Korean coffee chain offers polite customers half price coffee, charges rude ones extra

One of Korea’s big coffee chains is taking a unique approach to encourage its customers to be more polite.

The promotion is called 'One warm word'.

The promotion is called ‘One warm word’. This poster asks customers to ‘Call my name’.

On the first Wednesday of every month, you can go into an Angel-In-Us branch and get a 50% discount on your coffee simply by saying “Hello (name of barista)-ssi. Please give me a delicious Americano.” If you ask politely ask for an Americano but don’t address the server by name you still get a discount but only 20%.

On the other hand, if you say simply “A cup of Americano”, you will be asked to pay full price and if you bluntly demand “Americano!”, you will be charged an extra 50%.

A spokesperson for the chain, which is part of the Japanese-Korean multinational conglomerate LOTTE, told the Korea Times, “The event is in line with the name of our franchise ― ‘Angel-in-us.’ We aim to foster an atmosphere at our coffee shops where everyone is nice to each other.”

They ran a similar event on October 4th last year, significant because 1004 sounds the same as the word ‘Angel’ in Korean, but said no one was charged the penalty fee as staff made sure the event was clearly explained to all customers.

After receiving a big response last year, the company hopes by repeating the event in 2015, it will help foster an environment where customers and employees are respectful and considerate towards each other.

As most people know, working in a food and drink service job is not always a lot of fun, especially when the hours are long and the wages are low, and having to deal with rude customers is one of the worst aspects of any customer service job. So, from the employee point of view, it’s easy to see why this event might be popular as it shows management is on their side and probably reduces the number of rude customers they have to deal with.

Although as someone who has worked in a few service positions, I always found it unsettling a customer would continually use my name when talking to me. I did have hold myself back from saying “Yes, sir, I am aware of my own name, thank you” (and it was usually a ‘sir’) a few times after hearing it 5 or 6 times in succession. So maybe encouraging customers to address baristas by name is not the best policy.

From the customer’s point of view, I can imagine that some people might object to being told what to do. Although perhaps that would be more those from individualistic cultures and wouldn’t be as big an issue in Korea. Asking for a ‘delicious cup of coffee’ is also a little cringe-makingly unnatural and embarrassing to say out loud as netizens have pointed out.

Although plenty of femal customers would happily ask Kim Soo-hyun-ssi for 'a cup of delicious coffee' .

Although plenty of female customers would happily ask spokesmodel Kim Soo-hyun-ssi for ‘a cup of delicious coffee’ .

But then again, a discount is a discount and who would object to getting their coffee at half price, even if they had to feign a little politeness? Especially when you ought to be doing that anyway.

The chain may have got the idea from the French café which made headlines in 2013 for charging rude customers up to five times extra (although the manager admitted to not actually enforcing the pricing strategy). However, unlike this café, the Angel-in-Us promotion is focussed more on rewarding polite customers than penalising rude ones.

Will it work?

At changing rude individuals into polite ones? No. No, it almost definitely will not. However it has got people talking about Angel-in-Us and is helping the brand to build a friendly, customer-focussed image. So as a marketing strategy it definitely seems to be working. Now we just have to wait until tomorrow to see how it goes down in the stores.

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  • Danielle Helena Marie

    I think this is a dope idea.