24 01 2013

Nespresso. Have you heard of it yet? It’s like espresso, but with an “n”. It’s a Swiss brand of single-serve coffee makers that markets to high-end clientele. Starbucks has gotten on the single-serve bandwagon, but, come on, they’re not Nespresso.

I was invited to the grand opening of Nespresso’s newest flagship boutique in Union Square in SF a few months ago. When I showed up, the place was still sorely under construction. I later found out that I was somehow not on the list when they told everyone about the cancellation of the event. I was sad. They sent me a $200 Nespresso machine and probably another $50 worth of accompanying paraphernalia. Apology accepted.

My very own Nespresso U machine

My very own Nespresso U machine

I recently went to the real Grand Opening Event which went quite a bit better than the first one. Indeed, it was most certainly one of the best media events I’ve yet experienced. Let’s discuss.

The sched:

5.30 – 6.30: Press Preview & Executive Remarks

6.30 – 9pm: Evening Event

Based on this description, I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea that there would literally be a red carpet out front. That they would be renting a cable car (the kind on wheels) decorated in Nespresso banners to be parked out front of the store as a photo op spot and gift bag storage location. That they would have wine, roving photographers and videographers, demonstrations, and a huge spread of food. I was woefully unprepared and pleasantly surprised all at once.

Upon check-in at the red carpet, I received a pre-printed, magnetic, uber-plush name tag. There were only a handful of them; the “Press Preview” was apparently relatively exclusive. The woman informed me that I should come by to receive my gift bag at the end, and to fill out this form to receive my very own Nespresso machine. My first mistake: painfully detrimental honesty. “Oh, I already have a Nespresso machine! You guys sent me one.” Smart, Angie, very smart. You can’t just accept a free thing and give it to one of your deserving friends? No, your first instinct is to be honest, barring all consequences. Like an idiot. Good work. Empty handed, I proceeded into the boutique for the event.

Do excuse this exquisitely awful photo, I let my phone do the photographs this time. Never again.

Do excuse this exquisitely awful photo, I let my phone do the photographs this time. Never again.

As I walk thorough the front doors, a series of waiters holding trays awaits to my left. I take a champagne flute from one tray, the next server pours a bit of raspberry liquor in the flute, the next champagne. The final server puts a finishing raspberry in my glass, and now I have a super fancy cocktail served by no less than four people. There are more employees and PR people than guests. I would estimate there were probably 30 staff total in a room the size of about two large Starbucks cafes. It was ridiculous.

The staff were all dressed up. Hair, makeup, ties. Nametags. Smiles. They would approach me and offer to show me things. “Shall we step downstairs to the boutique? Our President will give you a tour of the store.” Except they most certainly had a fancier name for the store, I just don’t remember it. They had flown in Nespresso higher-ups from Switzerland and a PR team from New York for this event. I received a private tour of the extremely swanky purchasing room from the President of Nespresso USA. In showing me how the place worked (super techy-rad — self-refilling shelving, check out stands that automatically detect what items are in your bag, super speedy digital self-check out), he let me pick out a half dozen boxes of Nespresso capsules which he then bought for me and let me take. It was kind of amazing.

High-tech self check out area at the Nespresso SF boutique

High-tech self check out area at the Nespresso SF boutique

There were then three short speeches by the president, head of marketing, and the president of the America’s Cup, of which Nespresso is a sponsor this year, followed by a few brief and unintentionally fumbly tours of the products. I had been there for an hour thus far and was already pretty overwhelmed.

Then it was time for the real party to start; 300 people were expected for the “Evening Event”. People started pouring in the front door. Everyone is dressed to the nines. There is complimentary valet. I feel like I’m at some sort of movie screening. I’m wearing slip-on shoes and my North Face fleece; I came straight from work. And I have no one to talk to because I had a bit of a plus-one snafu. So I started to feel kinda awkward. And hungry.

The food was coming out, but it was getting so crowded that I couldn’t move anywhere. I wished I had been better prepared (dressed nicer, brought friends, had somewhere to put my jacket, handbag, and Nespresso bag), and decided to head toward my gift bag instead. Since I was leaving as most people were arriving, I had to ask about the gift bag, which is always a classy move. “Can I have my free things now? Remember, I’m the one who turned down the free machine, but now wants other free things. Gimme!”

The newest Nespresso machine, debuting in the US later this year. Yeah, we got a preview.

The newest Nespresso machine, debuting in the US later this year. Yeah, we got a preview.

I was given a gift bag that literally came up to mid-thigh if you set it on the ground. It wasn’t full or anything, it was just giant. I suppose they expected me to stow it gracefully in the ample trunk of my valeted vehicle. They likely did not expect me to be walking 25 minutes home with it in tow, trying hard not to let it scrape on the ground the whole way. Why do I seem to always have the privilege of feeling like a goon even when things are supposed to be nice?

Regardless, the event was relatively amazing. It was well-executed, professionally done, and totally gave off the high-end, fancy swank vibe they were going for. And all the people who looked totally prepared for it seemed to be having a great time. The only thing I want from that event is a do-over.

Either way, now we can have a Nespresso party at my place. I have all the flavors. Booya.

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One response

25 01 2013

One extremely important comment….I have tried their coffee from their machine and it is EXCELLENT! I know good coffee and rarely get it, but this is it! I could have had one of their machines (forget your friends….sorry friends)!

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