music, technology & life in pasadena, california

You want spores with that?

Last week, my wife and I decided to catch a quick bite before seeing a movie at Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 on Colorado Boulevard. We stopped next door at the Zeli Coffee Bar, the urban bohemian coffee shop conveniently nestled in the corner of Vroman’s Books, one of Pasadena’s best independent bookstores. We ordered a few muffins and drinks and went outside to eat on one of the park benches in the alley between the movie house and the bookstore.

As I bit into the muffin, a lemon poppy seed, the texture seemed strange and rubbery. And then it hit me…the taste of mold! OK, game over…that shouldn’t happen but I’ll give any business the benefit of the doubt the first time it does. I went inside to let them know about it and this was the how the conversation went:

“Hi. I just bought this muffin and it tastes like mold.”

“It’s supposed to taste like that. It’s non-fat.”

“OK. I understand that it’s non-fat (although it wasn’t labeled as such in the display case), but it tastes totally moldy.”

“Would you like to try one of our other ones?”

“No thanks, I’d just like my money back.”

“No, I can’t do that.”

“Excuse me?”

“I won’t give you your money back. You can try one of our other flavors, but no money back.”


I threw the muffin in the trash and walked out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen customer service as bad as the Zeli Coffee Bar. The attitude of the worker behind the counter really surprised me and his coworker didn’t offer any help either. He just stood there listening.

I’ve popped into Zeli several times in the past. The coffee has never been any big deal and the prices are high (the muffin was almost four dollars). Although to the best of my knowledge Zeli is independent of Vroman’s Books, having a business like that sharing space with you is eventually bound to reflect negatively.

Save your money and your taste buds, and make the short drive over to Jones Coffee Roasters for one of the best cups in town.

January 4, 2007 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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