Seepingtoad Acid

I’m heading out of town this week without my laptop, so as is customary, I leave you with a Tea Shop Interlude! I’ll be back with Chapter 15 next Thursday, August 30th.

Happy reading!

Casey


 

Taseino comes over to me with a frown. “Could you talk to the customers by the door please?”

I look over. They haven’t ordered yet. They are smiling, confident and ready—but poised, like what they’re ready for is some sort of fight they expect to win.

“About?”

“They think our tea is too expensive, and they want it discounted,” Taseino says.

I can tell at a glance that their clothes are more expensive than anything in this store aside from the dragon teapot. Appearances may not be everything, but I have no doubts a tea service is well within their means.

“I see,” I say.

“I tried explaining that we already keep our prices as low as possible to still stay in business, but they insist we should be able to offer them a discount,” Taseino says. “I told them I would confirm with the manager. Sorry, I know we can’t actually—I can just go back and tell them the answer is no.”

“Do you think they’ll take that any better?” I ask. “Because I’m gathering they’ll likely demand to speak with me anyway.”

Taseino winces. “Yeah.”

I pass him a dish towel. “This is the sort of thing a manager is for, isn’t it? I’ll take care of it.”

At that, because he’s clever, Taseino looks up with a touch of alarm in his expression, but it’s too late—I’m already moving.

“Welcome to Talmeri’s Teas and Tisanes,” I greet the customers with a bow. “I understand you had a question about our pricing?”

“Yes,” one woman says brightly, “a friend recommended this shop as a must-see destination on our trip in Sayorsen, so of course we had to stop by. But I had no idea it would be so expensive for just a cup of tea. Is there anything you can do?”

“Did Taseino walk you through the menu?” I ask. “The groupings can be a little confusing, given all the unique ingredients—”

“Yes, he showed us,” she interrupts. “But there’s nothing here that’s in a reasonable price range.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I say. “Perhaps on your next trip to Sayorsen we will be a better match for your budget.”

She blinks; it takes her a moment. “Surely you’re joking. There must be some sort of discount you offer to first-time customers?”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do,” I say, but not with any regret. It’s not, after all, true. But I’m not going to go out of my way to be helpful to someone behaving with such rude entitlement.

“You realize you’re going to lose a sale?” she asks as if I wouldn’t be delighted if she now walked out the door. “If this is your business sense, no wonder the prices are exorbitant.”

“Grace,” I say gently, “I’m going to lose a sale that would cost me money to make, now and in the future. You’re a visitor, so the likelihood a discount now would make you a return customer is slim—and I do not get the impression you, or anyone you would choose to tell about us, would be prepared to pay the value of what our service is worth in the future. Under such circumstances, losing this sale is a consequence I and the shop can live with.”

They both stare at me.

“If you change your mind, I recommend the Meadowwind White,” I say with a bow. “It is a truly rare blend, and as it’s new, not one your friend who recommended us could have had the opportunity to sample.”

I bow and take my leave, leaving them to decide whether they care more about social capital at home or the loss of face here.

“The Meadowwind White,” Taseino says, “is made with acid from the pores of a seeping toad.”

“Lorwyn has developed it into a lovely citrus flavor,” I say, “and we do not need to cultivate customers that would interfere with our ability to serve others.”

He nods thoughtfully, considering that. “Thank you.”

“Taseino,” I say fervently, “it was my absolute pleasure.”

That surprises a laugh out of him, and he goes to start their tea.


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