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A coffee shop is getting rid of prices to help people who can't pay

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You know how a lot of businesses always say, "The customer is always right," but how many actually mean it?

One coffee shop in Santa Monica, California, is taking that adage very seriously. Metro Cafe is letting customers choose the price of their drink to help those who can't afford standard coffee prices.

[For] most people, how much you pay for a cup of coffee really doesn't matter. But that's not true for everyone.
Steve Snook, Metro Cafe
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Prior to becoming donation-based, Metro was like any other coffee shop, charging $3 for a cup of coffee.

"It all started when one day, one of the seniors that live in this tower next door said, 'I just can't afford your coffee," said Steve Snook, owner of Metro Cafe.

At $3, Sven, the senior citizen Snook is referring to, thought a cup of coffee from Metro was too expensive. When Snook asked Sven, the senior citizen, if he would be able to pay $1, Sven gladly said yes. And thus a new business model was born.

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Metro Cafe is an extension of Metro Church in the wealthy beach-side enclave of Santa Monica.

That was back in October 2017. Four months later, Metro Cafe is still leaving prices up to customers. Some have paid as much as $104 for a cup. Few have taken drinks for free, according to one of the baristas.

"I pay around four or five dollars for a cup of coffee," said Andy Lipo, a 26-year-old customer.

"Two dollars!" exclaimed Bob Judge, an elderly man who lives in the senior living complex next door. He says he appreciates the change.

"We have about 160 people in the high rise there—elderly people—that love to come here now because it’s cheaper," said Judge.

The coffee shop started by trying the Pay-What-You-Want business model for 30 days.

"And the end of 30 days, we realized that what we had brought in pretty much matched what we had brought in the month before," said Snook.

That's about $12,500 a month.

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Stefen Snook, manager and barista, says fewer people than expected have asked for free drinks.

"I think people are probably more inclined to give bigger donation if they don't feel pressed that they have to give a certain amount," said Lipo, a customer who's been visiting the coffee shop regularly for four months now.

Restaurants around the world have tried similar Pay-What-You-Want models. Some have closed; others remain open. Snook, who's a full-time pastor, says he's sticking to it.

"The last few months has really made a difference in our relationship with other people, and we aren’t suffering from it," said Snook. "And so we believe in what we’re doing, and so we’re going to stand by it.”

What should you eat for breakfast today?
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Let's get started!

Related stories on Circa:
California may label coffee a cancer risk
This coffee shop is helping refugees get started in America
At this underground cafe, you can have coffee and pastries with rats

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