Tag Archives: Service

Caffe Nero (Good Coffee + Amazing People = A Beautiful Move)

By Lakshmi:

A couple of weeks ago, we faced the daunting task of setting up home in Abergavenny in South Wales.  Besides all the hiccups associated with creating habitable quarters, I was not going to have my turbo charged cappuccino machine from home to serve me my morning “wake up” potion.  There was one consoling factor.  Our new abode was a stone’s throw away from the Caffe Nero in the heart of Abergavenny.

Caffe Nero is a ubiquitous coffee chain in the UK and beyond.  When Gerry Ford, an American founded Caffe Nero, his philosophy was pretty simple – “Premium Italian coffee. A warm and welcoming  atmosphere. Good food and great personal service.”  I think he was bashful in his use of the word “great” in personal service…he should have used the word “superlative” instead.

Fast forward to our move.  I walked into the store early am to be met with the most welcoming smell of freshly brewed coffee.  As I grabbed a sandwich and walked towards the counter, the lovely barista took the sandwich for toasting and with the biggest smile and most sincere voice asked if I wanted something else.  As I rattled off my request for toasted panettone, a couple of cappuccinos and the newspaper, she asked if I was new to the area.  When I mentioned we were just moving in from Crickhowell, she proceeded to ask where we lived in Crick and how she was a neighbor there just around the corner.  As the hot food emerged, and she rang up my purchases, she wanted to know if we were ok with the move, if we needed any help and support and more.  Finally, she took my frequent purchase card and provided three extra stamps (our good luck charm for moving in).

As I walked away from the store with my breakfast in hand, I was a bit giddy with excitement.  As a foodie, I was psyched to have such a delicious breakfast in my hand, but more importantly, I was floored by the service I had just experienced.  Coming from the New York/New Jersey area, personalized service is a rarity in European terms. Even in situations where employees have been trained to ask for the name of a customer or to be friendly, it appears more coaxed than genuine.

And here, there was genuine effusiveness.  Warmth and affection which probably were typical to the Nero culture but left me feeling so welcome into our new home and town.

During our move, we made repeated visits to the store, staying in sometimes and carrying out food at others.  The staff changed, our meals changed, but what was a constant was the genuine affection of the team and of course the awesome cups of coffee.

Thank you Nero.  You have no idea how much you and your team helped.  We look forward to many many more visits

Ibis Malmo – Our First Intro to This Accor Brand is Disappointing

Ibis Malmo
Source: Hotel Website

By Lakshmi:

Siddhi and I recently had to spend a night in Malmo, Sweden and the recommendation provided to us was the Ibis, Malmo.  Given our positive experiences with other Accor brands, we expected our first foray into the Ibis brand to be satisfactory.

However, the stay ended up being a disappointing experience, driven primarily by the service.

First, I want to clarify that this property located about 15 minutes away from Malmo Central is neat with breakfast served on premise, clean functional rooms with free wi-fi and a large grocery store across the street.

However, if you need any form of support, the staff simply did not care.  Given our extensive travels, we are fairly self-sufficient individuals requiring minimal support from our hotels. But in this case, even minimal support was non-existent.

– Given my platinum status with Accor, I asked if breakfast was included.  They said they were busy and would let me know.  The next morning, when I asked, I was told abruptly that I would have to pay for breakfast.  After saying yes to the receptionist, we went to the breakfast area to be told we can’t have breakfast without the right vouchers.  So, we returned back to be given vouchers hastily.

– Given it was our first night in Sweden, we had little cash and asked if they would exchange money.  They simply said no.

– We needed a taxi and asked them to request a taxi which would accept credit cards.  Turned out after using the taxi, the driver informs us that no credit cards would be accepted.  When I asked the receptionist for help, she simply stated that I could drive across the street to the grocery store and get cash…with no offer for any form of assistance.

– The next morning, I asked the attendant about train schedules for Gothenburg and she simply stated that she was very busy and I should call the number myself and get the information.

Granted, the Ibis is a limited service property and while they genuinely may not have been able to address some of our needs, surely they could have at least pretended to be somewhat helpful.

Needless to say, we will be thinking twice before staying at another Ibis property.

In case you want to look into this property, they are located on the web at:


A tale of two hotels in Athens – Who won us over?

By Lakshmi:

We at Paupers want to feel enriched by our travels without draining our wallet.  Price and location drive our lodging choices and when faced with a choice of one more experience or indulging in a hotel, we always chose the former.

Due to differences in the economy/the exchange rates over several years, we experienced two hotels, separated a world apart in Athens.

We were pretty excited when we snagged a deal at one of Athens’ premier addresses, Hotel Grande Bretagne.  Situated smack in the middle of Syntagma Square, history oozing through its every pore, the hotel is an elegant old world property that has played host to heroes and villains in history.  Winston Churchill has been a guest as have the leaders from the third Reich!  The staff was efficient, the rooms formal but tastefully done, the doorman always greeting us and yet what appealed to us most about this property was not the hotel, but what lay outside.  We had to just step outside to see the changing of the guard, we looked forward to the elderly couple selling us sesame coated bagels, our to-go-veggie sandwiches from Everest, walking to the restaurants in Plaka and of course shopping along Ermou Street.    The hotel was a lovely place to come back to each night, but to us, there was nothing they did to make our Athenian visit special.

Fast forward a few years, and the strength of the Euro made us go further out and select the Art Hotel near Omonia Square.  While the hotel looked pretty good on the web and cost us more than what the Grand Bretagne did, it was a modest property with a small room and an even tinier bathroom.  We would live in pretty cramped quarters for a week!  And the busy thoroughfare location ensured us a constant sound of cars and bikes!  And yet, from the word go, the lady at the front desk seemed to care about us.  She wanted to make sure we got enough to eat at breakfast, told us how to get around on the metro that was a few blocks away, wanted to know our plans and gave us tips to do things more effectively with kids and a senior in tow!  Of course, the most touching aspect was when two days later, they had a vacancy in the adjacent room and gave it to my father so he would have enough space….without charging us a dime for the extra room for the duration of our stay.  Every night, we would be asked about our day, our plans for the following day and of course what the kids’ reaction was to all the events of the day.

Sure the Grand Bretagne had a dedicated concierge if you wanted one, but our friend at the Art Hotel made it her business to be one and served us in the true spirit of “philoxenia” – translated as taking care of a foreigner.

To learn more about The Grand Bretagne, click here:


To learn more about The Art Hotel, click here: