Cocolossal fail


The bigger the hype, the harder the fall.


When it came to dining, our break wasn’t all beer and skittles.

To our bitter disappointment, it wasn’t even bread.

Here’s what happened.


Rave review

In researching accommodation, we found a white-hot Epicure review of a local eatery.

Fonnie noted that, while the writer had raved about the concept, the premises and the owner’s pedigree, there wasn’t very much about food.

This should’ve warned us.

What the review did mention was bread:

… the handsome new $28,000 Salva oven (shipped on a slow boat from Spain) …

… regulars are getting nicely familiar with the sourdough …

We love bread, so it was with light rye hearts that we rocked up at 5 pm on our first day.


No bread for you!

The eatery was closed, despite a sign advertising dinner.

Undaunted, we returned at 10 am.

The counter girl told us bluntly that we were too late for bread.

Golly! we thought, It must be incredible bread!

Next day, we came back at opening time.

It was too early for bread.


Pulling teeth

The girl didn’t offer this information.

Rather, we had to extract it, word by word, like denture-borne poppy seeds.

It went a little like this:

Hi! We’d like some of your youbeaut sourdough bread please!

There isn’t any.

Really? Why’s that?

You’re too early.

Is it not ready yet?


Ah. When do you think it will be ready?


We came yesterday at ten and it was all gone. Do you think it might be here by nine?


Ah. That’s a shame. Perhaps we’ll wait …


Malfunction in breakfast dispenser!

We scanned the empty dining room.

Are you … doing breakfast today?

The girl flopped a hand at a blackboard boasting sourdough with every dish.

Um, excuse me …

But she’d turned and was laughing with a local. Eventually, we got her back.

Would it be fair to say you won’t be doing breakfasts with sourdough bread until it arrives?

No sourdough today.

No … sourdough?!


Why not?

Turkish bread today.

So, in the absence of sourdough, what can you do for breakfast?

Silently she indicated a row of one-serve Coco Pop boxes.

C … Coco Pops?


Fonnie and I agreed this was as far from the Epicure review as it was possible to get.


Off season

Something as good as The Deck-House doesn’t need reviews.

On the flip side, if something ain’t good, no review can save it.

I write for a living.

Yet the world’s finest words, when they don’t reflect reality, merely sharpen the disappointment of a bad retail experience.


Your call

I realise that:

  • It’s only bread.
  • It wasn’t high season.
  • Some locals don’t dig townies.

But when the nation’s most respected broadsheet reports:

… we’ve gone from duelling banjos to the London Philharmonic …

you can perhaps forgive our high hopes.

My best theory for this yawning promise-delivery disconnect is that the owner sold the eatery, at the height of its hype, to his antithesis.

Do you have a better explanation for this cocolossal service fail?

I hunger for your words.



| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • Dear Paul,

    This one really made me laugh. You are a master with words, and this experience served up with a real dose of ‘sour’ from the shop ain’t going to make them much ‘dough’!

    A complete contrast to your story about the fab Deck House.

    And here is the rub – the owners would probably spit the proverbial Turkish is they knew that this person was the custodian of their customer experience. Actions speak louder than words, and when their intent is anything other than a brilliant customer experience, then it shows.

    Having your expectations built up – and then destroyed – is like a ‘double whammy’ – we value things lost (like your expected experience) at twice what you would value them if we had no prior expectation.

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement, Phil! :)

      I wanted to write good/bad bookend posts about our time away, so I’m delighted you found these good.

      I totally agree with your summary. It’s been a recurring theme in our blog posts over the years – no more so than in:

      If firms would just stop promising stuff they can’t deliver, we’d stop being upset when we don’t get it!

      Best regards and thanks again!

  • On reflection, I’d like to pose two more questions:

    1. What’s the worst disconnect between promise and delivery you’ve ever experienced?

    2. Describe a time when delivery met (or even exceeded) the promise to make you a VERY happy camper.

  • … foodie stories particularly welcome – but your story can be about anything. :)

  • In a slight twist of fate, I’ve frequented the very same establishment that is the source of our story today…and, I’ve enjoyed their sour dough bread. I’m sorry to report that it is every bit as good as the Epicure review rates it as…. :)

    While it may have changed hands since I was last there (October 2010), it still doesn’t excuse the terrible service – in fact, surely the ‘locals’ would have their best service game on during the slower months to encourage custom during the off season??

    But….in another twist of fate, I know the warehouse manager of the company that delivers beverages to this place. AND, I have asked him to put all drivers on Sour Dough Watch 2011. First driver to come back with the goods scores my eternal admiration (apparently securing the prized sour dough doesn’t warrant a bonus. I beg to differ).

    I’ll get you that bread, P!

    • Wow, Emma; who’d have thought?! You sure are connected! Many thanks for adding your inside knowledge.

      Fonnie suggested this morning that perhaps they only make one loaf per regular client, and that they’re all lined up, tagged and bagged, under the counter.

      Each time we were there, young children were being taught to handle the register. This made us think it might be a new owner family.

      Your driver idea is inspired. Can’t wait to see what it turns up! :)

  • Very strange way to run a business! But maybe it was just a bad staffing choice and visiting at a different time would have got much better results?

    Not quite a promise/deliver story but one I remember vividly was a local Indian place – not a restaurant but a local grocery with hot food on the side type of place. First visit – nothing spectacularly good or bad but nice food. Second visit – the man serving looked at us and in total disbelief said “Hey, you’ve bought our food before haven’t you?”

    Repeat custom was so rare he had to comment on it to customers?

    • Hello Tash! It may well be that we were in the right place at the wrong time. Not sure if I’m up to having another try in summer, though. Life is short …

      Thank you for your bizarre story. I’ve heard the term ‘fear of success’ but never been quite sure what it meant. I wonder if this man had it.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind contribution. :)

  • How about this one: Its a freezing day in Berlin – about -7 degrees C. My wife has our two small boys out and about running errands and they enter a little shop. The shop is empty. Nicole asks, in her very best German, for one coffee and two hot chocloates.
    “No” is the response.
    “Excuse me?”
    “I cant make them. I can do one coffee and one hot chocolate”
    “Are you running our of hot choclolate?”
    “Then why?”
    “I’m too busy”.
    Bemused, my wife orders one coffee and one hot chocolate, which the kids share. There was no reason why this person could not have supplied another hot chocolate, they just refused to.

    I learned that there was two types of service in Berlin – ‘West Berlin” service, which was appalling, and ‘East German” service, which was worse! (and this was only a few years ago!). Not the model I would use if I was running that shop. Did Nicole ever go back?? What do you reckon!

    • Oh lieb! Das ist nicht gut! Ich bin traurig, es zu hören. Danke für das Teilen. 😉