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September 18, 2008

No Muddy Shake for You!

As Seven Days' online editor, I'm the person responsible for moderating the comments people leave on various 7D-related websites. The majority of this comment moderation happens on 7 Nights, our dining and nightlife site.

There are more than 700 Vermont restaurants and bars listed on 7 Nights, and users can rate and comment on them all, which generates a pretty steady stream of material for me to review.

We don't edit comments, but there are rare occasions when we delete them, either because they're off-topic, or violate our commenting policy. Sometimes we get comments from disgruntled restaurant employees or competitors who want to settle the score. I weed those out as best I can.

And every now and then, we get a comment that deserves a wider audience. I read one this morning that I thought was worth sharing. It's about Muddy Waters, the cozy hippie coffeehouse on Main Street in Burlington. For the record, I love Muddy's. And so, apparently, does this 7 Nights user, whose screenname is "BTVORBUST." I think that comes across in this comment:

Muddy's is unquestionably still my go-to source for all my caffeine-related needs in Burlington. However, this evening I had to bite my tongue and stifle my anger and frustration at a very irritating and annoying encounter with the counter server. Usually I get my Muddy's fix around mid-day on my way in to work, but tonight I found myself absolutely craving a "Muddy Shake" (their impossibly rich milkshake made with just espresso and vanilla ice cream) on my way home from work around 10 PM, well ahead of their closing time of 11PM. (I live 80 miles from Burlington, a 1 hour 45 minute drive, so I was reeeeeeeeeeally looking forward to nursing a Muddy Shake on my long late night commute home!) But the server told me I couldn't have my Muddy Shake because they arbitrarily "stop making them at 9:00" and was fed some line about how "it takes forever to clean all the equipment" used in the making of the shakes. I protested politely, and got a roll of the eyes, a deep sigh, and a very sullen "I'm not supposed to get the equipment dirty after it's been cleaned and put away. I'd be here all night cleaning." Really? Seriously? A blender? Does it really take forever to clean a blender? ... If it's on your menu board, and you're open for business, and I'm willing to pay $5 for a Muddy Shake... is there really, seriously, a GOOD reason why I can't have my Muddy Shake? Come on, folks. Customer wants Muddy Shake. Customer is standing there with a $5-spot in hand. Doors are open for business. Make customer his darn Muddy Shake! Period!

I typically refrain from commenting on comments, but this time I can't resist. First of all, dude, an 80-mile commute? What are you thinking? No wonder you're so bent out of shape about your shake. Can you just not find a job where you live? Can you not afford to move to Chittenden County? Or do you really want to live that far away? How can you even afford a Muddy Shake given all the money you must be spending on gas?

Secondly, I want to implore the powers-that-be at Muddy's to find this guy and give him a free shake, to compensate for his frustration.

And finally, as the moderator of this online conversation, I suggest a compromise. Why not develop a take-out arrangement? If BTVORBUST calls ahead, Muddy's can make a shake for him in advance, and he can come by and pick it up on his way out of town. This isn't just about customer satisfaction, folks, this is a public safety issue. He needs that espresso shake to stay awake on his long drive home. I personally don't want to be on the road with this dude that late at night when he hasn't had his caffeine.

Muddy's? BTVORBUST? Can you work this out?

Muddy's has had that policy for a long time. Maybe they should post a parenthetical on the chalk board that advertises the shake, but that's the extent of their failing in this situation.

I've been in this guy's shoes -- where you have your mind set on something you really want and you are refused for what seem to you to be arbitrary reasons. But take a breath, give the Muddys staff the benefit of the doubt, realize that while you just walked in while at 9 pm they've been there for 6 or more hours with a couple more hours to go and a lot to do in that time, and that there's probably a very good reason why they instituted such a policy. Then order a double iced mocha to go and leave a big tip.

"take a breath, give the Muddys staff the benefit of the doubt, realize that while you just walked in while at 9 pm they've been there for 6 or more hours with a couple more hours to go and a lot to do in that time, and that there's probably a very good reason why they instituted such a policy. Then order a double iced mocha to go and leave a big tip."

In the moment, that would be my advice as well.

But couldn't they work out an arrangement where he could get the shake at a later time? Maybe he could pick it up on his way in and store it in the freezer at his job.

Maybe I have more important things to do than brainstorm solutions to this problem...

I've also been in this frustrating spot many times... after 9 PM at Muddy's and many of their "offerings" are off limits. But they give no warning... only a "no, I can't make THAT for you now... duh" kind of response. In fact, you can camp out at the counter and watch the parade of disappointed customers. Muddy's can serve whatever they want whenever they want, but it's the confusion they sow and the attitude vented back at surprised and disappointed customers that's hard to accept.

Hmm... I haven't commented online on global climate change, but I weighed in on this topic. Go figure.

P.S. Global climate change is bad... we should do better. Check.

Wow. Until I read this I had no idea what a Muddy Shake was. Now I crave one too. With a double espresso shot. Anything that can inspire a rant has to be good.

I agree-- Muddy's could put asterisks on their menu or something to indicate items unavailable after 9 p.m. I thought I was an old hand, but I didn't know about this policy. I used to work at a Starbucks (well, the B & N cafe), and making Frappuccinos close to closing was certainly a bitch. So I can sympathize with the employees' wanting time to clean up. But I also feel this customer's pain.

Old blog post necromancy, and a somewhat off-topic coment too, but I'm behind on my 7d reading. (Note though: even when I fall behind, 7d is still the only paper I'll keep reading til I catch up, even if I am MONTHS behind.)

Anyway ... I live in Middlesex, 200 miles from my job in Boston. My wife and I love Middlesex so much that I choose to rent (as a pure out-of-pocket expense) an apartment within walking distance of work rather than move to Boston. There are very few jobs in my field at my level in Vermont, and hardly any within whatever distance Cathy thinks is an acceptable commuting distance. I would much rather be working in Vermont during the day and home with my wife every night than the current situation of driving to Boston to stay there for three days of work per week. In lieu of either the right job appearing in Vermont or having a major, major career change, this is the situation I live with now.

So, yes, I am torn about personally being an environmentalist yet still commuting 400 miles a week to have the homelife that I love while still having the career that I have developed for twenty years. (And honestly, 400 per week isn't terribly different from what many people commuting the Burlington-Montpelier corridor do.)

Does that warrant the judgmentalism of the original post? I don't think so. People have a lot of different reasons for how they ended up where they live and work where they work. Family responsibilities, or plans for change that haven't yet come to fruition, or whatever. Without knowing what situation the original commenter is in, I don't think the snark was needed.


I didn't mean to come across as judgmental, just incredulous. I understand the allure of Vermont, and I definitely understand that choices about employment aren't easy to make, especially when it comes to highly specialized, high-level careers.

But given the high cost of gas -- keep in mind, I wrote this more than a month ago, when prices were skyrocketing -- this kind of commute seems unsustainable, and a little crazy.

I guess I felt ok about adding some attitude because the 7Nights commenter was complaining about an expensive coffee drink -- not something you'd buy if you were commuting out of dire economic necessity. I figured anyone who could afford to spring for a $5 shake on a regular basis could take a little ribbing. Especially since the person felt ok about berating Muddy's so forcefully (and anonymously) on 7 Nights.

I wonder what happened with this, incidentally? I should probably follow up...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and for using your name. Both are always appreciated.

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