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Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Decline and Fall of Montréal's Caffé Art Java

Caffé Art Java on Mont-Royal in Montréal was, when it first opened, our favorite cafe in the whole world.  Great location; sleek, but inviting, ambiance; decent food; and mind-blowing lattés.  What wasn't to like?  We were steady-going regulars for years.

We were concerned when we learned the founders had sold the place, but we hoped the new owners would leave everything more or less untouched.  And they mostly did.  But things still started to slide.  The new owners started advertising their menu using grainy photos--appropriate for late-night Chinese take-out, but not an upscale cafe.  The kitchen and barista staff turned over almost immediately--to be replaced, we think, by the owners.  And so the food became barely adequate and the coffee, frankly, went to hell.

We eventually stopped being regulars, but we still went every now and then because the ambiance was still great. Tonight was the final visit, though.

One of the owners just forced me to pay for a tisane that I never received.  Several weeks ago, I ordered a tisane that never arrived at my table.  I got so engrossed in my work that I didn't really notice; in fact, I only noticed that it hadn't arrived when it was time for me to pack it up and go.  So I left, slightly miffed that I never got my tisane.  Annoying, but mostly harmless and certainly innocent.  It's the kind of brain fart that can happen to any server.

When I left this evening, however, the owner who was working the register presented me with two bills: one for this evening's tisane, and one for the tisane I never received.  I protested, saying that I had never received the tisane.  The owner insisted that she distinctly and specifically remembered preparing this tisane, which I never received.  This went back and forth several times until I thought it had been made clear that if she made me pay for something I never received, I would never come back.  The owner insisted, so I paid both tickets.

The owner's decision to push the issue over my strong protests (no matter what she does or doesn't remember) says everything that needs saying about the new management at Art Java.  Maybe she thought she was being tough or something, but did she really think I was trying to wriggle out from paying $3?  Does she not realize that she's basically calling me a liar and a thief?  In any case, $3 is apparently more than my good opinion (which, at bottom, equates to all of the business they might ever get from me) is worth to them.

So, do you think people willing to squeeze regular customers for three whole dollars might be willing to cut corners?  Think they really care whether everything is fresh, clean, and of the best quality?  Think they'll believe you if your drink or meal doesn't come out the way you ordered it?  At Art Java, every penny counts--but every customer, not so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you think your experience as a customer was bad, try working for them. They would yell if one was a minute late, never give breaks, sit at the cash register and clip their nails (beyond gross), and in my opinion, they run their cafe like a sweatshop.

Truly an awful place to work run by truly awful people.