Grappling with Customer Guilt

Every morning on my way to work I encounter a treat in the form of a boxy orange truck (a former Con Edison truck converted into a “gourmet coffee” truck) parked in front of the 6 train. With my favorite Stones or Steve Wonder song blaring out of the speakers hinged to its roof and friendly neighborhood hipsters who know my name manning the window, the Mud Truck. has been my ultimate caffeinated customer experience for the past three years.

That is, until a few weeks ago when I discovered that the Starbucks around the corner would gladly make my light-ice-light-water-iced-americano at a third less the price.

So now I’m ridden with customer guilt. In the old days I would lightly skip over to the subway, smiling and waving my hellos at Muddy servers. Now I quickly tiptoe by with my head down, hoping they don’t catch a glimpse of the green signature Starbucks straw sitting in my drink.

On one hand I feel justified in my action: why shouldn’t customers patron the establishment where they can get a better customized (sorry Mud!) drink at a cheaper price? But at the same time I am disappointed in myself. I love that Greg Northrop and his wife Nina Berott opened their mobile shop because they didn’t want to leave their newborn daughter home while they were off at work and miss out on her childhood. I love that they created an early-hour subculture, a consistent dose of morning sunshine. And I love that they had the guts to do it smack in between two Starbucks. But do I love it enough to spend an extra dollar a day (over $250 a year) sipping a drink that just isnt as good?

Where should our customer loyalty lie?