Bitter Coffee: French Cafe Charges Less For Being Polite
NICE’S Petite Syrah café is offering customers the chance to get a discount on their coffee. Asking for a “a coffee” will set you back €7. But “a coffee please” is €4.25. “Hello, a coffee please” is a bargain €1.40.
Of course, this being France, anyone speaking in an English accent will be ignored. But why does the Petite Syrah stop there? Why not extend the offers to all manner of manners?
Can you dunk the biscuit? Are spoons allowed to making a noise against the china cups? In 2007, Brighton’s Tea Cosy instituted a set of rules. Then owner David Daly forbade anyone from resting their elbows on the table, insulting the Queen, handling sugar cubes and sipping from teaspoons, which must never be allowed to chink against the cup. Said Mr Daly: “I am just keen to teach people of the joys of a civilised cup of tea. People have to obey the rules in my tea rooms and if not they are asked to leave.”
The wonder is that anyone should know that and want to go in. One rule states: ”Hold the saucer under your cup while you sip your tea (lest you should spill or dribble).”
As ever, the bigger the stickler for rules, the more likely the are to get the proscribed etiquette wrong. The Tea Cosy was meant to be modelled on the Ritz, where drinkers must wear a tie. I once arrived without one and was handed a hideous yellow kipper-shaped thing. A friend recalls a school trip to the Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground. He was barred from entering, having arrived with neither jacket nor tie. A man was dispatched to fetch both. He handed the lad a dirty green gardening jacket and lurid tie, again in a kipper shape. He wore both over a T-shirt. Inside no-one batted an eyelid, as if it were the most normal of attire. The rule was the thing, what you did it with left much room for individuality.
The Tea Cosy didn’t. And neither does the Petite Syrah, which demands adherence to the script with no space for humour. To lighten the mood, why not end each request with the words “Rien ne pèse tant que un secret” (Nothing weighs more than a secret - La Fonataine) or Eric Cantona’s “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much”, or .”C’est la fin des haricots”?
The Petite Syrah seems to be encouraging punters to push the boundaries. If the surcharge is for not sticking to the rules, then why not pay a bit more and let out your rage or anxiety. On a bad day, someone would willingly pay an extra euro to request, ” Give me a fu**king coffee and shut the f*** up about the skinny this and that sh*t, you j*z-faced pr*tt” or the sarcastic, “Pleasy-weasy-please would you do me the great honour of getting me a coffee beverage, Your Majesty?”
The great irony being, of course, that telling people what to say is so very, very rude…