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“Not liking coffee is a bit of a deal-breaker”

“Not liking coffee is a bit of a deal-breaker”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

(Wo)man at work: coffee expert at Nespresso

Victor Grenon/ 22/ third-year student of European Studies/ works twelve hours per week/ earning about €12.50 per hour (depending on Sunday and evening surcharges)

“How may I help you?” Victor Grenon, third-year student of European Studies and coffee expert at the Nespresso Boutique on the Maastrichter Brugstraat, smiles at the couple across the counter. He’s wearing a black suit – one of the two suits he owns especially for his work at Nespresso.

“Coffee”, comes the deadpan reply. “We have coffee”, laughs Grenon. Together, they begin to select different flavours. Nespresso sells about 25 different types of capsules for its machines, depending on how many special editions are on offer at a given moment.

“Do you often drink coffee with milk?” Grenon asks the customer. “Yes, always.” “In that case I’d recommend this flavour, which is a bit sweeter and milder.” The man of the couple asks if the shop sells one of the so-called variations limited editions: the Paris. “Ah, you’re from Belgium? They did use to sell the Paris in Belgium, but not here in the Netherlands. We had the Istanbul.”

Before he started working here, Grenon had to take a short course to familiarise himself with all the different Nespresso products: not just the coffees, but also the machines and accessories. “We sell all things coffee related, up to and including coffee spoons. The only thing we don’t sell is toppings like chocolate or caramel, which some people like to put in their coffee.” He’s got a three-day course in Amsterdam coming up to further increase his knowledge and learn more about the coffee-making process.

As the customers pick their coffees, Grenon selects the products on his screen. “I thought the system was quite complicated at first. You have to know quite a lot of product codes and sometimes it takes a while to find something. It’s not very easy to correct a mistake, either. But people usually get faster the longer they work here.”

When the order is complete, Grenon can start collecting the boxes. He turns to the colourful wall behind him, where the boxes with capsules – each of which are coded with a different colour – are stored. The customers pay for their order. “If you’d like a cup of coffee, my colleague over there will make you one”, says Grenon, pointing to the small coffee bar on the other side of the shop.

The man’s eye has been caught by the new limited edition coffee, the Costa Rica. It’s not available for tasting, unfortunately, but Grenon can give him more information about it. “The beans have been fermented for twelve hours in very mineral-rich water from a hot spring in Costa Rica. It’s very unique, I think it’s even patented.”

The couple decides to buy a box and then goes to the other side of the shop for a (different) cup of coffee. When it’s less busy, Grenon accompanies customers to the coffee bar. Sometimes he organises a small tasting session, allowing customers to try flavours they might enjoy. Of course, he occasionally gets a cup of coffee for himself. “You do get a bit spoiled. I can no longer drink the coffee at the university library.” His personal favourite is the Arpeggio, “a relatively strong espresso.”

As a seller, Grenon has to hit certain sales targets. “It’s not difficult, though. It’s often so busy that people are happy someone is available. I don’t feel like I’m in competition with my colleagues, either. The thing I like most about this job is convincing people of a product, especially if they haven’t switched to Nespresso yet. Perfecting your sales pitch is a matter of experience. I learn a lot from my colleagues. I try to pay attention to the way they explain things, for example. It’s important to believe in the product. Not liking coffee is a bit of a deal-breaker.”

At the end of the working day, it’s time to balance the till and clean the shop. “You’re tired by then, but it’s done in no time when everyone pitches in. We have a nice group of people here; we also see each other outside of work.”

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