Saturday, June 27, 2009

~ the black hearted babycino vendor

As you can imagine, my life is currently dominated by preparations for Sails of Oblivion: The Gig. Our promoter Dolores is a whirlwind. Things are progressing swimmingly and at speed. There's a lot of interest out there. Already we have 85 confirmed guests on our Facebook events page.

But the general air of excitement has not stopped my ire being raised on the issue of babycinos.

I don’t know exactly when they first appeared, but when Polly was tiny they seemed like a new thing, at least here in Melbourne. They were a nice, efficient way of including her at a
café table. A small, sweet, warm treat to concentrate upon, to delay the onset of boredom, to defer the impulse to whine or crawl over her parents. And they remain useful to this day. And they were free. Always free. And fair enough. A meagre quantity of milk-froth sprinkled with chocolate would probably not break the one cent barrier in production costs. And I suspect they’re good for business too. Mothers often like to chat at cafés and can do so with more amenity if their children are preoccupied.

But then, as time passed, café proprietors would occasionally charge. A dollar. A dollar fifty. Perhaps, as the babycino became more popular, they wearied of making it for no reward. Or perhaps they couldn’t get their heads around providing a service for free. As for me, I began to judge the moral tone of an establishment on whether or not they charged for the babycino.

It all reminds me of what happened when they first introduced cat licences. Every Melbourne council had to start providing these licences, and because it involved paperwork a fee was to be charged. My own Monash council charged about ten dollars a year, (though this has risen over time to about twenty-five). Other councils asked for as little as six dollars, but some, if I recall correctly, charged more than a hundred.

You see, there were no precedents. Nobody knew what an appropriate fee might be, so they they flew on instinct and did not bother to confer with each other. And the greedier and more venal the council, the more they charged. Their ethical fibre was exposed. It was an object lesson in human nature.

Now the other day, my wife returned grumbling from a coffee session with her friends. She had been billed three dollars for a babycino - around the price of a real cino. My hackles rose. Deplorable, unforgivable, extortionate pricing. Worse even than the outrageous mark-ups on beer and chips at the football. Or popcorn and choc-tops at the cinemas. And I can tell you, with a high degree of certainty, that the individual who priced that babycino has a black heart

Here is a link that further explores this dismaying issue.


While burrowing through old boxes in the shed today, in addition to dust and house spiders and possum skeletons, I found a couple of unused designs for Ears single covers. I can’t work out why we didn’t choose the first one. It's brilliant. I think it’s by Tony Harding, brother of Christine and Anne. The other’s by Gus Till.

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F.G. Marshall-Stacks said...

Sleeve art:
you didnt choose#1 because you didnt want to frighten the customer.

I really like #2 because it is
un homage to Willi Elder/The Shadow.

Silly cafe who charge for babycino is missing chance to educate his next wave of customers, because mothers will bring childs own drink in a bottle IF they go there a next time.
Yes DSM is a whirlwind.

Sam Sejavka said...

Actually, I think frightening the consumer would have been a plus back then. My vague memory is that we all liked the red one, but Gus refused to co-operate because we didn't like his. Despite its comic world credibility it was off-message for the Ears. Gus was/is a huge comic fan.

And Gus, if you're reading, correct me if my memories are wrong regarding the Scarecrow cover cat-fight

Anonymous said...

I like the second picture.
I remember toddler polly making a glorious sticky mess with a babycino on one of the horrible tabeltops in kaleide theatre a few years ago. she was oviously enjoying it.