I’ll tell you what inspired this.

My usual Sunday morning coffee shop hangout has annoyed another one of their regulars.

Not me, but a friend of mine. They started refusing to take his check.

I’ve been frequenting this coffee shop for 13 years and am a regular  on Sundays unless I’m out of town.

Enter my friend Pete.  Outspoken Pete was probably a 5 day a week regular at one time. With him buying a 2 dollar cup, that’s 10 bucks a week, 500 bucks a year or 5 thousand over the past ten years.

But Pete also convinced a couple of his friends to stop coming in too.  They could be worth another 5 thousand in business or more because they bring in others when they have their coffee.

Pete and his buddies decided to try another coffee shop that is about 4 or 5 storefronts away.

I saw their cars at the other shop when I pulled in and they saw me.

He called me and told me that they were going to try this other place for awhile and invited me to join them.  I declined.

When I went into my usual Sunday morning coffee shop I asked them what happened to Pete and they told me the full story.

The owner, Cindy decided to stop taking checks after getting burned by bank charges of $90 due to people paying with bad checks.  The owners wife had been letting Pete still pay with a check, but apparently they decided they better start treating all their customers equally.  They were going to either refuse all checks or accept all checks without exception.

The coffee shop could sign up for a check verification service but, that also costs money and it’s much easier to simply refuse to take checks for payment.  Lots of businesses have this policy.

By the way, Pete’s not some old fart that you get behind in the grocery store who writes a check for milk and a loaf of bread while you’re silently wondering, “who the  hell still uses checks!?!?” He’s under 50 and owns a couple businesses and is pretty likeable.

Pete’s little revolution may be short lived, I don’t know. He thinks he’s being sly and going to hurt the coffee shop by taking his business elsewhere.  Depending on how you look at the numbers I shared, he’s a substantial customer. As I watch the other regulars come and go, I’m only aware of a couple who have followed him down to the other coffee shop.

But this brings up another set of questions and that pertains to equal treatment of customers.

Should you treat all your customers equally?

Do you offer incentives to new customers that your regulars don’t get?

Are you “grandfathering” certain policies for older customers that new customers don’t get?

Is there a way to reward your loyal customers that they will value?

How much is a customer really worth, counting both their lifetime spending and their ability to influence others?

In this age of social media and reviews you may never know what people are saying about you unless you start looking.