Murky Social Media

Even though I live just down the street from Murky Coffee in Arlington, Virginia, I was not present for the recent kerfuffle over the ice and the espresso. There are several versions of what happened (Rashomon anyone?) but the end result was a letter posted by Murky’s owner on their blog.

Apparently Murky Coffee has a few policies that include:

    • No modifications to the classic cappuccino


    • No questions will be answered about the $5 hot chocolate


    • No espresso in a to-go cup


    • No espresso over ice


It’s the last rule that started the whole brouhaha that landed on Boing Boing. Now, I can’t get into a coffee debate about who’s right – I only like cold-brew.

But I do know that every business needs guidelines for employees. Each employee should know why those particular guidelines exist and be able to effectively explain them to a customer. To just say, “That’s against our policy” when denying a customer’s explicit request, even when it’s the 10th time you’ve had to explain it the same day doesn’t help if you’re the guy that’s never been there before. Yes, I do want to know why the hot chocolate is five dollars. I’m not saying it’s not worth it (and trust me it is), but before I plunk down five of my hard earned dollars, I want to know that you’re not pulling out a couple of bags of Swiss Miss and pouring some hot water into it. Not everyone is a regular so, yes, there will be questions which should be cheerfully answered – each and every time.

Here at CDG, we have our design and marketing ideals, but at the end of the day, we’re a business and to stay in business, we have to keep our clients happy. That means we can recommend, strongly recommend, suggest, coax, and cajole, but clients have final approval. Even when that means diluting our perfectly conceived design or strategy to fit with real world realities of budgets, timelines, and personal preferences.

Clearly no one was really on their best behavior that day, but here’s what we might have suggested as an alternative strategy if Murky were our client:

    • Take the higher road on your post rather than responding in kind. This is always the best strategy – even when it’s maddening.


    • Use the opportunity to educate Jeff and others why ice + espresso is apparently such a bad thing. All this coffee-ier than thou vehemence and I still only know that you are opposed to it, not why.


    • Invite Jeff back to Murky for a blind taste test to demonstrate the difference in properly made drinks, and include some of the local bloggers that have commented and ask them to blog the event.


Obviously this particular incident has gone way past this strategy, and everyone is too entrenched in their positions. But next time call us before things get this far.

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