I'm in a Starbucks on Sukhumwit Road. I'm carrying an iced latte in one hand and I've got an overpriced banana and walnut muffin in the other. Now I'm simply looking for somewhere to sit.
I can't sit at the table in the window because there are four 'executive types' conducting a meeting. Judging by the half inch of liquid in each of their drinks, I'm guessing they've been there quite some time.
I can't plonk my butt at the next table (another table for four) because someone has reserved it with what looks like a pencil case. Hold on, there's quite a nice table for two in the corner but unfortunately one of the seats is occupied by a hipster beavering away on his laptop. There's no sign of a drink anywhere. It's basically a guy renting free office space. And being very British about the whole thing, I don't want to disturb him and ask if the seat opposite is free.
We've all been in this situation haven't we? Drink and food already purchased - but nowhere to bloody sit.
A storm in a coffee cup
Thailand's social media network rather came alive last week with the story of a Thailand coffee shop chain that has decided to do something drastic about customers who 'outstay their welcome'
Bon Cafe, a chain with many outlets around the city, handed a group of four coffee drinkers a bill that included a 2,000 baht 'open food' surcharge. Over the course of two hours, the group of four had ordered only six drinks between them and were clearly using the cafe as a makeshift boardroom in which to discuss business. The bill for their purchased drinks came to just 260 baht.
Apparently Bon Cafe has a notice on each table that states customers will have to pay an open food charge of 1,000 baht an hour, if they occupy space for business purposes. As you would expect, no one in the group of four businesspeople saw the notice (perhaps none of them were wearing their reading glasses) and flatly refused to pay the bill. Finally, they went on to Facebook and had a hissy fit.
By way of response, a Bon Cafe spokesman said that the customers were not made to pay the open food charge. In fact, no customer ever has. The notice is put on each table as some sort of 'subtle discouragement'
When I first read the story for myself. I stopped just short of standing up at my computer table and applauding. Whilst I do think Bon Cafe's open food rule is a business practice poorly executed, I totally understand the logic behind it. It certainly gets a hearty Bravo! and two thumbs up from me.
The age of integrity?
Of course, what we have with this coffee shop situation is a system that relies on people's honesty and integrity. And I think we live in an age where both of those characteristics are in very short supply.
I love to sit in a coffee shop, sip on a hot cappuccino and fiddle around with my smartphone. But I instinctively know when it's either time to leave or to purchase another drink. It's a shame that others just don't seem to get it.
We see the same kind of situation in hotel lobbies. There might be several free computers for hotel guests to use and there is often a discreet sign that says something along the lines of 'please limit your usage time to fifteen minutes so other guests can enjoy this free service'
But for the teenager who's been Facebooking for at least an hour while his parents sit on a nearby sofa supping gin and tonics, the rules - for some reason - don't seem to apply to them.
And all you can do is sit in a corner and quietly seethe.
Someone's sitting there
When I go back to England for my annual family visit, there is a nice pub in the neighborhood that shows Premier League football matches on a large screen. The pub can get pretty crowded on big match days so it's important to get there early and secure your seat or even just a standing position from where you can best view the action.
I've been in this pub several times down the years and there's always one guy - just one guy - who arrives at least an hour before kick off in order to reserve the three front row seats for himself and his two pals.
And I've watched him (along with dozens of others watching him) nurse a single glass of Coke until well into the first half of the game. His two pals will usually turn up late and reluctanctly order a couple of soft drinks. If they could sit there with nothing in front of them, I'm sure they would.
I stand there and lose count the number of times someone asks selfish guy if 'those two seats are free'.
Nothing astounds me quite like other people's selfishness and lack of integrity. I guess it has much to do with the way you were brought up.
I've sometimes thought to myself - 'well if you can't beat them, then join them'. But I can't do it. It's just not in my nature. The moment I instinctively feel that I'm taking up space that other people want (and probably have far more right to) I'm up out of that seat and away.
But going back to Bon Cafe coffee shop, for those who feel that occupying a seat for hours on end, ordering just one drink and poncing off the air-con is justifiable behaviour, we have an expression for it in English - and that expression is 'taking the piss'.