Monday, May 12, 2008

Artfully Chocolate Let Me Down

Friday night must have been an off night for ACKC. I've been all over that place since it opened. I've always gotten prompt, pleasant service at the bar or at the counter without asking, and the goods have always exceeded by expectations.

This past weekend was nothing like our past visits. The lights over the truffle counter were dark, and no one was staffing the area -- or, for that matter, offering to help customers who were browsing the selections. The chocolate/coffee bar was busy. However, Mr. 14th and You and I sat there for several minutes before our presence was acknowledged. Once we were noticed, we were told brusquely that it was "policy" to order at the cash register. Accordingly, Mr. 14th and You moved eight feet to his left to order. I'm fine with ordering wherever, but I'm not fine with being told to do so impolitely. We were then served with our orders in to-go cups. Normally, I would have thought that a simple mix-up or a case of not enough clean mugs, but the stares that the two barristas leveled at us during our brief stay seemed to indicate a passive hostility toward our very presence. Needless to say, the usual pleasant banter with the staff was completely out of the question.

I also couldn't help but notice that smoothies and blended coffee have come to ACKC. Perhaps it couldn't be helped because the door and mirror behind the bar have been plastered with signs for the Ice Train brand. What an anathema in such a gorgeous space. Anyway, I can't understand why they would serve a pre-fab chemical cocktail when all of the other food and beverages there are very high quality. The Ice Train smoothies I've had around the city (and they are so common at so many delis and cafes), are syrupy sweet. The coffee flavors, though not awful, have the subtly chemical taste of instant brownies or instant pudding.

ACKC can't maintain their elegant high-quality brand and my loyalty if the service stinks and they start lazily dipping into mass-produced beverages.


Anonymous said...

They must have hired some of the baristas displaced by Sparky's

Anonymous said...

2 employees called out that particular night (one of whom has since left). So yes, they were admittedly understaffed and stressed as Friday is normally very busy.

And no, they haven't hired any of the Sparky's employees. Most of them are now at Big Bear.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that your lack of observation (i.e., the bold sign hanging above the cash register stating"place orders here") and the request that you order at the register led you to pour your selfrighteous, over-blown sense of self importance over the community that is the internet. Who gives a f%#k if you weren't coddled and stroked soothingly when asked to order in the correct area...get over yourself.
You wanna bitch, bitch about the constant dumping of waste materials into the Potomac by Corporations along the river on the Maryland side. Or the lack of police presense along 14 St. during the evening and late nights.
As a frequent customer, and being someone who has worked in that industry in the past, I understand the stress in being understaffed and overwhelmed. And i take that into consideration before making any judgements, accepting that there are bigger, more important things in life to stress about, and that when it comes down to's just chocolate.
14th and You? No, 14th and ME ME ME! Or should we call you Veruca?

14th & You said...

Anonymous: Whoah.

Happy to report that we returned this weekend, three people were working and the service was much improved. Still not thrilled about last week's visit though.

Anonymous said...

That place is obscene. I ordered a piece of cake for $6. It was stale. I brought it back to the counter and asked for a fresh piece. That was the last piece of that type, so I chose a different type. When I sat down to eat my new piece, I noticed it had hairs on top. They definitely weren't mine because I'm blonde and the hairs were black. Displeased, I returned it to the counter and pointed out the offending hairs. The guy working at the counter was pissed (at me). Without asking me, he picked the hairs off with his fingers, which resulted in his fingers getting deep into my frosting. I told him I'd rather have my money back. He refused and instead accused me of "hassling" him. What the fuck? For $6, I expect and deserve a fresh, clean, and delicious piece of cake served without any attitude. I wasn't trying to get a free piece. I wanted either my money back or the product I paid for, but the asshole behind the counter refused. When I asked to speak to the manager, he said he was it. I will never return.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Come on anonymous 2:22, don't you know that Maryland corporations are dumping crap into the Potomac? How can you possibly care about hairs and fingers in your cake when we need more police along 14th St.?

Anonymous 11:41 neglected to use my favorite line: How can you care about hot chocolate when there's a war going on?

Eric Nelson said...

I am Eric Nelson, one of the owners of ACKC. While it is a bit painful, I do appreciate hearing of your experiences. It is very hard to impress on employees how important customer service is. While sometimes circumstances are out of our control (like when two people call out), Rob Kingsbury (my business partner) and I are completely dedicated to customer service and will take steps to make sure that our staff understands our priorities. If you ever have any problems along the lines of what some of you have described, please ask for myself or Rob. If we are not here, please leave your number. I assure you we will return your call and try to fix any problems that occurred. Thank you for your continued business.

Eric Nelson

Mr. 14th & You said...


Thanks for taking the time to respond. Seriously, there aren't many local business owners who would take the time.

As we mentioned above, we've been back since, and had a good experience. In fact, up until the evening in question we'd had nothing but great experiences at ACKC--which is why the poor service was such a surprise. I'm sure it can be chalked up to an off-night...we'll certainly be back. Probably far more times than is healthy for us.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's nice the owner responded here, but he didn't respond to an email I sent the about 2 weeks ago about simialr problems discussed here.

I'll give the place another chance - hopefully customer service is imporved!

Anonymous said...

I wrote above that the owner didn't respond to an email I sent him a few weeks back. Actually he did, but it went to my bulk folder. Eric, I do appreciate your response, and I'll try your place out again as it is a very attractive space, with even more mind blowing Chocolates. I just hope the customer service is just as good as everything else.