Do you know those moments that catch you off guard? Those unexpected occurrences that make you sit and ponder the world for a moment. I had one of them a day ago on Williamson Road in Mooresville. We pulled up to the drive-thru window at the Clutch Coffee Bar to pick up our order, the aptly named “Trifecta,” three levels of intense, chocolate, and caffeinated bliss that can warm the bones on a frigid 26-degree morning. Sitting there at the drive-thru window was a festive 24-inch skeleton named Charlie.
But Charlie is no ordinary study in osteology. He sits obliquely to the customer, wearing a Santa hat, a frilly Christmas lei, and a boney smile, and requests donations for his missing leg. Charlie is thankful for all the donations towards his new leg, is the message scribbled on a piece of paper that is taped to a fishbowl containing dollar bills and coins.
We didn’t have to wait long for the coffee drink to arrive, so I didn’t have too much time to sit and vex over this one-legged pirate smiling at me. The drink arrived and miraculously, it was filled to the top. “Can this be true?” We are so used to getting bags of chips, about 17% full and the rest air. And most coffee houses serve coffee about 60%, and that is before asking for room for milk. But at Clutch, it is filled right up to the rim. You pay for a product and you get what you pay for! What era is this, the 1950s?
And the girl that handed us the coffee smiled and exchanged pleasantries. She was nice, and friendly, and joked around. It was customer service that we remember from growing up but that our kids have barely experienced. Again, what era is this anyway? Did we fall into a time machine? It is a freezing cold morning, Saturday, too early for the normal person to be up and out, and here is this young girl providing high-quality customer service with a smile. Just when I had all but written off humanism and practically the future of civilization, I am provided reaffirmation that courtesy and values still exist.
It still doesn’t explain the skeleton, but I like it. It gives the window character. And each customer can interpret its meaning to their liking. The real story can come out in the wash. A full cup of coffee and a kindly wait-staff, how could we not donate a dollar for a leg. This place is different from any other hands down. And there is a drive-thru on either side of the building which shortens the wait time even more. Is there anything they don’t do right? Even the creative names are fun. Drinks that have colorful names just taste better, like “Base Jumper,” “Cloud 9,” “Campfire,” “Irish Dream” and “Aloha.”
The Clutch experience enriched my Saturday. And what is more, they are philanthropic. There is a cause that you, the customer, care about, and you want Clutch to be involved, you can fill out their donation request form and they just might participate. “We love giving back to the community,” they say on their website and to-date, total donations over $29,000 prove it. There aren’t many places these days that I go to that make any kind of impression on me.
Literally, after we paid, chatted up the staff, and collected our coffee, I wanted to go back around and get another one. Call me old-fashioned but it has been so long since I have had such a shopping experience, and the blast of nostalgia was analogous to the smell of burning wood in an autumn eventide.
It is a piece of society that seemed to have gone away. And when I reference customer service, I mean an interaction that is genuine and heartfelt. It is where people aren’t just being nice because the manager is standing nearby, they are doing it because they want the customer to have a great experience and start their day on a high note. And I can tell you what, mine definitely did.
I think even if I wasn’t a coffee drinker, I would still go on Saturday morning for the atmosphere, the cheerful service, and to see if Charlie ever gets that prosthetic.
Greg Evans is the associate director of communications at King University in Bristol, Tennessee.