The problems begin when you have to prove the chicken salad is made with chicken


A few years ago, I seem to recall a story about researchers working on a portable, available for purchase test that would basically allow you to check decaffeinated coffee for the presence of caffeine.

And I shrugged.

I shrugged not because I wasnít in some way interested, or because I didnít see some value in the process. (I wasnít interested. I could see some value in it based on specific circumstances for specific individuals, but not on a mass market scale for everyone.) Rather, I had two equal and opposite concepts in mind.

First up, my theory about some places.

Letís say you were in a diner. Itís about fifteen minutes before closing time when you walk in. All youíre looking for is a cup of coffee and a piece of pastry. Nothing fancy. Staff has been through a long day, though no customers for the past few hours (for whatever reason), and they had been working on shutting things down before you arrived in the final moments of the day.

You order a cup of decaffeinated coffee. They had already cleaned that pot. What are the odds youíre getting decaf (as opposed to a cup of regular coffee, which they still have ready, that they will say is decaf)?

And second, the idea of considering why you need to know.

Why? What difference does it make to your world to know if the food is decaffeinated?

These two thoughts operate in completely different areas, but you probably can see the beginnings of an overlap.

When it comes to my first scenario, I often wonder about the placement of responsibility and accountability in certain situations. This coffee at closing time example is fairly vanilla. You ordered decaf, you should either get decaf or be told decaf isnít available. Pretty basic.

But I know for a fact, having spoken with many folks that worked in places serving it, that a full-on-caffeinated cup of coffee has on occasion been served to a customer requesting decaffeinated.

Letís leave the idea right there, and not wander down the path of nasty customers, absurd expectations, or poor service. All valid. All not really related to where weíre headed. What we need to move along is an idea we can all agree upon, which is people requesting one thing can often get the other.

Which in turn lines up nicely with the second thought.

Why do you care? Is it decaf just because itís late? Or, is it decaf because there is some reason why caffeine is being avoided?

And so, decaffeinated coffee and an express test. Novelty idea. Right? Just a novelty. (Right?)

When I was growing up, I loved chicken salad sandwiches. On bread, on toast, on sub rolls. Add some bacon and make a chicken salad club. Crazy thing though. Those were the days when your chicken salad was made of chicken salad.

Have you seen the reports about some sandwich places that question whether the tuna being served is tuna? If youíre going to eat ďimitationĒ something, why?

Iíd like to think that at as closing time approaches, we understand that asking for a fresh pot of coffee to be made might be a bit much. Is that true? No. Itís a request in a customer service industry. But I also know that customers are not always right. Sure, treat them kindly and with respect. Occasionally though, they deserve regular coffee.

Point being, most of the time, there appears to be more going on that created the situation other than simply no decaf in the pot at closing time. Why was it served? Why wasnít it served? Is someone being a jerk in the exchange? Weíre not talking about just the customer or just the staff, and frankly, weíre not simply talking about coffee.

These days however, we have folks that truly are making false claims. Many times, because thereís more profit in the action. Which means that if the action is to show something wrong, Iím applauding the effort. We do need to be accountable and responsible for what we do. But we seem to have moved beyond that, often into a gotcha mentality approach, and giving a nasty gotcha specialist a decaf testing device seems like itís asking for problems.

Itís a shame. But is the saddest part that my chicken salad may not be completely chicken salad? Is it that someone is trying to fool me in order to make more money on their end? Or, is it something else entirely? The answer may surprise you. (The last minute, end of the day, non-decaf-decaf shouldnít.)


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