I’ve fallen victim to extortion at the fragrant tendrils of a mean Dirty Chai.
Three weeks ago, my dear friend Lori took me to one of our favorite coffee houses to introduce me to a fall beverage I’ve described right here in this forum as “liquid gingerbread in a cup.” On that visit, our two mugs worth plus a bonus scone Lori threw in ran us just under four bucks, if memory serves me correctly, and I believe it does, because I do recall thinking to myself: “What an amazing deal! Who needs Starbucks?”
I week or so later, I went back with my daughter and a 2 for 1 coupon. The barista looked a little puzzled, as the coupon applied to any menu item and here we were, blowing our savings on a mere cup of coffee, instead of, say, a free sandwich. But we weren’t hungry, the coupon was about to expire, and why not enjoy a little savings on some latte? I remember a slight pang on confusion as my total came to just under four bucks, same as last time but no scone, but I chalked the whole thing up as not really important as soon as I had the hot cup of steaming wonderful in my eager hands.
Fast forward another week and I’m back to get a couple of Chais to go, as a little thank you gesture for a friend who did me a favor. Imagine my surprise when the barista wants me to fork over $8.50. At this, I balked and asked for a receipt, but got nothing but a friendly little reminder that I had a coupon last time, and some mumbo jumbo about the concoction’s espresso content. As this was my first “to-go” experience, I figured maybe the rate for an in-house cup was for a smaller size, so I checked the menu price for a large latte and saw it was listed at $3.36. I’m no math whiz, but that’s $6.72 for a pair. I chalked the discrepancy up to tax and went on my way.
Fast forward to yesterday. I head back with my daughter, chagrined at the prospect of paying Starbucks-level pricing for a beverage that seemed such a good deal a mere two weeks ago, but craving a fix all the same. I was a little short on cash, but I figure I can scrape together the $8.50 for both of us to get a rainy day pick-me-up. Imagine my surprise when the barista now wants $9.55 for the same beverage set I got last week for $8.50. This time I absolutely insist on a receipt. All I got was a piece of paper that basically reiterated that yes, they want $9.55—no itemization of any kind.
I desperately want to chalk this up to tax and move forward, but I just can’t. According to the menu, the list price for the most exorbitant latte they sell is still $3.36. That’s still $6.72 for a pair. And I realize that taxes are bad, but even I know that a $1.05 increase in Chai tax in the space of a single week isn’t likely.
At this point, I’m smelling something Dirty, all right, and it’s not Chai.