This is Your Home

Retail is Why I Keep Going Back to México City

On a whim in early 2016, I booked a fight to México City. Why? I had Southwest voucher about to expire and the airline had recently opened up this international route. I could never have guessed that less than two years later, I’d have returned three more times. I certainly would never have predicted that I’d think of the D.F. as my second home. But I do.

But here’s the crazy thing—I keep going back for the coffee. OK, not just the coffee, the coffee at Cardinal Casa de Café. But I can drill this down even further. I go, specifically, to Cardinal, because of what happened that very first time I walked in. It changed everything.

And though I’ve written about this a dozen times, I’ll do it again here for context.

Cardinal was on a list of cafés given to me by a friend in the coffee industry. My plan was to visit each café and do a little writeup about my experience. Maybe publish it (which I did). On the day I visited Cardinal, I’d already visited two other shops. I had four shots of espresso in me. I walked into Cardinal’s garage-style entrance and was immediately greeted by a barista who turned out to be one of the owners, Shak Zapata. We got to talking and, in a nutshell, he told me that when I come back, I should think of Cardinal as my home. It wasn’t a schtick. His words were obviously genuine.

Yes, at Cardinal I got amazing service. Stellar, even. But the coffee drinks were also out of this world. Cardinal nails the magical combination of two things: great product and magnetic vibe.

It was such a great experience, in fact, that I left without paying. Don’t worry, I noticed my oversight about a mile away and double-backed. I apologized to Shak but he wasn’t even phased. He said it happens all the time. Not a surprise considering how drunk I was on the whole deal.

When I refer to this combination as magical, I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Product and vibe make up the perfect mix that creates lifelong loyalty. Plenty of shops (in any industry) have amazing product. But big whoop. I say ‘so what’ unless the service is commensurate to it. Like, impeccable. Cardinal’s is. And it’s not just Shak, either. It’s the other owners and the rest of the team, too.

Believe it or not, Cardinal is part of why I booked a second trip to the D.F. And now it has become exactly what Shak said it would be—my home away from home.

Customer service is not brain surgery. It’s quite easy. I often wonder why there’s a need for trainers like me to remind teams how to genuinely connect with the next person through the door. I guess we all need reminders, but there are folks out there who can’t help but make every customer’s experience a memorable one. Folks like Shak. His simple gesture of kindness two years ago has altered the direction of my life. Literally so.

Like I say in all my trainings, The smallest gestures evoke the greatest change.

This opportunity is at your retail fingertips. It’s the small stuff that matters. And nothing in the world, nothing at all, beats authentic human interaction. When customers get that from you they stop being your customers and start being your friends.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like the kind of business I want to be in.

Me and Shak Zapata at Cardinal Casa de Café

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