“Open-minded ka ba? Tara, kape tayo!” (Are you open-minded? Let’s get some coffee!). That invite has been abused to death that it’s become a (Filipino) meme. I acknowledge that this article is about a year or two too late already, “business opportunity” meetings are not saturated in second wave coffee shops anymore. These “multi-level marketing” (MLM) companies now actually invest more in their own spaces. That and the fact that some marketers not caring where they conduct their “business opportunity” meetings so long as they “close the deal”
Hold up – What’s a second wave coffee shop? Here’s an (old) article that’s able to define that and the other two waves as simple as possible:
Look at it this way: In the first wave, the consumer led the way. It was all about availability to the masses on a national scale. With second wave, the coffee was better, but marketing the experience was the driving force. With third wave, production and marketing take the back seat, and the product takes center stage.
BTW. Based on that definition, you can say my coffee knowledge is still second wave level. I’m still there at just describing the experience of drinking coffee.
Why am I isolating it solely on second wave coffee shops? I take you back to a time I was working in Makati for a local bank. It was my first job, my first time making my own money. I was young, stupid, and finally able to buy coffee from second wave shops. I get off work and step out to be greeted by the many streetlights of Ayala Avenue (I usually worked late, for free), trooped my way to the nearest shop – and all seats are taken. Some had chunky laptops (this was in 2008-2009), others had paper (did I say this was in 2008-2009?) but all of them were there for one thing and one thing only: Discussing business opportunities.
They’re there because at that time, second wave coffee shops were associated by Filipinos with the elite. You were making good money, or even better, you did not need to work because you were so stinking rich already to be able to afford second wave coffee (read:
anak ng diyos mayaman). That’s not even an exaggeration. Our minds were blown that those white paper cups full of coffee costs more than food. This was also a time when BPOs were still relatively new and most Filipinos worked for local companies that paid really small. Fun fact: My first monthly salary was under 10K Php for someone who graduated with a degree in finance.
The iPhone was first sold in the Philippines in August 2008; The largest bankruptcy filing in US History happened in 2008; The Samsung Galaxy line only came out in 2010; Blackberry was still the preferred phone for business men, politicians, overall rich people; Friendster was still alive in 2008 but was facing stiff competition in the US from Facebook, it will eventually implode beginning the year after. All that to highlight how long ago 2008 is.
That perception is important to understand why second wave shops were peppered by MLM business meetings: Those seeking to get people to join MLM had to show that they were making so much money in this business that they can afford to treat them expensive coffee. It wouldn’t have the same effect if you treated them at a fastfood joint. Everybody can do that. They can’t treat them to fine dining. That’s actually expensive. Second wave coffee shops provided them the perfect middle ground: Not so expensive but makes you look filthy rich. Also see: People associate themselves with coffee, here’s (probably) why
The “Marketing” part of MLM is not actually marketing the product. Well, to a point it is but only up to when the
target potential investor has to buy the product upfront to join (which is why sales for these companies are so high). What you really market is the lifestyle you can get if you become successful in luring people in. You market yourself: how this has changed your life; how you can afford expensive stuff; how you can get everybody in the table a round of “coffee” drinks.
To bookend this article, I come back to the point that this practice has waned in recent years. There’s still the occasional meeting in a shop (though in other cities this could still be more prevalent) but there won’t be a lot of people that will be tricked by that anymore. Heck, even college kids are more “woke” about specialty coffee nowadays than an old-timer like me. And why haven’t these business opportunity meetings migrated to third wave coffee shops? Well first they don’t really care about coffee. Second, it’s not an environment conducive for that type of boisterous activity. Finally, they’re probably not earning enough anymore.
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Categories: thoughts with kape
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