View Full Version : Coffee burners are often hot

09-23-2008, 08:58 PM
Convenience store, part of an international chain. The coffee makers we use have one brewing station and then 3 other burners to keep pots warm. They are laid out so that one pot sits beside the brewing station, one sits behind that one and a few inches higher, and the fourth goes on top of the brewing station (much higher than the others). Two of these machines sit side-by side, where one is the mirror image of the other so the brewing stations are in the middle of the bottom row.
We have 4 of these machines, so at peak we have 16 pots out. The machines sit in pairs, facing each other, about 4 feet apart on the counter. So as a customer approaches, they will see the burner that is beside the brewing station and the other burner behind and above that one right at the edge of the counter.
As we reduce the number of pots we have out, eventually we will shut down one pair of machines and just have 4 pots on the remaining machines. We leave all the burners on the working machines switched on, mostly because customers tend to put the pot in their hand down on whatever burner is empty and near them, regardless of where it had been when they picked it up. In short, switching those burners off just results in cold coffee when somebody moves a pot.

So a lady comes up to my register to pay for her coffee. She has one of those hard plastic cups we sold about a year ago specificly for people to keep and reuse, so she's going to be paying for a 'coffee refil'. But she begins to tell me about something that has just gone wrong, in that tone of voice that sounds like an apology but also carries the hint of accusation that she thinks that what happened is actually your fault.
What happened was that she approached the coffee machine, and set her cup down on the rear burner that was just an inch or two above the others. She seemed totally mystified that said burner had turned out to be hot, and had slightly melted the bottom of her cup. She also seemed mystified that her cup was not now leaking (it had only melted the edge of the ring at the bottom of the cup, not the actual cup bottom at all.
She also appeared oblivious to what was a much more real problem: she had just left a ring of plastic perhaps a millimeter or two thick stuck to the burner in question. When I arrived at the coffee maker, the smell of burning plastic was quite distinct, and I had to work quickly with a wet towel to remove the plastic before it permanently damaged the burner (which is a form of plastic itself). As I am scrubbing with a wet towel, and steam is rolling upwards, the lady is still saying "I guess it was hot" to me, like it was a total surprise to her that it might be.

Me, I default to assuming such things are hot. If I really want to set something on them, I hold my hand over it to see if I can detect heat, and if I don't I proceed to touching it briefly, then for a longer bit of time, and then I conclude it would be safe to set something on.

It seemed more brain-burp than sucky, although I got a strong sucky vibe off of it too. I think she expected me to go full-on apologetic and offer to replace her cup or something. Sorry, that's not going to happen: what happened was because of something extraordinarily stupid you did. Your failure to recognise that causes me alarm, and the fact that you have survived for somewhere between 6 and 9 decades suggests to me that the magnitude of your mental impairment is a fairly recent thing, which is the only reason I feel any pity for you. Still, you'd think you'd have learned that your faculties are impaired, and you really shouldn't go out in public without supervision.

Sorry, I guess I went to the zoo for a minute.
Moral of this fable: yes, burners are often hot, even if there is not currently something sitting on them. Assume they are hot, until given evidence otherwise.

09-24-2008, 12:10 AM
Was there anything to show that those burners were hot? I mean, I understand that she should NOT have set anything down on them, but it seems kind of dangerous to leave burners hot without anything on them....

09-24-2008, 02:41 AM
at my store we have all the hot pots behind the counter and fill Karafes(SP?)
you know those pump pot thermos things , and put them out for customer use

that way no one can burn themselves cuz god you know they will:rolleyes:

09-26-2008, 12:32 PM
Was there anything to show that those burners were hot? I mean, I understand that she should NOT have set anything down on them, but it seems kind of dangerous to leave burners hot without anything on them....

Other than there being hot coffee on other burners on the same unit, not really.
Well, the little "on" switch was in the on position, and it lights up when it is on, but the customers don't seem to be able to tell which switch goes to which burner (despite they're being labled).

As I said, most of our customers assume they are hot, to the point of setting the coffee pots down on them.
(Then again, these same people will often put a completely empty pot down on a hot burner, so ....)

I will be SO glad when we upgrade to the newer system, though that is probably years away. (I believe it is a brew-on-demand system, rather than a hot-holding system: turn the faucet, fresh coffee comes out.)

10-02-2008, 01:36 AM
To be honest, I doubt I'd assume they're hot, and as such I wouldn't look to see if there are lights on. Now, if I notice the lights first, THEN I'll think they might be on. Which still wouldn't make sense to me, since there's nothing on them.