Coffee + “service charge” = rip off!!!

Maybe it’s a Gulf thing but this morning after the compound bus dropped my son and I off downtown to get groceries at Tamimi I decided to walk around the area behind the grocery store with my son as there were a lot of neat looking shops, I didnt venture too far because we still had to get groceries and really 2 hours for grocery shopping with a toddler is never enough. I got my son a doughnut and decided I’d nip into the Joffrey’s coffee shop caddy-corner to where we were standing by Tamimi’s. Get myself an iced coffee (it’s *still* over 95f during the day!), let my son eat his pastry and sort of relax for 20minutes before doing our shopping.

Okay, BIG mistake…more like big, huge rip off mistake! We went into the family aka. womans side of the cafe (which is located above the mens area) and I thought, wow…what a beautiful coffee shop. It was designed similar to a Starbucks or a Caribou…it was so home-y and comfortable and there was a lot of room to spread out in. All the better for a well-sugared up toddler to run wild.  So I go up to the counter, look at the menu and the barista comes up and asks me what I want, I told him an iced coffee with and then went to pay. He said, no, pay later


uh, okay, so I go walk around, find a cozy spot and let my son tear into his donught. I sat there and waiited and waited and I saw the barista went and cleaned up a table nearby. I’m thinking…what? So I get up, walk back to the counter and he’s busy doing who knows what, I walk back to my table, thinking…wow, is he making the iced coffee from scratch or somethin’?

I wait and wait, finally I go back up as he’s about to carry the coffee over to me on a tray. I took the tray off of him and said, okay thanks…and walked back. Okay, I realise that here in KSA the local women would never do that, they would wait to be served, but since I was raised to do things for myself…having some barista serve me seemed weird. Especially because I’m used to hanging out by the counter while the barista makes whatever conconction that was ordered and then grabbing it from them there. So I sit down, sip my-i admit, rather delicious and strong-iced coffee, thinking…OK…not bad.

After I finished, I got up…I have learned that here you leave your stuff at the table whether your in a Starbucks, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, Hardees or a Mall Food Court. So I did leave my stuff there, but I made sure to tidy everything up. So I walk up to the counter and am like, okay so should I pay now? Thinking…this is really a strange place! Who has a customer pay for a coffee after they’ve finished it? This isnt a restaurant. So the barista gave me a slightly odd look and I gave him what the menu said the price was. He said, no, it’s actually *what I have him* PLUS 2 extra riyals. I asked, okay why the 2 extra riyals and he said…

get this…

service charge!!! uh yeah…service charge…? In a coffee shop!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can understand tax and/or a tip in an actual sit down restraurant but 2 extra riyals because you took like 10minutes to make my coffee and then as you were bringing it too me I got it from you? Is the 2 extra riyals for picking up the cup from the table!

harumph…yeah I know, 2 riyals isnt anything…but the price of the coffee was already a bit high and I really don’t think the “service charge” was necessary. It did say in the menu at the bottom of the page that a “service charge might be incurred”

Uh??? I assumed that meant if you ordered a boat-load of beverages and cakes that you and 10 friends would split then yeah…obviously a service-charge would be good or if you made a HUGE mess and/or broke a window…okay, a service charge would be fine…but… a service charge on ONE iced coffee and I even served myself.

dang…yes Joffrey’s I’m calling you out on this…this policy really sucks and you’ve lost a customer!! harumph, service charge my foot!

p.s. and if anyone asks…why didnt I ask to talk to a manager…yeah, that crossed my mind but things work differently here and half the time you go to talk to someone they can barely speak English or lack customer service skills, so i faced the prospect of airing my issue to some manager who probably wouldnt care let alone understand what I was saying.

Update; Several months later I went to the same coffee shop…different location with 2 Saudi friends and we all ordered coffee beverages and snacks and there was no service charge. Go figure. ahhh…typical.


6 thoughts on “Coffee + “service charge” = rip off!!!

  1. That’s fairly normal in a lot of places. When I was living in Italy, most cafes had two prices. If you just wanted to get your espresso and drink it quickly standing up at the bar, it cost less than if you wanted to sit at a table and drink it.

  2. In the UAE a lot of places had service charges. The idea is that they would be like “tips” for the waitstaff, who were usually paid almost nothing, but actually the management or the manager would pocket it, so a lot of the time, at those places, I would pay the charge AND leave a tip for the poor souls actually doing the work. I agree, crummy, and sneaky.

  3. Its the same here; or at least it used to be; there was an extra charge for eating or drinking ‘in’ over the cost of the takeaway price; even in regular coffee chains….

  4. I think that’s really strange…Sounds like a rip off. The tip should be optional, depends on the service, not if you sit down or not..

  5. I ran into that in Italy. Of course, it’s almost the same. To save money, the locals eat at the bar or on the go. Those who are willing to sit down at the tables, get served, look at the view are charged a service fee. Im glad I learned about that before I got to Italy. Rick Stevens’ the man.

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