A Dangerous Education

“There is no knowledge that is not power."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you ever read my blog… and you’re not one of my family members, you almost definitely read James Hoffman’s blog. If you don’t, you should. His latest was a “careful what you wish for” type warning about educating customers. Are we really ready for an educated customer to nit-pick all the little details of our speciality coffee shops? Hoffman’s message is right on. There is an inherent risk in increasing the knowledge base and critical ability of the customer. Not every shop may be prepared for a detail oriented customer.

Which is fine with me.

Now, I’m not a shop owner as of yet. Plans in the future… but I’m not really qualified to make an assessment of how my shop might work. My speciality coffee experience, however, does lie with a very dextrous little mom-and-pop operation which is more than ready to impress a knowledgeable customer. Hoffman’s not wrong, educated customers will be more easy to disappoint.

I’m counting on it.

I’d love to arm the customer with enough knowledge to appreciate the intricacies of what we do behind the counter. I don’t want rolled eyes and unappreciative scoffing. I want people that are impressed that we do so much work for such a reasonable price. I want more people to be jealous when I tell them I’m a barista. I don’t want to be known as an indy S-Bux. I don’t want to compete with the Main St coffee chains. I want to compete with the wine tasting rooms and the craft breweries.

I want that stuff when I open a shop eventually. I want it because I’ve gotten a taste for it where I’m working now. Educating a customer does exactly what Hoffman says it does. A discerning customer is a challenge. It means we have to stay consistent, and deliver on all the promises we make. It’s not easy… which is exactly why the charlatans will falter and we will come out on top.

Whether every shop is ready for a “prosumer”… I can’t say. I hope not, because I want my future customers disappointed enough to make the extra 3 minute walk to my place.

Jason Gonzalez

bath, uk