This is a special section of the 12 Angry Men Blog where we celebrate the best Troll to be found anywhere that week. While there are many varieties of troll, ranging from the fuzzy-haired dashboard decorations to the waylayer of the Billy Goats Gruff, we enjoy a well-executed jabbing that leaves an adversary stammering for a response. Any moron can produce a flame—mere sewage dumped upon the city square—but to produce a good Troll is a work worthy of the celebration of men.

The Troll of the Week segment will be written frequently enough to be termed “periodic”, but the actual label “of the week” is merely idealistic ambition, and it is not to be taken seriously.

Our inaugural Troll of the Week set the bar high, and it has been exceedingly difficult to find company worthy of it. But we’ve soldiered on and found a few. Usually solitary but sometimes, as now feeding off one another. Every troll desires attention, of course, but sometimes the attention desired is that of a particular individual, one who has (the troll feels) wronged him in some deep and fundamental way. This is amusing enough when it involves serious matter, but when the deep and terrible wrong is over something truly trivial, like a cup of expresso, well, much like losing an eye, then it’s hilarious.

Context and Execution of Trolls:

On July 13th, Jeff Simmermon (who will live up to his name) walked into Murky Coffee (which presumably lives up to its name) in Arlington, VA. His goal was a simple one: enjoy some coffee, some free WiFi, and the ambiance of a coffee shop while waiting for his girlfriend. A simple dream, and one that a high-class coffee palace like Murky Coffee would be happy to fulfill—or so you’d think. But soon an ugly problem reared its head, for, you see, Jeff wanted a triple expresso over ice (horrors)! Yes, that’s right, he wanted the highly trained and deeply passionate barista to go to all the work of producing three cups of perfect expresso and then dump it over ice. Naturally, the barista complained:

And the guy at the counter looked me in the eye with a straight face and said “I’m sorry, we can’t serve iced espresso here. It’s against our policy.”

Jeff’s reaction was, perhaps, all to familiar to some of us:

The whole world turned brown and chunky for a second. Flecks of corn floated past my pupils, and it took me a second to blink it all away.

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll have a triple espresso and a cup of ice, please.”

After that, the whole tawdry drama played itself out:

He rolled his eyes and rang it up, took my money, gave me change. I stood there and waited. Then the barista called me over to the bar. I reached for it, and he leaned over and locked his eyes with mine, saying “Hey man. What you’re about to do … that’s really, really Not Okay.”

I could hear the capital letters in his voice, could see the gravity of the situation in his eyes.

He continued: “This is our store policy, to preserve the integrity of the coffee. It’s about the quality of the drink, and diluting the espresso is really not cool with us. So I mean, you’re going to do what you’re going to do, and I can’t stop you, but”

First Troll, complete. A customer, eager to exchange money for goods and services, is met not with service or understanding but with condescension and accusations of gross immorality. The first cup’s raised to you, David the Barista!

Not to be outdone, however, Jeff was quick to reply and meet Troll with Troll:

I interrupted. “You’re goddamned right you can’t stop me,” I said. “I happen to have a personal policy that prohibits me from indulging stupid bullshit like this — and another personal policy of doing what I want with the products I pay for.” Then I looked him right in his big wide eyes and poured the espresso onto the ice.

Now, that might have been the end of it (since David didn’t rise to the occasion and punch Jeff in the face or anything). But, true Troll that he is, Jeff couldn’t leave it there. He headed back up to the register and confronted his nemesis once again:

“I would like the strongest iced beverage your policy will allow,” I said.

“How about an Americano with four shots and light on the water” asked the barista.

I’d never had one before — so I said, “sure.”

Then he turned around and filled up a plastic cup with ice, filled it 3/4 of the way with water and carefully added four shots of espresso. He stirred it gravely and handed it to me, saying “enjoy.” And you know what? I really did. You’ve got to admire someone’s dedication to craft, and rigid adherence to a strict quality control policy. I was really, really impressed. So impressed that I swallowed my rage like so much cold coffee, opened up my wallet, and left a tip in the tip jar.

Jeff’s tip, of course, was his masterwork:

The Troll de la resistance

It was that tip, perhaps, that turned what was already a fine Double Header into a Triple Play. For not only were armchair baristas and amateur consumer advocates across the Internet now lining up behind Jeff or David, but Nick Cho, the owner of Murky Coffee, literally The Man whose word was law for David, threw his hat into the ring, issuing a truly professional, well-reasoned, and temperate letter.

We could try to sum things up, but I really think that Nick’s words speak for themselves as no one else’s could:

I suppose some sort of two-cents is warranted here.

Okay, we don’t do espresso over ice. Why? Number one, because we don’t do it. Number two, because we don’t do it. Mostly for quality reasons. Also, because more than half the time, it’s abused (Google “ghetto latte”).


David, the barista in question, is respectful, passionate, and cares about making good coffee, and he cares about murky’s policies. Nobody’s perfect, and maybe David could have chosen different words or a slightly different tack in responding to Jeff Simmermon’s request. But that’s life. At murky, we try to treat people with common courtesy, and expect the same from our customers.


To Mr. Simmermon, you overplayed your hand with your vulgar tip-schtick. While I certainly won’t bemoan you your right to free-speech, I have to respond to you in your own dialect: F*@k you, Jeff Simmermon. Considering your public threat of arson, you’ll understand when I say that if you ever show your face at my shop, I’ll punch you in your dick.

Owner, murky coffee

Way to elevate the dialog, Nick! Well Trolled, sir, well Trolled.

WordPress divider

For their combined efforts showing off the promise of Web 2.0 to replace not only infomercials, conspiracy shows, and Prime Time television, but daytime TV as well, we award co-Trolls of the Week to Nick Cho, Jeff Simmermon, and the unsung David the Barista! As always they will receive an honorary beer at the Man Lunch, but after lunch, if they’d like, we’d be happy to take them to our local snooty coffeeshop and offer them each the coffee beverage of their choice…even if that choice is expresso over ice—crema be damned!

(NOTE: In case you’re wondering why our first Murky Coffee link was a link to a response to an update to Nick’s letter instead of their main page…that is their main page. ‘Nuff Said!)

(SECOND NOTE: Some might argue that one or more of these Trolls are really candidates for Douche of the Week. That is debatable, of course, but we prefer to think more kindly of them. Remember the rule: a Douche is oblivious, a Troll knows he’s Trolling. Of course, sometimes it can be darn hard to tell, and nothing screams Douchery like a botched attempt at Trollery. We prefer to think that each and every one of these fine folks realized his actions were, perhaps, just a bit, slightly, over-the-top—but they just couldn’t stop themselves. Always a problem, as true Trolls everywhere know all too well!)

We’re trying something new here at AMB, shorter issue-oriented things where we hope to get a lot of discussion, in between the longer stuff we usually post, but which take a long time to write. Better known as actually blogging, I suppose.

To this end, I offer the very first one, the Carol Gotbaum case. Gotbaum was an alcoholic from Upper West Side Manhattan, traveling through Phoenix to Tuscon to go to rehab (it’s where everyone who is anyone these days goes). Depressed, relapsed (i.e., drunk) and facing the… insanity of modern air travel, she freaked out in the Phoenix airport. She got hauled off in cuffs. She died in her cell. Beyond that, wait for the inquest?

We discussed the issue of police brutality a fair bit over the last few months with Andrew “Don’t Tase Me, Bro” Meyer and that guy with a totally unpronounceable last name from UCLA, plus another one with a case from St. Louis. Now we’ve got Carol Gotbaum. Here’s the NY Times story and Judith Warner’s blog, which had some very interesting commentary. Some questions, then:

  • Was this brutality?
  • What should have happened here?
  • Being honest with yourself, what do you think you would have done?
  • Just how petty are airline bureaucrats these days, anyway?
  • Would you pay more for a plane ticket if you got better service? (Carol Gotbaum got pretty much the worst service possible.)

Have at…. I’m sure there are some other good links to this one, too.

The first time I saw you
Oh, you looked so fine
And I had a feeling
One day you’d be mine
Penny lover, don’t you walk on by
Penny lover, don’t you make me cry

–Lionel Richie, “Penny Lover

Back in 1976, my five year old self—doubtless dressed in a velour shirt with a big zipper ring and a collar, Toughskin jeans and tennis shoes, all from the Sears catalog—was given a giant cookie tin of pennies by some relative (about $3 worth) and it was love at first sight, just like the song. It seemed like a fortune to me and I concocted grandiose “kid mind” plans for what I planned to do with it, which of course went nowhere. I have no idea what I spent it on, but it was probably Legos (this was pre-Star Wars). In today’s dollars it is about $11. Roughly speaking every fifteen years, inflation makes a dollar worth about half as much in terms of buying power. 1976 was thirty-one years ago so now my cookie tin of pennies would buy about 25% of what it did back then.

Penny and I have long since fallen out of love. It’s really very simple: Due to inflation, pennies really don’t buy anything anymore and are more of a nuisance than anything else. The last thing I recall them buying was Tootsie Rolls and other “penny candy”, an item many small grocery stores used to have on their counters by the register to tempt Junior into whinging until Mom gave in and Junior got a Tootsie Roll. At least the horribly sticky things kept Junior’s mouth shut until the groceries were stowed in the station wagon, though they did make for higher dental bills down the line. Still, the tradeoff was worth it. These seemed to have disappeared sometime in the mid ’80s, but I admit to having ceased looking around then. I’m sure it’s nickel candy now.

Now pennies are almost completely worthless. One of my favorite op-ed writers, Sebastian Mallaby, currently of the Washington Post and formerly of The Economist, in The Penny Stops Here provides a nice analysis of why pennies aren’t worth it and that, in fact, getting rid of nickels makes good economic sense too. Dimes are on the edge. Let me go down the reasons:

  • They cost the government more to produce then they are worth. Pennies ceased being made of copper in the early 80s when copper ended up being worth markedly more becoming wire rather than being pocket change. Copper-coated zinc was substituted and all the copper pennies were melted down. While this leads to a cool DIY chemistry experiment, it also lead to much less pennies-on-railroad-tracks copper jewelry. Now the zinc in a penny has become more expensive. This means that pennies cost us more money since we pay for the currency in circulation through taxes. To understand just what this means, here’s a story about the rampant smuggling of rupees from India to Bangladesh to turn them into razor blades, which sell for way more than the rupee coin’s face value. That’s right, you could be shaving with former rupees….
  • The main advantage of coins is the fact that they last a long time, something you can see easily by looking at the dates on the coins in your pocket. So even if a coin costs somewhat more than its face value (so long as it’s not too much more), it might be a net gain. Unfortunately pennies are frequently out of circulation sitting in garbage dumps, penny jars, on the floor of the car, in furniture, etc., so there’s little hope to recoup the cost via savings over the lifespan of the coin.
  • Transaction costs due to handling pennies are not huge but certainly not chump change. For instance, stores pay about $.60 for a roll of 50 pennies due to rolling costs and just guess who this cost gets passed on to? Due to inane managerial policies, many stores won’t allow the nearly ubiquitous penny jar. This leads to pointless fumbling during transactions, which takes up yet more time.
  • In addition to making small change, the big advantage of coins is the fact that they work in vending machines, parking meters, etc. These machines will happily take nickels, dimes and quarters… but no pennies. Why? Because pennies would take up too much room in the coin collection hopper. Vending machine operators would love to see the dollar coin gain acceptance and I bet would be happy with a two dollar coin like they have in Canada, too (which, by the way, are a fantastic idea, but that is for another day), because bill changers are notorious for breaking.
  • Removing the penny would also make room for a dollar coin, which would save the Treasury, well, a mint. Dollar bills get the absolute crap kicked out of them in circulation and are replaced constantly.
  • Pennies are even more worthless these days because so many transactions are electronic, in which case the rounding necessary in a system without them—which averages out to not cost us anything anyway—doesn’t matter at all. There are some worries, of course: I worry about prices and sales taxes getting futzed with, but honestly, so long as that doesn’t happen much, it should be fine.

There’s predictable opposition from the zinc industry, of course, but screw them deep and hard. They can find corporate welfare elsewhere or, better yet, not at all—the price of their commodity is going up after all. There’s opposition from the State of Illinois because Lincoln is on the penny and as we are constantly reminded, Illinois is… Land of Lincoln. Now I admire Abraham Lincoln probably way more than the next guy ever since I spent a lot of time reading about the Civil War several years back, but he’s safe on the five dollar bill. (Take the time to read American history as an adult. It’s worth it.) It would take some serious inflation indeed to nuke the five spot. I worry more about George Washington—someone I also admire a lot more than the next guy—on the quarter and dollar bill, but at historic rates of inflation which has a halving of current money value for every fifteen years, give or take, quarters won’t be worth essentially nothing for a few decades yet. The Mint has shown that they can strike coins of different types, for instance the “states” quarters and the “dead presidents” dollar coins, which will give luminaries like Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge their sole opportunity to be on money. So they can make sure to put plenty of dead politicians on our money, or maybe they could go back to the old days before politicians’—no matter how worthy—were on the money entirely. The first presidential head on coins was in 1909… Lincoln, on the penny. It was controversial.

Penny lover, walk on by….

Mildly Piqued Academician

(First in a series about the currency of the USA.)

I am sad to report that technical difficulties are persisting today. When the memo came down from on high to “sack those who are responsible” we proceeded to sack our copy editor, team of lawyers, public relations agents, unit of crack commandos, and the nun who inexplicably works for us.

It wasn’t for another thirty minutes (filled with toasts to our success) that we double checked the note and realized that they didn’t want us to “Sack those who act in a responsible manner”, but more likely to “sack those responsible for the technical difficulties”. Naturally we feel a little silly about this, but assert that we cannot truly be blamed for our actions. When you work in an environment where responsible people get sacked, can you blame us for erring on the side of irresponsibility?

So naturally the ones responsible for the irresponsible sacking of those who were not in fact responsible, but simply acting responsibly, have been sacked in a responsible manner by irresponsible individuals (who are naturally the only ones left given that the responsible ones were sacked in a prior sacking). The remaining lot of us have agreed the technical difficulties are best remedied through the use of applied beatings which we vow will continue until we get bored with whacking each other over the head with sticks, which we conceed is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Angry Man Blog.

Well, neither sackings not beatings were sufficient, but upping the settings on the shock collars seems to have done some good. New rant is up!

Loyal readers will notice that yesterday we chose to highlight the excellent current rant on the Chief Illiniwek debate just a bit longer than usual. Well, really, a whole day longer than usual at this point.

Oh, all right, we just didn’t get a rant put up due to “technical” reasons. And by technical, I mean personnel.

Naturally, those responsible have been sacked. However, while, as astue readers have pointed out, our rants can be produced by trained monkeys in a pinch, you can’t train monkeys in a day. Well, actually, you can, but not well, and they tend to be hard on the laptops…

So, sometime today, a new rant will go up. When you see it, you can think, “Ah, at last, my day is now complete.” Or, more likely, you can think, “Well at least those lazy, no good, so-and-sos finally got this done…” Either way, as you do, please take a moment to remember those monkeys and thank them for their sacrifice. And thank Wal*Mart for the $1.99 electroshock collars that made it all possible.

Thank you. I must now go and “repair” the laptop. And by repair, I mean, well, you don’t want to know, let’s just say that bathroom training should really proceed any other training when working with monkeys, and will—in the future…

As astue readers have noticed, in addition to the usual weekend fare, we have a series of special posts today. Patience is apparently not our virtue, for a number of the authors have been badgering me to publish special “timely rants” immediately. Rather than trying to reason with my beloved co-authors, I’ve simply given in and allowed them to post their “special rants” throughout today. Let’s hope that they haven’t used up all their good ideas for the week to come!

For you, dear readers, it’s an unexpected bonus (at least if you like our rants). Our fondest hope that you appreciate today’s special addition—and that you’ll understand if tomorrow we’re back to a less hectic pace. Only time will tell whether this rush to publish is wise or foolish. Less is sometimes more, but perhaps more is sometimes more too! Scroll down, or check the latest post list on the right to enjoy—and check back frequently today!

Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature our first invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. Our guest in this article had a run in with customer service which was so severe that she couldn’t help but rant about the situation, proving once again that not only men can be angry.
– The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

This morning I had an early morning flight from Oakland Airport. Since I had to leave so early in the morning, I had booked an airport shuttle from my downtown San Francisco hotel the day before. In my early-morning groggy state I asked for directions to the shuttle pick-up point from the hotel bellman. I found the shuttle exactly where it should be. The driver immediately asked for my name, remind me there was a strict policy of “reservations only.” He said he had checked me off on his electronic manifest, took my bag, and asked for my receipt. I should mention here that my receipt said “OAK” across the top and that the concierge had circled this for extra emphasis as well. After waiting for about 10 or 15 minutes, another shuttle arrived. The people on my shuttle were annoyed that we were so late another shuttle had arrived already. The other shuttle driver was looking for someone to pick up, compared manifests with my shuttle driver as they were each missing a passenger, and eventually both decided they should leave anyway after one last check of the lobby. I overheard them stating that someone with my name was going to be left behind then.”Wait!” I yelled out at them. Did you just call my name? “No” they replied in unison and then the other shuttle driver stated there was no one matching his passenger’s name in my shuttle. I got out and argued with them for a bit, finally discovering I was supposed to be on the other shuttle. (The one I had been on was leaving for SFO.) We were already late and still had to pick up other passengers. At at least one other hotel, my shuttle driver parked in the wrong spot and had to drive around the block and change locations. At one point, we were waiting around in front of a hotel and I expressed concern that we were behind schedule and asked to pay the remainder of my balance while we waited. My request was denied.

When we got to the airport and the driver noticed I had paid him the exact balance (with no tip) he approached me and asked for more. “I got you here before your flight” he said, “how can you be unhappy with my service?”

I reiterated to him: the shuttle to Oakland was late to begin with and both drivers missed the obvious signs of my name and receipt which indicated where I was to go. They very nearly made me miss my flight — I would have ended up in the wrong place had I not eavesdropped on their conversation! “But that was the other driver’s fault” insisted my driver. “At this point, I don’t care whose fault all of this is” I told him. This is not behavior worthy of reward.

Since when did “I didn’t screw up as badly as I could have” become the sole merit for a juicy tip? Maybe in the eyes of my fellow Americans this makes me a soul-less cheapskate but if someone proves to be incapable at doing the basic job for which they are being paid, they do not deserve a bonus for their incompetence. Sure, as my driver pointed out, things could have been much worse. He could have showed up significantly late instead of just a bit late. There could have been horrible traffic (although I doubt there is horrible traffic anywhere at 5am on Sunday). He could have gotten lost on the way to the airport when in fact he took a fairly efficient route. And the shuttle service didn’t actually drive me to the wrong place and cause me to miss my flight, they just almost did.

But those things are irrelevant! The shuttle driver’s job was to pick up pre-booked passengers on-time and deliver them to the airport. Just approximately completing this task is doing your job. Going the extra mile and doing it well is what earns you a tip. And before all of you living-wage-liberals out there jump down my throat about the driver needing to eat, I’ll remind you of the real details of this situation. This shuttle carries 6-8 pre-booked people at $25/head for the 20-30 minute drive to the airport then picks up a waiting crowd for the return trip. Do the math and it’s pulling in at least $300/hour; they can certainly afford to pay the driver. And if he really wants a tip from me, it’s not that hard to do a better job.

We do the same thing with waiters at restaurants. How many waiters take your order, drop off the food, and then ignore you for the next hour? Frequently they get your order wrong or you finish your drink and need a refill or you decide to order something else and they are no where to be found. Yet they still expect a 20% tip! Restaurant prices seem to grow exponentially each year yet the food doesn’t improve, the service slowly gets worse, and the tips go up with the food prices. Has no one else noticed what’s wrong with this picture? And I can’t remember the last time someone actually thanked me for a tip as if it were a gift instead of a requirement.

Perhaps I’m just more critical because I just moved here from a college town in England were a generous tip was 5% and groups of students frequently just emptied the change from their pockets onto the table at the end of a meal. In this country that would be considered an insult but over there the waitress always thanked us sincerely for whatever we left. It was nice.

In France, people in service industries take so much pride in their work, I’ve even had a tip returned to me because the restaurant staff said it was too generous. I thought the food was excellent but the chef felt he hadn’t done as well as he could have that night. This would absolutely never happen in the US.

So the moral of this story is, if you’re hired into a service position, do your job. And if you want a tip, go the extra mile. Streamline your work and be efficient and attentive. Add those little extra touches. Throw in some humorous retorts if that’s your style. If nothing else, good, old-fashioned courtesy goes a long way with me. But don’t ever tell me I should gift you my hard-earned cash just because during our brief encounter you weren’t as incompetent as you could have been. Band together with me, my fellow Americans, to bring tipping back into its proper place. Tips need once again to be an incentive for doing well, a reward for excellence, an expression of the customer’s gratitude which must be earned. They are not just an un-written tax to be paid to whomever shows up for work independently of whether or not the job gets done.
– Angry East Coast Guest Woman