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Ever get a coupon for a "free" item? One where it turns out the price is exorbitant-and not just to the consumer, but the business owner as well?



This week a local coffee house had one for a small size cup of plain old joe. Not that you didn't have choices, there were. Four to be exact: Strong, mild, decaf and the flavor of the day.



The reason: For the fourth time in five years, new owners were trying to drum up business in what was once a very popular gathering place for the community.



My husband and I loved this place when it first opened. We'd take the dog, the kids and walk the mile and a half several times a week. We'd have coffee and a cookie, the kids would join us with a frozen yogurt from the place next door and our pooch was always offered up a bowl of ice water. We talked, laughed and thought of these exercise jaunts as our family's special times. This went on for almost a decade.



Even as the kids became older and joined us less, my husband and I would still grab the dog and enjoy the patio. Sometimes we'd go for breakfast. We were considered "regulars". Many of us in the neighborhood did the "coffee walk/talk".



Then the first owners retired and sold to a nice couple, unfortunately they didn't last long. The third set turned the place into a dive. Dirty floors, cheap doodads for sale in every nook and cranny. The food wasn't even passable, let alone edible. So we went around to the other side and started going to either the Corner Bakery chain or down the street to the ubiquitous Starbucks.



So when we saw, again that there were new owners and I had a free coupon in hand, I thought I'd give them a chance. After all, they were new people-they deserved a clean slate to begin their new venture.



The place was clean and less cluttered. Good sign, UNTIL-I got in line. A man in front of me also had a coupon. The java girl at the counter was just down right surly! (Maybe from all the free cups and no sales?) She handed him the cup, grabbed the coupon and pointed toward the self-serve pots.



My turn. I had my wallet in hand. I wanted to pay the difference and get a large cup. Before the question could exit my mouth, she shoved the cup at me and pointed as well. My cup fell over and rolled to me. I decided to ask anyway. She said yes I could, it was a dollar. I said "but the difference on the menu says 25 cents".

She said those were her instructions-did I want to pay or not?



I went with the free cup.



In all honesty, had she been the least bit pleasant I not only would have paid the dollar, I would have also left her a tip. I'm funny that way.



Being in customer service at my day job and having grown up in a family business, I know how to treat people. This wasn't it. Her attitude left me with two thoughts:



She's rude. I will not be going back.



If the coupon was a way to bring in new business and get the "regulars" back, it failed.



This little place once held lovely memories for my family. Sadly this is over.



What a price to pay for a free cup of coffee.



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