Customers Hall of Fame

We were reminiscing the other day about particularly memorable customers we have had, and how astonishingly well-suited we are to the world of customer service. Here are a few anecdotes from the world of selling coffee to the general public in shopping malls.

Drunk-bin guy
This man was peacefully minding his own business, smashed out of his skull, drinking from a paper cup in a café in a shopping mall at 10.30 am. Matters took a turn for the worse, however, when he finished his drink and was unable to locate a bin to dispose of the cup. Understandably distressed, he was left with no option but to throw the cup at us and shout, "There's no fucking bin".

Briefcase guy
This guy was a complete twat, for serious. He used to march through the café talking on the phone with his stupid briefcase, bark an order for hot chocolate at us and keep going because he was so fucking busy and important he had no time to waste waiting for us to make it. Although what he can possibly have been doing is a mystery to me. He would return a few minutes later to take delivery of the hot chocolate, which he would not pay for until after he had finished even though that is not how the café works. He also always used to sit at the same table. I have it on authority from someone who used to work there that he once confided that he liked to sit at that table because it offered a good view for ogling the women working in the shoe shop next to us. Thankfully one time I think I managed to upset him so much that he hasn't been back since. It was very busy and had been so for hours, so that we had been rushing around without any sort of break for ages. My colleague was at the till working through a line of customers and I was going round clearing the tables. Briefcase guy stormed in in his usual style and ordered me to get him a hot chocolate and a slice of almond cake. I told him there was a queue and pointed to it. He denied that there was a queue and pointed out that I was "not doing anything anyway". Sigh. So I asked him whether he meant pecan cake, because we don't sell almond cake. He did not take this affront to his nut identification skills well and left, but I assumed that he would be coming back in a few minutes and got the stuff ready. But he never came back! And we haven't seen him since, which was an excellent result.

Facebook lady
This woman was one of the worst customers we have ever had, and managed to be a pain in the arse for almost the entire duration of her stay. First of all she was one of those who take ages to decide what they want and ask many, many questions to help them in this time of uncertainty. This was only a mild irritation; about forty percent of our customers are like this, so we are used to it. Then she complained that her cappuccino was too bitter and made us make another one with less coffee and more milk in it. At this point she was still only at the level of "tiresome" and if she'd left it there she wouldn't be in this post. But then she came up with the remaining third of a slice of chocolate cake and informed us, outraged, that it was a bad cake. "What's wrong with it?" we asked. What was wrong with it was that her child didn't like it, it was too bitter. "Yes," we said, "it's dark chocolate, it's not so sweet as a lot of chocolate." No, her child liked dark chocolate, this was just a bad cake. What's more, she had tasted it, and her mother had tasted it and they all agreed. We weren't quite sure what she wanted us to do about this, and invited her to call our boss if she wanted to talk to the person who'd made it. She ignored this, and we told her that there was nothing wrong with the cake and we couldn't help it if she didn't like it and then we left her alone because it was the world's most retarded discussion. She flounced back to her table. As she was leaving she came up to us to tell us that she was going to write about how poor the customer service was here on her facebook status. We waited until she had gone and then burst out laughing.

"Espresso" guy
This was one of the times when a customer was just so ridiculous that I wasn't even annoyed, it was just funny. This guy comes in, orders a single espresso. I take his payment and start making the coffee. He tells me to put two shots in. I'm like right, so you wanted a double espresso, whatever, I do it. Then he asks whether he can have just a bit of milk froth on top. This is a different coffee again. Then can I put it in a bigger cup, add a little hot milk and have the milk froth on top. The man ends up with what is essentially a cappuccino, which he has not paid for. I wonder if he was genuinely confused about what sort of coffee he wanted and what it might be called, or if he employs this scheme regularly to save a few krónur.

This is another one I don't even really resent. Ólafur is a róni who is sometimes seen in Kringlan with his sidekick, and they totally remind me of Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and Ginger. One time he didn't have any money, but came up to us and asked if he could "borrow" a cup of coffee and a bottle of appelsín. Unbelievably, the person I was working with said yes to this and that he could come back and pay some other time, and asked him to write his name and phone number on a piece of paper. This is something we sometimes do if the card machine stops working for example, but it is not something I would have done with Ólafur. He said he didn't have a phone, literally just wrote "Ólafur" on the paper and got a free coffee and appelsín. We are still waiting for him to come back and pay for this.

Banana cake lady
This woman came in with her friend and, whilst the friend sat down, ordered two coffees and one slice of banana cake. She told me to cut the banana cake in half and put it on two plates. This annoys me in itself - if you are going to share a piece of cake, why can't you just both eat off the same plate? This particular cake has a very soft base and tends to fall apart if you try and make one slice into two, but I did it. The woman paid for all this, at which point her friend realised what she had bought and said that she didn't like bananas. The woman said, "Oh, well I'll have a slice of the pecan cake instead. On two plates." "OK," I said, "that's 890 krónur more then." "What?" she said, "But I don't want the banana cake any more, just give me pecan cake instead." "Right. But you can see I've already cut the banana cake up for you. I can't put it back now, you have to pay for it." In the end she decided not to get the pecan cake, but she clearly felt that my attitude was unreasonable. After she had left I ate the half-slice that her friend didn't want and which she had left by the cash register. Why didn't she just eat both of them, seeing as she had paid for it? Who knows with these people, they are mental.

My camera does not have this power

The northern lights are really strong tonight, but my camera is not good enough to show you. This is the best that it can do:


Missing Photos

My camera has returned safe and sound, so here are some photos from the weekend in the súmarbústaður.

Near Húsafell
Pointing out the mountains.
Up near Surtshellir
Some sort of hole in the ground
Exploring the caves
In front of Hraunfossar
Looking up river from Barnafoss
Down river

Best Icelandic Food

Luckily people in Icelandic do not really eat þorramatur so much, except at þorrablót parties or as an act of bravado. Also a lot of stuff described as "Icelandic food" I would just call "food" - for example, you often see "traditional Icelandic pancakes" advertised in cafés. These are just pancakes, almost exactly the same as the ones in Britain or France. Yes, they are different from what the Americans call pancakes, but I don't see anything specifically Icelandic about them. You would be familiar with about ninety percent of the contents of an Icelandic supermarket - most of the food is imported anyway, from the USA or mainland Europe. However, there are some things that do fall under the category of genuine Icelandic food, and some are really good and they should get them in other countries. Here are the best ones:

1. Lifrarpylsa 
The only slátur worth bothering with, in my opinion. This is a boiled liver sausage, sort of greyish brown in colour with dots of pure white fat. I know, sounds amazing, right? But it actually is. I would describe the taste as livery, but then again although I don't especially like liver I do find lifrarpylsa delicious, so there must be something else involved. Traditionally Icelanders eat this in rice pudding (with cinnamon sugar and raisins no less), but that's obviously mental so I don't do that. I keep it in the fridge as a cold meat for lunch and snacks. It is very cheap, which also appeals to me. 

2. Skyr
This is technically a sort of cheese, but it looks and is used like a yoghurt. It is made of skimmed milk and rennet and is very high in protein / low in fat. You can get all sorts of flavoured skyr but I tend to just get the plain one. It tastes somewhat similar to Greek yoghurt, sour and creamy, and I eat it with muesli for breakfast, although it is also a good snack with fruit or sugar. It's a bit much to eat it by itself I find, although the flavoured ones are obviously fine.

3. Flatkökur
These are amazing! I'm not even sure what they are made of, but they are a sort of stone-baked flat bread. They taste great with butter and are better than normal bread. I try to limit my consumption to two a day, but I could happily eat way more than that. They have somewhat replaced toast for me. Once I found two in my cupboard that I had forgotten about and they had literally turned to dust, which was weird. There are only four in a packet, though, so it is usually easy to finish them in a couple of days. Or like fifteen minutes.

4. Harðfiskur
Delicious dried fish, usually haddock but occasionally you see catfish as well. I have brought this to people in Britain that haven't enjoyed it, and I have no idea why because it is incredible. Especially spread with butter like a sort of fishy biscuit. It just tastes of fish, basically, but a more concentrated flavour - just like the difference between fresh and dried fruit. The texture is flaky and chewy and harðfiskur has a tendency to create a lot of fishy powder, which on no account should you allow to spread itself around a car, for example, because the smell is potent. I would eat this a lot more often, but it is quite expensive so I have it only occasionally.