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Pure coffee shop, Manly

5 June 2011 22,715 views 17 Comments

Pure Wholefoods on Urbanspoon
I don’t know if you’ve watched the film Ratatouille but there’s a bit near the end where the evil-restaurant-critic-guy makes a speech: “…we (critics) thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read…the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so…” I agree, pushing negativity doesn’t tend to be good for anyone and I often think that critical reviews are hasty, subjective and lacking perspective. I’m not claiming to be a critic at all but I do like to review things because I enjoy sharing the good stuff, so it’s unusual, but I’ve thought about it and I’m going to share this bad review with you.


Pure, the wholefoods shop in Manly has a great menu – all vegetarian, predominantly vegan, all delicious, the location is nice, the little shop is handy and the fit-out is pleasant. Unfortunately, it’s run by some of the most disagreeable people I have ever encountered in customer service, and that includes trips to France, Russia and Swindon, UK. Any interaction with the staff here is sipid at best, sour at worst, it’s a real shame and it jars with the wholesome, good lifestyle vibe that they’re playing upon.
I’ve been going to Pure regularly for a few years and I get no acknowledgement as a regular. Not just me, others say the same. The speed & quality of service, and, actually the portion control, take a massive tumble on the weekends when it gets busier. Every person working in there has a miserable look on their faces and minimal, quite bitter communication skills. I can’t believe that this is a hiring policy so more likely a top-down effect from the especially sour and bitter looking management. A number of friends comment to me about the poor management.


The reason for writing this now is due to a particularly bad encounter on the weekend. In brief, I ordered, was told the total, $21, I handed over a fifty, and then I was told that I’d given a twenty and asked for the balance. I quite literally spluttered, there was no doubt in my mind that I was correct. What followed was a confrontation between the manager and myself in the middle of the shop. It was hideous. I was embarrassed and shocked, I didn’t do a very good job of defending myself because I was so taken aback. He came out with such gems as “I’ve got my finger on the twenty that you gave me” (lie, I didn’t even have a twenty in my purse that day), “I know what I’m doing, I do this every day”, “I spose I’m going to have to trust you, we’ll know at the end of the day when I count up.” I won’t go in to all the reasons that I think this was handled appallingly but there was no reasoning, no charm, no halfway house, no soothing tone. My money was shoved in my hand, my food was slammed on the table outside. Naturally over the next ten minutes I thought of all the things I should have said blah blah.

your thoughts?

I just don’t think this is on. Any of the above. I don’t write about all the average service in Sydney but I felt that the consistently bad service combined with the specific episode were worth sharing so that you can avoid the same thing. This isn’t about having a slanging session, but any thoughts on this?



  • Anthony David said:

    In the past, Have you seen other customers stand their ground in the shop? I suspect the manager is a bully who preys on people’s general politeness. You strayed out of the relationship that had been built over the years. I know myself it is easier to tolerate poor behaviour in a business, especially when I want the goods or services they offer.

    If this one a one-off event, then blogging about it would seem spiteful. In the context of being a long-suffering customer however, you have done diners everywhere a favour.

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    Thanks for your comment Anthony and good points. I agree that we tolerate bad service frequently and also that service providers take advantage of that.
    I thought carefully before writing this and decided that since it wasn’t an isolated experience it was fair to share my opinion.
    Have a great weekend.

  • Matt B said:

    HI Lucy, good on you for standing up to him. I had exactly the same thing happen several years ago at my local butchers in Randwick, and the mgr, whom I knew quite well, said that there was nothing he could do, he would have to wait until he had balanced the till at the end the day.
    I told him that was fine, but that I would never come back to his shop ever again if he didn’t trust me, and told him that if I was wrong, he could call me, and I would give him double the money the next day. I also told him that as a long-standing customer, it would cost him about $2500 a year ($50 x 52), but he simply wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, he called me the next morning to tell me that they were $30 out, and that I was right, so I told him to give it to the salvos, and have never been back. I am a firm believer in standing up for yourself in those situations!

    Matt B

  • Amanda said:

    I have zero tolerance for bad customer service, by far one of my biggest pet peeves. Reading your experience Lucy, I have to say, will keep me from ever trying that place. I don’t care how good your product is, it’s only half of the experience and from the sounds of your review it’s unlikely this was an unusual occurrence. I personally appreciate the heads up on a place like that – I’d much rather give my business to someone who has great customer service and a decent product as opposed to a great product and bad service.

  • Vegan Chick said:

    I’m a fan of their food, but have been on the receiving end of their lousy and aggressive customer service myself. Being told off in a busy restaurant for having dared to sit at a table for 4 when there were only 2 of us was a particular joy. I’m a vegan and I love that their food caters for me, but the service is appalling and makes me feel that they’re cynically taking advantage of the post-yoga, slightly alternative crowd by running the shop they do. They’d be better off running a KFC, dancing through their piles of money and licking deep fried chicken fat from their fingers – it would suit them better. Their staff are clearly miserable, the Big Breakfast massively contravenes advertising standards, the slightly too-loud panpipes are cliched and the owners/managers are rude and scary. If only their veggie burger wasn’t so damn good…

    I’m intrigued – any former staff out there who can offer an insight into the misery of Pure employment?

  • Emma said:

    I agree Luce, there’s no excuse for bad customer service (especially repeat and consistent performances). It seems that a few places in busy spots can (I emphasise ‘can’) suffer from the complacency and comfort level that comes with a steady stream of blow in tourist trade, knowing that acquisition of new customers is easy, retention isn’t really necessary. But, at the end of the day, there are locals that live nearby and in the winter months, that’s the bread and butter.
    Now, everyone has a bad day from time to time, but you know, when your line of work involves the general public, sometimes you just have to suck it up and smile! I’m sure we’ve all had to do it at some stage. Well said, and I’m glad you got your change back.

  • Lucy James (author) said:

    Thanks all for sharing your opinions on this. I’ll see you in one of the other delicious – and also cheery – coffee shops in Manly :)

  • sophia said:

    Hi Lucy. I can understand where you are coming from. There is nothing worse than bad customer service at a restaurant/cafe where you are paying good money, and for that you should be upset. But, as for the incident, and i mean no disrespect, i don’t think that you have analysed it in a logical manner. In simple terms, it was your word against his. You believed you gave him 50 dollars, he believed you gave him 20 dollars. This is very common. The only way of truly knowing who was correct in this situation was in fact to check the float at the end of the night, and if it was 30 dollars over, then the excess money would have undoubtedly been yours. All you would have had to do, was leave your name and mobile number, and I am sure that the manager would have been morally inclined enough to call you and tell you so that you could pick it up the next day…This has happened before, and the person was called and reimbursed the following day. It really is that simple. Did you really expect him to give you 30 dollars just because you are his customer and he is your server? My parents own the cafe, so I have grown up working with them since i was 11, and i beg too differ when you call them “disagreeable” and “bitter”. But, if they are on occasions, I can attribute it to customers coming in with blurred expectations and pompous demeanors…

  • Tony A said:

    I have been going to Pure for 8 years and have seen many changes. The only reason I go back is because the food is good and the people that go there are cool. The staff always seam happy and friendly when the Big Boss and wife are not around. Organicus have great staff and systems but the food isnt as good as Pure. In fact Most restaurants in Manly actually have very bad table service compared to some other places around Australia but it is such a transient town. People cruise in for a few months work and then leave, or decide to hang around for a year or so.

  • Vegan Chick said:

    Well played Sophia and a bold move for stepping into the fray! Your idea is a good one in theory but not one I’ve EVER seen employed in a cafe and surely one that should work in exactly the opposite way from what you suggest?

    A few kind words of understanding (ooh this is a bit embarrassing but I’ve lost track of what you gave me blah blah),followed by an exchange of details and a chat at the end of the day if the till didn’t work out would have been a great move (if somewhat unheard of). This would have involved giving the CUSTOMER the benefit of the doubt and trusting them to pop back in – not hanging on to their cash on the offchance they were wrong and publicly humiliating them, thereby immediately stopping all future custom! Just such a shame – I miss the burger… :(

  • John said:

    That’s really too bad to hear you had that experience. Though not surprised because many others have been having similar experiences there for some time, and many have chosen not to go there because of the many times unfriendly service and atmosphere. Their food is great, and possible their only saving grace too.

  • sophia said:

    I spoke to my dad last night about what Lucy wrote on her blog and he remembered this incident rather vividly, saying that he was quite displeased with the fact that she “forgot” to mention that he did actually give her the thirty dollars… But that is beside the point. This Lucy person, who ever she is (I have looked at her photos and have never seen her in my life despite working at Pure since it opened) is not even a critic, merely using this blog of hers as a means of expressing her “importance” and “valued” opinion within the community. I can just see her playing the role of a bona fide critic and going to cafes with a note pad and stainless steel pen with the initials L.J embossed on it- making a note that the aroma of the coffee at the cafe was a mere 1 out of three…as she hisses the word “regrettable” in her unbearable state of disappointment…

    And as for you Vegan Girl… your response of: “I’m going to refute what you say with a slight undertone of condescension because it takes me away from the monotony of my life and makes me feel empowered…even though ironically, I remain within the protective shield of my anonymity” is rather pitiful in my opinion. I would have analysed what you wrote to a further extent if you had not asked former employees to dish on the “misery of pure employment, because it just shows me that you have a malevolent temperament, and thrive on negligible gossip…and still being in high-school I have to deal with people like that everyday.

    Do me a favour Vegan Girl…grow a pair of spheres

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    Turn my back for two minutes…!

    Tony, very fair point about the tourist trap impact on service, you’re right to have raised it, thank you.

    Sophia, I’m not going to analyse any of what you’ve written because I’ve always found that a waste of time to do that with irrational, speculative people. Thanks for your contributions though, I personally think your insights and attitude have corroborated what I wrote and others agreed upon.

    Now, let’s all get back to our yoga mats and peace out…

  • Tony A said:

    I have had enough of this… I am going to Hungry Jacks now to get a Deep Fried Organic Double McCheese burger, with a filtered coffee and 5 spoons of sugar…;)

  • Vegan Chick said:

    Sophia – you’re a classic and clearly the fruit has not fallen far from the tree. I’m not about to launch into a kid – a career in hospitality / PR clearly isn’t in the making (nor is anything requiring an understanding of punctuation), but you have definitely got a pair of “spheres” and a pretty sweet vocab. Wishing you all the best and hope that passion/rage takes you to great places.


  • walter said:

    Hi Lucy. This is Walter, the owner of Pure Wholefoods.

    I feel I need to apologize for the incident, I have thought about it and agree that it could have been handled in a more pleasant way. I don’t want to make any excuses, but I would just like to share with you what really goes on behind the scenes. My wife Dini and I have been working 7 days a week for about 8 years now, and although we are very passionate about what we do and would not trade it for the world, sometimes it gets the better of us. We make all of our food from scratch; it is all hand-made and takes a long time, and with staff constantly coming and going it is a challenge. But, we remain passionate and still have the desire to share our love of a healthy life-style with the community.


  • Christopher said:

    After working in retail for 6 years & owning my own shop I know that one finds it very hard to be super happy all the time. There are many pressures owning a shop and one does think as much as they can about the bottom line.

    Some customers do expect a lot more than others and that is cool because that is just what life is about..

    All our needs are different and these feelings change so much from day to day.. I do not know how you woke up in the morning or what has happened to you the night before as you do not know how I am feeling today.

    We as a human race focus way 2 much energy on negative emoticons instead of what makes us happy. Empathy, understanding, love and caring makes for a much better world.

    I don’t know what scenario happened on the days you are talking about at Pure but I know from past experience that having to be happy all the time can be very challenging as a shop owner… I on many occasion’s when in super busy times had challenges from customers about the amount of $$ payed and we did disagree but I gave the change back that the customer expected….

    I have been a regular to Pure since its opening and watching it grow and develop have been interesting & fun… Walter and the crew are under severe stress during peak period as the place is pumping… Anyone on the Nthn beaches knows that Pure has some of the healthiest tasting food around & the food produced for such a small shop and the kitchen is fantastic.

    There are many many cafes in Manly & Australia with far worse food and far worse service…

    Peace, love and Pure’s apple cake…. :)))))

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