Like many people, I try to do good. I give a little to charities that mean a lot to me, and donate clothing to charity stores in the hope they can earn a few quid from my old stuff.
My good deeds are, however, sporadic. I do a little when I can and undoubtedly I should do more – but when life takes over, I just forget sometimes.
I tend to buy the Big Issue only a couple of times a year, but I have been known to offer a few spare coins to people in the street who have fallen on bad times or buy them a cup of tea. It doesn’t take much thought, does it? Dead easy, in fact.
When I was shopping in Walsall today, I spotted a homeless man, huddled in a blanket, quite close to the New Art Gallery. I’m certain I’ve seen him there before and I wanted to give him a few coins, but in truth I had about 20p in coppers in my purse.
It was cold, but obviously not as cold as it has been over the past couple of weeks. So what would be nicer, then, to warm up inside Costa Coffee at the art gallery and rest my feet a while? You see – I’d barely given the homeless man a thought, had I?
I’d started going to Costa in a one-woman, slightly pathetic silent protest against Starbucks, when its tax affairs became known. Yeah – that’ll show them, I thought.
But after what happened today, I doubt I’ll be returning to my coffee shop of “choice” (in inverted commas, because Walsall town centre isn’t exactly overflowing with places to have a coffee).
I’d ordered a skinny latte and something to eat (so I could pay on my card. No cash. Remember?). The coffee came, but it was a full fat version. No problem – it would be changed. No fuss. No bother.
Then I remembered the chap outside, a few paces away, still looking cold and damp. A small lightbulb went off in my head.
“What will you do with that coffee?” I asked the barista. “Will you throw it away? If so, could I take it to the homeless chap outside?”
He didn’t look at me. He just muttered “no” and carried on making me my skinny latte. Was he embarrassed by a corporate rule?
If I’m honest, the response dumbfounded me. If I’d have thought more quickly on my feet, I’d have protested and walked out. I could have bought the coffee anyway and taken to it to him.
I am ashamed to say I did neither.
I just sat in the shop, drank my latte and ate my cake. My mood slowly festered as I watched the coffee going cold when it was put to one side and left.
How miserly, mean spirited and cold-hearted of Costa Walsall branch*, a brand that prides itself on its Costa Foundation charity that helps coffee growers in countries such as Guatemala, Uganda, Colombia and Vietnam.
Why, if the mistaken order was going to be thrown away and marked down as wastage in the books, could it not just be poured into a paper cup so that it could be taken to someone who might have appreciated it?
The latte that I was served left a very nasty taste in my mouth; Costa clearly couldn’t care less.
I’ll not be returning.
*Walsall branch added at 7.12pm