Coffee Service—With More than a Smile

December 15th, 2008

Categories: Customer Service, Restaurant

Every morning, Esam sells coffee, tea, juice, sodas, a selection of muffins, bagels and donuts from a covered cart on Third Avenue and 44th Street, a few steps from my office. Like hundreds of others throughout the city, he’s there year ‘round, regardless of weather, arriving in the dark of morning and gone by noon–the cart hitched to a van to drive it to a parking area out of midtown Manhattan. 

What distinguishes Sam? [Sam’s his American name.] His cart. It’s metal–all are–but he decorates his with the passion of the best window dressers in town. For starters he’s added cheery, blinking colored lights, stars, Seasons Greetings signs and images of Santa. But he’s also discreetly increased his real estate by transforming the sidewalk around the cart into a Christmas wonderland, including decorated trees and on occasion, reindeer. 

You can’t miss the cart, even if your head is down to keep wind and rain off your face or if you’re engrossed in your “to-do” list, shuttered from the surroundings. Why? Loudspeakers blare seasonal music to provide entertainment while you search for the 75 cents you owe for coffee–$1.25 if you add donut or bagel. While it entertains you, the music also attracts the attention of foot traffic. 

As Sam explains why he decorates the cart–says he loves to do it–his face lights up as brightly as the lights. It’s a good bet that I’ll get good service from someone who involves himself this much in his business–and I always do. It’s also a pleasure to buy from a happy person. 

P.S. Sam puts skim milk in my coffee. Why can’t coffee boutiques that charge three times what Sam does do the same? I resent having to put everything down to open my coffee cup, find the skim milk container and add it myself, especially if I’m encumbered with purse, newspaper and tote bag.

12 Responses to “Coffee Service—With More than a Smile”

  1. David Reich Said:

    I’m a regular at Sam’s cart. In addition to the decor and the smile, he knows many of his customers by name.

    A much better deal than the Starbucks about 30 feet down the avenue.

  2. Joan Said:

    I walked past that cart last week and I thought it was so lovely. I’m pleased you are giving Sam some well-deserved recognition. May Sam’s holiday spirit and enthusiasm for service spread widely.

  3. Thomas, M Said:

    Thanks for the Sam story. It reminds me of Studs Terkel’s wonderful book, Working, in which he chronicled hundreds of Sams. Working at jobs many of us might consider menial, these bus drivers, grocery store baggers and others brightened the day of everyone they served. –Marita

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Viral [the healthy kind] marketing on East 44th Street. I was out of the office this morning and visited Sam closer to noon than my usual 8:30-9 a.m. My colleague and office mate, David Reich, had made a copy of the Sam post, gave it to Sam, suggesting he post it in the window of his cart, which he did. Wow!

  5. HG Said:

    My good friend and great artist from New York City’s High School of Music & Art, Srule Bachman, Ed.S., likes to quote Yogi Berra, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.”

    Bachman is a great believer in service and in education and has founded several Charter Schools on his way out west, in New York, New Mexico, and Oregon, where he now lives. HG

  6. Zacharia Said:

    Well deserved praise for an obviously nice guy, and a great marketer. A fancy restaurant should give him a job as a headwater. He’d be a great improvement on some of the ones I have had to deal with.

    Good for you to have written him up!


  7. JM Said:

    BRAVO to Sam. JM

  8. Martha Takayama Said:

    It is so cheerful, especially in the light of our grim holiday season, to read about someone who takes pride and pleasure in what he does. It is amazing how graciousness and attention to details totally transform a simple ritual like buying coffee. Hopefully, Sam can serve as an inspiration to other purveyors of goods and services.
    Martha Takayama

  9. Anne Said:

    And I thought I was the only one charmed by Sam’s decorations and bright smile
    and awed by the fact that he remembers what I want without my having to say.
    He brightens my day – thank you Sam.

  10. Amy Said:

    I hate waiting in lines. There are so many carts in the city, I had always hopped to the cart with the shortest/no line. I am now in a new office by Sam’s cart and after reading this post, I get my coffee from Sam everyday – even when there is a line – he is wonderful. Asks me how I am everyday, tells me to have a great weekend every Friday – he deserves my business. Never leave Sam! Thank you – you are worth the wait!

  11. Martha Takayama Said:

    I may change the way I feel about New York based on Sam’s spirit of service!

  12. Flora Said:

    This is awesome !!! Good work

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