

I prefer to go to a café where I can enjoy my coffee and conversation in peace. Coffee houses were originally established as places to discuss the events of the day and share ideas. One of the first, Café Procope (est. 1686), was a major meeting venue for the proponents of the French Enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Rosseau, Diderot et al. It is arguably the birthplace of the Encyclopedie - the first modern encylopaedia; try writing that while being deafened by a toddler's tantrum! Lloyds of London began life as a coffee house where politics and business were the topics on the menu (sport was reserved for the pub).

There used to be a wonderful place like this in Queenstown where folk met to pontificiate and enjoy their caffeinated pleasures. The place ground the beans on location and you could purchase them whole - they were in big sacks at the side of the shop. It was a tiny venue and not conducive to small children clogging up the place with cumbersome pushchairs, falling off the stools or plunging their grubby mitts into sackfuls of coffee. The owner banned children from the premises. One crusading mother took him to the Commission of Human Rights and her complaint was upheld. He has since moved on and there is now no refuge from screaming miniature hooligans in town.

Restaurants and cafés should have the right to charge what they choose to serve whom they want. They should print their charges and intentions clearly so there can be no confusion. And then everyone can make an educated decision about where they spend their time and money. If you don't like disruptive infants, child-free zones, or paying for 'cakeage', go somewhere else. There are plenty of choices, and so there should be. Vive la difference! (as they would have said at Le Café Procope).

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Red card? My Arse!

We was robbed, and you know we were...

Still a strong performance and encouraging for our first game of the season. Even down to ten men, the Arse couldn't score against us and we had to do it for them.

Who needs to gamble when you can experience blind optimism and crushing disappointment just by supporting Liverpool?