Diary

Shit Cafes

10 March 2006 | Diary

One of the things I like about living in Glasgow’s West End is that there is certainly no dearth of cafes or coffee shops. These things are important stepping stones in the day of any self-respecting flaneur. They are reasonably diverse as well for a city with a reputation as a stinking filth pit populated by so-called schemies and neds. If you fancy something chilled out and hippy-friendly, there is T’chai Ovna. If you’re a pinstripe city type, there is Cafe Gandolfi, not to mention a multitude of Starbucks doppelgangers.

Glasgow is also home, however, to two of the shittest cafes I have ever seen.

Shit Cafe #1: The Abbey National on Argyle Street is half-bank-half-cafe. The very thought. The juxtaposition is reminiscent of The Thing with Two Heads or the resulting Futurama homage. Don’t the semiotics of banks and cafes kinda oppose each other?

Why would anyone want to sit in a place with a soundtrack consisting of beeping ATM machines and the clickety-clack of pens on chains? A quick Google search reveals that this is a recurring theme with similar Costa/Abbey National mutants opening up all over the country: Chelsea, London’s King’s Road, Brixton. They have our towns, people!

This article reckons that the idea behind such monstrosities was “a way to make banking less tiresome”. Yeah, cos, phewie, I for one draw a sweat pressing those six buttons on the cash point to retrieve a tenner. Better retire to the old armchair there for a double espresso.

Shit Cafe #2: Movie World on Great Western Road opened a few months ago as a video rental shop with an Internet access port on the side. It must have been failing due to (a) people’s reluctance to rent videos any more and (b) the fact that broadband for your home is so cheap and the public library even provides it for free. Their way of turing things around, it seems, was to put a Costa coffee in-store. So now you can sit around in leather ‘gentleman’s-club’ armchairs, surrounded by cardboard display units for Lord of War. No thank you.

I just don’t understand why anyone would pay £1.90 or thereabouts for a coffee in those conditions when you could have the same drink at home for about 10p. It’s the ambiance of the place you’re paying for after all and a video rental shop or a BANK for freak’s sake just doesn’t provide that.

I guess this is what happens when you franchise a company. The most annoying thing of all, of course, is the fact that (financially) it works: further evidence that the world is full of morons.



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