I'm in the stunning city of Seville updating my Frommer’s Day by Day guide to the city. As you know, this is the first time I’ve updated a guidebook, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. But something happened yesterday I hadn’t expected.
On one of my Seville walking tours I've included a traditional coffee shop called La Campana. All my walking tours need to include at least one spot to take the weight off your feet and have a drink and a bite. This place is Seville’s oldest coffee and cake shop, full of ornate chiller cabinets filled with beautifully arranged rows of colourful cakes and sugary sweets. It trades on its reputation a bit and is pricey compared to several other places, but the location is picture perfect – on a bustling street corner in the shade. You can sit at your table on the pavement and watch the world go by as waistcoated waiters pour you a coffee or a fresh juice and bring you your yummy cake.
And it’s exactly halfway round my walking tour too. So... a bit touristy, but actually pretty perfect for what I need.
Except, I and my wife (who has been here with me for a couple of days) bought some cakes there yesterday. We brought them back to my apartment. And Karen found a COCKROACH! in her cake. (‘Look on the bright side’ I told her – ‘at least it wasn’t half a cockroach!’)
1) Drop the place completely?
As a rule with a guidebook where space is at an absolute premium, you don’t give a place a bad review. If it’s not good, you just don’t include it – there’s simply not room to write about the bad places.
2) Mention it, but give it a bad review
Despite this, it is Seville’s most famous coffee shop – it will be in every other guidebook to the city. Leaving it out could look like a glaring omission. I absolutely can’t keep it in my walking tour as a recommended refreshment stop if I am not 100% sure it’s good. These stops are supposed to be places I have carefully selected as special. An added problem is that, due to the way the format of the guidebook works, the only place I can easily include a coffee shop in the book is as a walking tour refreshment stop. There are listings chapters for Bars, Restaurants, Shops and Hotels, but this place doesn’t really fit into any of these sections very easily. (Perhaps I could put it in 'Shops'? That might work.)
3) Mention it without discussing the cockroach
Maybe this was just a one-off? After all, they have been making and serving cakes here for literally centuries. Plenty of other satisfied customers - many of them regular locals. Perhaps I should give them the benefit of the doubt? Keep it in the walking tour.
4) Mention it but say something opaque
So, they were having an off day maybe – perhaps I mention La Campana but make it clear I’m not mad keen on the place. Say something about ‘lovely location, but the cakes are a bit sweet and overpriced in my opinion’ or similar. But can I keep it in the walking tour if I do this? I’m not at all sure.
5) Give them a chance to resolve the problem
You might well be saying I should tell the manager of the place about the problem and give him an opportunity to resolve it. I probably would do in the UK – but my Spanish is awful and (more important) there is no proof the cockroach came from their cake. I could just be saying this to make life difficult for them. (It’s a big shame we didn’t eat the cake at the shop!) I have plenty of friends here who are Spanish, so I could get them to help me explain the problem. And I might.
So – what would you do? How do you strike a balance between a one-off unfortunate experience and needing a certain type of place to fit a particular kind of guidebook format?
Scroll down to comment #21 to see my update on what happened when I went to confront the manager - cockroach in hand (well in a bag actually)