30 March 2013

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE, APRIL 7th 2013

The post below was created on March 30th and I have been updating the story, with dated entries below.

However, I know that many of us might not have enough time to read this whole article, all the way down to the most important bit, so I'm putting the most important bit, here, right at the top.


MOST IMPORTANT BIT!


We are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. 

Shelter From The Storm tell us,
'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.


ORIGINAL POST, March 30th:-

Is #Suspended #Coffee a Good Idea?



Suspended Coffee?

What's the BIG Idea?


The idea is that you can walk into any coffee shop, buy an extra coffee, a 'suspended coffee' and then that 'suspended coffee' isn't made but kept in reserve, for when a homeless person walks in, they can then say, 'Is there a suspended coffee here, please?' Then if there is they can have a free coffee that's already been paid for, by another member of the community.









FACEBOOK!


This post has gone viral all over Facebook and people are loving the concept, it really pulls at their heart strings and you'd think that coffee shop owners and large chains would be rushing to support it wouldn't you?

They do NOT! But why NOT? When it seems like such a brilliant idea, an idea that pumps money into the coffee shop, makes people that pay for the coffee feel good and gives a little help to a homeless soul.

I AM COMPLETELY AGAINST THIS IDEA!


So is my partner and Co-Founder Gunter Hollenstein. Gunter and I have often spent many hours discussing the direction of our business, who we are going to help, how we are going to connect with our community, how we can help promote artists, what we can do to help in a crisis situation. How do we support local business? How are we going to help the local economy, how can we run our business more efficiently and greener? Long hours and discussion. 

When we heard about the suspended coffee scheme, we both had the same bitter taste in our mouth and a sadness in our hearts.

People have responded almost hysterically to this idea and in the last five days, I have been asked so many times to support the scheme, that I'm sick of saying no and giving my reasons. So this blog is principally to tell you why, although this idea seems like a good one on the surface, we would NEVER EVER do it.

People in our local community know, our customers and business connections know that we are very kind hearted and soulful in the way we run our business, so how could it be that we are so AGAINST this popular idea?

These are the reasons:


1/ Part of the spirit of owning a coffee shop is that you can pass support onto others when you can, both Gunter and myself enjoy doing that. We are not alone, several other independent Coffee Shop owners agree and I believe that the chains are also against this idea, even though it could potentially boost sales.

2/ I believe most people in coffee shops will give a coffee and a bite to eat, to a homeless person, without such a scheme being in place. We certainly do! Didn't really want to shout about that as I don't want the rest of you dressing up as you think a homeless person might look. Plenty of independents and chains do the same.

3/ That's what truly brings our community together, those little actions, that we don't need to shout about. I feel sorry that I've have had to mention it here, in explanation to my aversion to the 'suspended' coffee scheme. There doesn't need to be a scheme, as you know most people running coffee shops have a really big heart and sense of community. 

 4/ Do you really think that if a homeless person walks into a coffee shop,  they get turned away, if there is no 'suspended coffee'? I've heard of this idea but it doesn't appeal to me...Gunter and I see it as part of the pleasure of owning a coffee shop that if someone can't afford a coffee, they're homeless, destitute, depressed, we can offer them coffee, water, tea, soup and a little snack to take away.

5/ I really, really wouldn't want my customers to pay for what. I seeas quite a spiritual thing. It's because of our customer's support of us and our business,that we have a responsibility to share that success with others that need help in our society. Being in a train station and near to the job centre, we have a few 'regulars' who are homeless and down on their luck. I've tried to help some further by getting St Mungos involved, in certain cases too....but sometimes....it doesn't work. I feel suspended coffees would go against our ethos as a shop, it's something I just could not do. It would feel dirty to get money from someone and make a profit from someone else's misery. We are very firm about right and wrong in our little shop and that to me just feels so wrong. 

6/ Look at how many people support the idea and would pay for those coffees....they are just the same type of person who, if they owned their own coffee shop, would give a free coffee and nibble to eat! It's human nature. 

7/To set up a scheme like this and get everyone to say 'ah' and get them to pay for coffees that they don't know are ever going to be provided stinks of scam and it's not necessary.

8/ Human nature says that the homeless person will get a cuppa.....and funnily enough, that is what the post is proving. There but for the grace of God, go I. I think most of us think like that and treat others how we would like to be treated.

9/ I was homeless for a while, right down at the bottom of the pile....I was lucky enough to be put into disgustingly horrible temporary accommodation...I know, as many of us know that these people are not scum of the earth, to be sneered at, we know any homeless person could be our brother, our mother, our father our sister our son our daughter, or ourselves. These are vulnerable times and we are all close to the edge....

10/ If you truly want to support these individuals, either ask what coffee they would like, and take it to them,.or make sure you visit your independent coffee store more regularly, in the knowledge that most of them would give out coffees upon request and at discretion to homeless people....and that by ensuring these coffee shops are running at a profit because you love them, they will naturally share back the love to the community without shouting about it! Book an appointment with yourself and 9 friends, to meet in your local indepdent coffee shop, buy them all coffees, introduce them to a great business, help the business to thrive, so they can keep trickling down the love and support that you have given, into their community.

That's sustainable!


What Do You Think?

Please let me know, please join in the debate, what do you feel? Please comment here. Can you convince me otherwise? xx


UPDATE APRIL 5th, 2012


Thanks to The Consumerist for their Blog, all about this Blog, which you can read, here.

At least one of the major coffee chains has been reported by a national paper as joining the Suspended Coffee scheme, I'll let you judge whether they have joined the scheme or not by reading the article for yourself, here. 

The great thing about the Suspended Coffee debate is that it has made the coffee industry, including ourselves look at more ways that we can help homeless people, it is something that we all need to look at very hard indeed.

So, we are very pleased to say that thanks to the Suspended Coffee post that went viral on Facebook, we have pledged to connect with London's only FREE homeless shelter, that is open ALL year round, Shelter From The Storm

We are encouraging you to donate any money that you might have spent on buying a Suspended Coffee to Shelter From The Storm, instead.

It's very easy and you know that the whole amount will be going directly to the cause. Shelter From The Storm tell us,

'We promise that your £2, the price of a cup of coffee, will go directly to providing food and drink to London's homeless.'

Please help them to help our homeless by texting CAFE13£2 to 70070.

Thank you for reading this far. If you have any thoughts about this, please join in the debate and comment below.

Karen. xx


Update April 7th

The article by Boughton's Coffee House, below, is the most balanced article that I have seen about Suspended Coffee so far, it quotes from this very blog post above, as well as having quotes from independent coffee shop owners that have taken on the scheme.

Read the Boughton's Coffee House article about Suspended Coffee, here.

We are looking forward to going to visit Shelter from the Storm, very shortly, to see their work.

Thanks to The Londonist, for also picking up on the Suspended Coffee Story and for referring to our blog, in this article, here.








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