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Café Metro (What’s in a name? Plenty, Part Two)

28 Mar

March 28, 2012

You can read part one of my Café Metro musings here.

Café Metro is a great place to eat, with great food and, if you ignore the one time the server skimped on Saarah’s salmon, it has great servers. But it worked out in the end. The server gave her a bigger portion and Saarah did not have to throw her shoe at him.

One day I was on my way to get lunch at Café Metro with Saarah, who told me about their discount program. Café Metro, she claimed, has a discount card entitling you to 10% off your purchase. That was news to me. I had been in there dozens of times and saw no evidence of that whatsoever. No signs, no cards, no people using cards, no cashiers asking for cards. I was skeptical but she said that you don’t even need the card, simply ask for the discount and they will give it to you. Clearly, this was not an exclusive club. In fact, even Saarah didn’t have a card. A mutual coworker told her about it.

So we went and got lunch and when I was on line to pay Saarah nudged me- ok, she hit me- and hissed “discount!” I turned to the cashier and, feeling a little stupid, said “um, can I get the discount?” And I did. And the next four or five times I went in I also got the discount. I was only once asked “do you have a card?” I said yes and I was not even asked to show it. Other than my friend and a handful of coworkers I never saw or heard of anyone getting a discount there. The whole thing seemed shady somehow, like I was inadvertently involved in some strange salad-based backdoor Ponzi scheme but I didn’t care. I was getting my 10% discount. .

It came as quite a shock when one day a surly cashier asked to see my card.

Saarah was on line ahead of me. She asked for the discount and the cashier gave it to her, no problem. I was next and asked for the discount and the cashier grumbled to no one in particular “Ugh! Everyone is trying to get the discount. Nobody wants to pay everyone wants the discount! All day the discount!” And then to me: “Let me see your card.”

I of course had no card.

“Jeez, wow, uh yeah, l think I left it at my desk. I can’t find it.” Yeah, I lied. I was expecting her to continue grilling me. (“What color is it? Describe it. What is the serial number?” I had answers all ready: Green, rectangle, and I don’t remember. Good thing she didn’t ask because as I later found out those answers were all wrong.)

The cashier warned me that I would get the discount this time, and grumbled the rest of her way through the transaction. I walked out and asked my friend what the hell just happened and all she did was laugh and tell me I better get a card. And one for her too because no way was she going through that grilling herself.

The area where I work clears out around five when everyone goes home and that’s when I walked into Café Metro to get a card. They appeared to be getting ready to close. Although the front doors were open half the lights were out, the staff was cleaning, and there were no customers inside. I looked around and spotted a manger closing out a cash register. I told him that I lost my discount card and asked if I could get a replacement. I made up the lie because he had probably seen me getting the discount, though I am also sure he would likely not remember me. The place is very busy. But I like to make things harder for myself. Little did I know that he was about to make it harder for me himself.

He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. Said nothing. For thirty seconds- and I am not exaggerating, thirty seconds- he looked at me. Scrutinized me. Stared through me. And this was a big man who looked less like a manager closing out the register and more like a mob enforcer taking his cut from the register.

And then he said “Come back Monday.”

This was Thursday. I said “Monday?” Seriously, cut me some slack. What would you have said? And he answered, after a shorter stare of only about fifteen seconds, “Monday.”

I walked out.

I did not go near there on Friday.

Is this my local Cafe Metro? Maybe it is, maybe it is not. This is not a clue as to where I work. Or maybe it is.

On Monday I stopped in there not to eat but just to get my card. The big, staring manager was there and I said “Remember me? You said I could come back today for a discount card.” He looked at me- directly into my eyes- and said “We don’t have any cards.” Okay, good enough for me. I left.

Later on I was talking to a coworker who told me that he was just in Café Metro and they were giving out cards. Tons and tons of cards. I was convinced it had to be me. There was some reason that place was out to get me.

Tuesday came and Saarah and I returned. The surly cashier and the mobbed-up looking manager were not around. She and I were on line to pay and Saarah asked the cashier if she could have the discount. “Of course you can!”

Why was I the only person in the history of Café Metro to be hassled about this?

Sensing things were going our way we asked her for a discount card and she immediately ran in the back to get them.

But alas it was not to be. She came back and said they had no cards. I still think the person who said they were giving them out the day before was lying to me. Plus when I asked if I could borrow his he said she lost it. Hmmm.  However, the upshot was still the same: no card.

A few days went by, during some of which I brought lunch from home, other days I ate elsewhere, but eventually we went back and we found ourselves on the surly cashier’s line. I asked for the discount, she asked for the card (And again she didn’t ask anyone else, see why I take this personally?) and I told her that I kept asking for one but they never have any. She then remembered me and told me that she’d look in the back. I had zero expectations but I waited and after about 15 minutes someone else emerged from the back and gave me the card.

It was not the Café Metro discount card I expected. As I pretty much knew all along (because I did some checking online) Café Metro does not have a discount card. It was a discount card given out by the local business association which Café Metro supports and I could have gotten one anytime I wanted if I simply walked to the other end of the plaza and across the street where there was a huge kiosk full of them.

It was like gold in my hand, tempered only by the fact that Saarah berated me for not getting her one too. And it was a good thing I was not challenged on it earlier because remember my ready answers? (“What color is it? Describe it. What is the serial number?” I had answers all ready: Green, rectangle, and I don’t remember.”) The card is white and orange, oblong, and has no serial numbers.

This is a card handed out on street corners for free. No sign up, no email, not even a “thank you” necessary. They are given to students, businessmen, tourists, homeless, and unrepentant alcoholics. They are dropped on the sidewalk, down the sewer, and tossed into open car windows. If you look up the antonym of “exclusive” you will find a picture of this card.

So why the hassle when I wanted a discount????

It had to be me.

But there is a happy ending. Saarah and I were in there once again. This time the same surly cashier asked for her card and, like a carton tough guy ordering around the big lug, told me “show it to her!” I had it all ready and whipped it out like a pro and let it hang right in the air about a foot in front of her face. We all laughed, even the cashier, whom I am going to guarantee never gave anyone a hard time about the card again.

It was only me.

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