After nearly two years of consciously choosing to spend both time and money with them, I am bidding farewell to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Never mind that I once professed undying love for their Extreme Ice Blended Vanilla No Sugar Added drink, or that they’ve recently introduced a Splenda-sweetened poppyseed loaf slice to their menu (something irresistible to someone like me who avoids sugar). Conspicuous consumption issues aside, the reason I stuck with the Coffee Bean for such a long time is because their service was top-notch, and they really made you feel comfortable in their cafes. The loyalty program they set up with the use of pink cards (which enabled you to claim a free drink after buying 12 drinks) and later on Swirl Cards (which stores prepaid credit and rebates per P100 worth of purchases) kept me coming back.
Coinciding with their recent expansion (they’ve opened branches all over the metro, including Trinoma, SM North EDSA The Block, and Bonifacio High Street) came a deterioration in their value for money. No Sugar Added powders never came at extra cost before; now, asking for NSA powder instead of regular powder adds an additional P10 to the total cost of a drink — which is already pricey enough, with very few drinks priced below P100.
I might have tolerated the price increase if it weren’t for the drop in the quality of service as well. My sister found it increasingly difficult to make use of the prepaid credit she had paid for on her Swirl Card, but the last straw for her was the staff at CBTL Eastwood switching her card (loaded with P500, plus stored points from her previous purchases) with someone else’s card (loaded with nothing). She only found this out when she wanted to use her credit at CBTL Ortigas Park. And the crew even treated her like she was lying to them that it was not her card. She asked them to fix this problem three whole months ago, and it still hasn’t been resolved.
As for me, the turning point was at CBTL Promenade. I had already computed that my drink would have 10 pesos on top of the listed price on the board because I had asked for NSA powder in my Regular Extreme Ice Blended Mocha. So I just handed my 500 pesos to them and waited for my change. As they punched my order in, I realized that they were charging me an additional 10 pesos on top of my computed price. I said, “I ordered a REGULAR,” remembering that the barista had even repeated my order back at me. “It’s not a LARGE?” the barista asked, confused, closing the register and printing my receipt.
The manager had to come and fix what had been punched in, then asked me, “You don’t want to make it a LARGE?” I stood my ground. But it wasn’t over yet. When they finally handed me the correct receipt, I still hadn’t received the proper change for my P500 and it took another few minutes to get my money.
With issues like this, I can’t help feeling like I’m being robbed at point-blank range every time I step into a Coffee Bean these days. Gimme a Starbucks any time. Sure they might be the McDonald’s of overpriced coffee shops, but even McDonald’s has superb quality control.
UPDATE 11/09/2007: I received a nice comment on my Livejournal post concerning this issue from Paulo Perez of CBTL Promenade. Here it is:
Hi Noelle! Good day to you. Just want to apologize in CBTL Promenade’s behalf about the incident. Rest assured steps have been taken to avoid this incident from happening again. Thank you for your feedback. We really appreciate it. Hope you can visit us again at the Promenade. Please feel free to send me your contact number at [email address redacted] so we can contact you and personally assist you in your next visit here.
All the best,