An Open Letter to Costa Coffee


I was tempted to write what follows in block capitals, perhaps in my own blood, and then post ten thousand copies of it to your head office. My physiology prevented me from yielding to that temptation. But be in no doubt I would consider such a response proportional to what you have inflicted on me.

I note that you have belatedly taken heed of my missive, penned a year ago, and made changes to the noises emitted by the coffee machine.  I thought this commendable – at first. Perhaps your intention was to lull me into a false sense of security, like the torturer who finally desists in toenail splintering only to break out the boxful of ravenous fire ants.

The old noise is still present, to be sure – in all of its nauseating inglory – but it is now preceded by another noise, which serves as a debauched prelude to the terrifying main event. The new sound provokes no less terror than the old one did, because I know that the old one will follow, and have only an extremely limited window in which to prevent it doing so. And thereby the terror provoked has increased one-hundredfold.

The new noise – egad! A series of short, sharp, stabbing shrieks, like those emitted by a deranged quail which has developed some sort of nervous disorder which turns its wail to an absurd staccato.   If that animal-based simile isn’t colourful enough for you, let me use another to illustrate the effect it has on my brain: it is as though an orang-utan has applied an ice-pick to my skull, and my brains are now displaced all over the recently-cleaned shop floor.

When our phone rings, it does not make a noise like this. A sound occurs – this I will grant you – to inform those present of the fact that the phone needs answering. But the sound emitted is not so disagreeable that we need call upon the local exorcist.  I can only imagine how the phones ring at Costa Headquarters. Perhaps you are now all deaf, and have had to resort to employing some grizzled hobgoblin whose role it is to apply the cat-o-nine-tails to your lower spines at every incoming call.

I doubt that even the fire alarm sounds as loudly and as abrasively as your creation; perhaps we now live in a world in which dwindling cappuccino supplies are of greater concern than an impending fiery death.  A sad reflection, I hope you agree.

Maybe if I wait long enough, the noise will morph to another, third noise; one so insistent and so deafening that it might prompt the enamel on my teeth to fall off and the whites of my eyes to evaporate.  I made this prediction before, and it has not come to pass. For a time I wondered why this could be. Could it be that you have suddenly developed a conscience, Costa Coffee? Then I realised the truth. I know why it doesn’t go any louder. Because any sound beyond the present jet-engine volume would cause the milk to actually curdle, and that wouldn’t do, would it? That would get in the way of your precious PRODUCT. You make me want to join the communist party.

If I have correctly guessed your next step, it would be for the coffee machine to morph into an armoured automaton, before aiming some form of enormous ordinance at me and bellowing “REPLENISH MY NAPKINS, YOU HAVE TEN SECONDS TO COMPLY.”   And the only reason you haven’t done that is because ED-209 hasn’t been invented yet. And I’m sure your robo-baristas are already hard at work on that.

Why not something more gentle, perhaps something in the lower register? Some nice cellos, or a flute? Why do you insist on tormenting us so? In this regard, my curiosity has diminished not one jot. I would genuinely like to know the reason. Perhaps to seek reason here is wishful thinking; I want there to be some reason behind this madness. I want it so desperately that I have translated the noise into morse code. I had hoped to find some meaning there: some hidden truth, some rationale behind this naked sadism. The message read as follows:


If this is not the product of a deranged mind, then I do not know what is. I can only hope that some reasonable person lies within the asylum, and will read these words and understand them. Stop this madness. If you do this, then I promise I will write more legibly in the cleaning log-book. On this you have my most solemn vow.

Respectfully yours,


PS. You will note I have not resorted to expletives for the entirety of this letter; I hope this convinces you of how reasonable I am.


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