Coffee for rent?

No sooner have we all got used to seeing people (like me) working in our local Costa or Starbucks than someone has to go and spoil the party.


Obviously the ordering of a medium capp or grande latte carries with it a small price for some free wifi. That’s why the tables are now generally occupied by laptops and iPads (apparently other makes are available). Coffee equals rent. Everyone knows that nothing is ever for free.

My local Costa has become more akin to a modern office – with people spreading papers, phones and wifi enabled devices out. And why not – the coffee is good, the seats are comfy and you tend not to get disturbed* by colleagues who want to know if you ‘just have a minute‘.

But there is a shift. It seems we are having too much of a good thing and, apparently, the sort of territorial behaviour we have seen is unsociable and effecting coffee sales. So, in America, there are signs that wifi is being turned off.

It can only be a matter of time before they start (or stop) this here?

This will be a backward step; how will I be able to start my day?

*some of my colleagues believe I am already disturbed.

Can you lend me some money?

It’s a amazing to think that there are over £44m of unclaimed prizes in Premium Bonds. 900,000 prizes have remained unclaimed! Two of them are £100,000 and one is a £25 prize from 1957…

I have checked my numbers and NS&I don’t owe me £100,000 – although if they need a good home, I can provide one.

*Mar 24 - 00:05*

When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago – there was a aging debate about the subway system. They, like in London, have pre-paid tickets. But they time-expire. In fact I am such a victim – having monies on the ticket but unable to use it.

The value of lost, expired or unused Metrocards over the course of a year adds up to $52 million. That’s each and every year! The new cards are not time limited, but the subway operators manage to trouser that much money for doing nothing!

To try to stop this happening again (it must be a real headache!) they now charge you $1 for the card.

I was thinking about this as I have a Starbucks card in my wallet – I think there might be a few pounds on it. I don’t miss the pennies really, but if everyone does the same, they are sat on a very nice healthy balance – which is helping fund their business? The latest information I could find is that in 2011 $1.5bn was loaded onto the cards. There are ‘several million cards in existence’. The money washes in and out – but it’s a great way for us to fund their already successful business?

Who is the fool here?

Coffee drinkers – a rebellious lot!

I take my coffee now from Costa – I turned my back on Starbucks 18 months ago when Costa opened their first drive through on my way to work!

Starbucks - Shanghai branch!

Starbucks – Shanghai branch!

In recent weeks it has emerged that Costa has seen a sales increase of 7% in the last twelve months. You can’t help but wonder if there is something of a backlash against Starbucks. Of course it is now well documented that since 1998 they may have sold £3bn worth of coffee but they only paid £7m in tax.

There are two amusing parts to the Starbucks story.

Firstly – they have not actually broken the law. The Government feigning indignation is simply to get The Sun readers on side. It’s Outrageous (but not illegal) yelped the headlines?

The second is that Starbucks then made it’s real faux pas – offering a sort of token payment to HMRC – £10m this year and the same next. No doubt they see this as a bit of an inconvenience. I would love to make an offer to the Taxman of what I fancy paying (oddly it is less than I pay now!).

Starbucks timed the issue of their new staff contracts a little badly. Two weeks ago they told all of their staff they were introducing new contracts – reducing paid lunch-breaks, removing sick-pay on the first day of illness coupled with a reduction in maternity benefits. I guess they need to get the cash from somewhere to pay this ‘optional’ tax!

If the figures are anything to go by – it looks like this has been a PR disaster for Starbucks?

I pay more tax than Starbucks?

I used to drink in Starbucks every day. I have even made a pilgrimage to the home of Starbucks at Pike Place Market in Seattle! I bought a mug – which the office cleaning lady broke…

I stopped going to Starbucks when Costa built a new facility in Nottingham where I get free wi-fi and don’t get my car dinged in the car park! It was also newer and shinier. And I’m fickle.

But this week there was a story that my old favourite have been found out. They have paid no income tax for the last three years in the UK. This is despite the fact that they had £1.2bn of sales. We all know that the mark-up on their coffee (and that of their competitors) must be fantastic. But Starbucks make a loss in the UK – and so don’t pay tax!

Of course they have done nothing illegal. They make no profit – they pay no tax. That’s how our tax laws work.

They have a market capitalisation of £24.8bn and has a low UK tax rate because of a number of complicated tax-efficient corporate measures. It buys its coffee beans through a firm based in Lausanne in Switzerland – the beans are then sent to Amsterdam to be roasted before they reach the UK. As a result, Starbucks allocates some profits from its UK sales to these Dutch roasting and Swiss trading units.

So, they might be a High Street giant and claim to be ethical – but they pay less tax than me. I struggle with this concept…

A new way of working?

There’s a new word – “freeroamer”. It’s used to describe a laptop or iPad user who doesn’t have the restrictions of an office (with its incumbent commitment and rent!). Instead he or she runs a business from one of the plethora of coffee shops which now have free wi-fi.

Most people who know me realise my day starts in Costa Coffee (it used to be Starbucks but they don’t have wi-fi at my local store). I can get an essential caffeine boost, breakfast, warmth and a connection into the world through wi-fi. I have noticed an increase in numbers of people logged in this way. They aren’t necessarily chatting on their phones though – it seems to be email…

Then if I call later I can do a meeting – get good coffee again and if we need it – plans or documents on my iPad. The coffee shop is a great meeting place. We don’t even have to wash up!

It’s become a new way of working. There are some statistics which suggest 1.3 million people now work this way. Of course it offers the ultimate in flexibility. And perfect conditions!

And there’s a new class of worker too – the Bleisure Brigade – those blurring business with leisure. People who work flexible hours (not like the Cvil Servants in my blog yesterday) but also in flexible places. They can move from coffee shop to coffee shop. The key element is the wi-fi connection. It has become critical now – and the coffee houses have finally grasped it. Free wi-fi and Costa-Lot coffee!

New York – 2012 – part one

This morning I leave Blighty for Manhattan Island. Some have suggested I have stirred enough of the Mayor debate up that I need to leave the City. Whereas some fine citizens get the key to the City I managed to get barred from filming with the BBC in ‘my own’ Castle. I found it amusing. It’s now my claim to fame!

But the trip was arranged some weeks ago, when Virgin dropped their flight prices to half of what they were in March when I blogged about the coincidental pricing arrangements between Virgin and BA. In fact it is the cheapest I have ever paid.

So, it’s across the pond for a few days. To the City that never sleeps.

As we have been discussing the Mayor in Nottingham over the last few weeks I was reflecting on the Mayoral position in New York. In the easy days when I went it was a very different place – crime was high and feeling safe was not how you felt. The Subway was out of bounds and going past 100th was considered suicide.

But Guiliani was credited with changing that. He cut crime and made the place safe again. He cleaned the City up.

I wouldn’t dream about travelling other by the subway. We have been into the Bronx. In some ways i think it is safer in New York than in Nottingham on a Saturday night! The Police presence is high – they are on every corner and at rush hour on station platforms. It’s zero tolerance.

So for the next few days, The Big Apple is home. It’s a chance to see some art, some music (I’ll blog about that later!) and lot’s of coffee shops. I get to go to some great independent music shops – and buy some more vinyl. A trip to John’s Pizza is essential as is the Milk Bar in the Chelsea Flower Market. The High Line is great at dusk.

I really ought to write my guide book this time…

Miles and hours

I thought I would monitor my cars performance during October and have observed the following:

1. I worked 21 full days (some of them longer than others) and then some Saturdays.
2. I drove 1,767 miles
3. My car says I spend 61 hours and 45 minutes attached to it – thats just over 8 days in English money!
4. It also says I averaged 29mph – not exactly fast! But quicker than a chicken.
5. I spent £335 on diesel – ouch.
6. We managed an average mpg of 33.8mpg – much better than my RS4.
7. I went to Guildford, Wakefield, The Isle of Wight, Manchester as well as lots of places around Nottingham and the East Midlands. I can’t recall them all as I lost my diary when I upgraded to the Cloud… thanks Apple.
8. I drank more Costa Coffee than can really be considered healthy, and managed only one Starbucks - which is a volte face.

I need to spend less time attached to the car I think?

A five star meal

From my (first) post yesterday you will perhaps recall that I promised you a story about our evening meal in Istanbul.

We were all rather hungry (I had survived somehow on one Starbucks, one other cappuccino and a beer).

I can’t remember what we used to do without iPhones – but Trip Advisor was consulted and the number one restaurant was a short distance from us. It is called Meze by the Lemon Tree. It was superb. I always wonder about Trip Advisor – as I think it is a site in danger of having spoof reviews (good or bad) made by the staff… So a hefty bucket of salt is needed. But not on this occasion.

The restaurant is tiny – it has just 8 tables – we were lucky in getting in – the owner was personable and wanted to help us – especially as we had come 1600 miles! Mezes are appetisers of small dishes of vegetables, seafood and meat. If the colours and textures are amazing – the taste is better. The main course was then meat and seafood which was also great, but the desert was a calorie counters worst night mare. It was a special dish of banana, cream, pastachios, ground hot pepper – you had to share it! Wine was a Turkish Tempranillo – excellent. Turkish coffee to finish and then the bill.

If this had been Nottingham I think it would have been £60 each, in London I guess – £80-100.

It was less than £30 including the tip.

And honestly, this is one of the best meals I have ever had… so if you are in Istabul you must go…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Food, Istanbul, , Meze, Meze by lemon tree, , Restaurant, , Turkey, Turkish coffee, turkish delight

The wobble happened….

I admit it. I went to Costa this week – twice. A free drink on Thursday (it was family and friends day – I was an honorary friend) and a paid for one on Friday. Both at the new drive through at Castle Marina in Nottingham. I was worried about this earlier in the week. It felt dirty.

The UK's first Costa drive-through

The new store, I have to confess, is rather good. It is new after all. It is better inside than Starbucks – which was last upgraded a few years ago. It now looks tired at the side of Costa. There is more bad news for Starbucks – Costa will have wi-fi fitted, it wasn’t working yesterday as they were having some technical issues… But the technical issue at Starby’s is that the numpties at Sainsbury’s say wi-fi interferes with their till system (I think not).

I understand that this is the first Costa drive-through in the UK. Six more are planned this year, but Nottingham has the first past the post badge.

The new Nottingham Best Buy store

Next door, Best Buy opened too yesterday. I didn’t bother early in the morning as they were queuing! And this morning someone called Alesha Dixon is singing. I have no idea who she is.

The store seems to have taken an age to open, which is not surprising as it is cavernous inside. The staff are `ll really friendly and are apparently expert in all manner of technology. I should imagine that Currys, Comet and PC world will be quite worried…

Just thinking through my coffee issue, I wonder if I could go and sit in Costa with my take-away Starbucks?

A real dilemma?

My choice of (legal) drug is caffeine. Days are not great if I don’t have my essential Starbucks in a morning.

You will find me at Castle Marina most mornings; it’s on my way to the office and the staff know what need want. I don’t need a long chat, it’s easy – Grade Cappuccino. Most of the staff know…

And people who say it’s bad for you are wrong – there’s a new study out which suggests it may actually be good for you. It is certainly good for my office – as it makes me a smiley happy person when I arrive!

There are some downsides. I have to tolerate numpties who can’t park for toffee in Sainsbury’s car park. They don’t get the white lines thing – or they believe that straddling is a prize-winning exercise. And they don’t have wi-fi in Starbuck’s because Sainsbury’s reckon it will blow their tills up. Which is clearly utter rubbish. But they are not for reasoning with apparently. More numpties. I’m not sure how I can tolerate these things?

The dilemma is that Costa open this week at the back of Sainsbury’s on the retail park. It’s a brand new shiny store – which has a drive-in facility. It is going to apparently have wi-fi. And you can park outside.

The down-side? – the coffee is not as nice as Starbucks. But … could I adapt to the taste?? A dilemma for the week – I may just venture in for a nosey!