Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
In some French coffee shops, rude customers are charged more than polite ones.
Are you a jerk to baristas? You’re gonna pay, monsieur. Some cafés in Grenoble and Nice threaten to add a surcharge for customers' rude moves, Grubstreet recently reported.
At least two coffee houses have adopted a sliding scale for uncivil behavior, The Times reports. If you bark your order and skip the pleasantries, it will cost at least €0.50 more than if you’d thrown in a bonjour and some small talk.
It’s not the first time diners and restaurant workers have butted heads over etiquette questions in France. In January, some diners in Paris confessed to shrinking under withering side-eye glares from servers judging them for asking for takeout containers and to-go bags. The country has launched a campaign to encourage customers to take home leftovers in an effort to reduce food waste.
Actually, the owner of the one of the cafés explained to The Local in 2013 that the sliding scale is at least partially tongue-in-cheek. He hung a hand-scribbled sign advertising drinks for €7 if a customer simply demanded “un café”; the price was a less eye-popping €1.40 for anyone who requested “un café, s’il vous plaît.” The owner told The Local:
“Most of my customers are regulars and they just see the funny side and exaggerate their politeness,” he said, adding: “They started calling me 'your greatness' when they saw the sign."
So, it seems the sign isn’t so much a harbinger of an expensive trend, but a silly-and-pointed reminder to treat service workers like human beings. (No one should need this reminder. But baristas’ tales of customer antics are enough to spawn an entire Internet genre.) In any case, it seems wise to err on the side of groveling when the barista stands between you and your morning jolt.