An Oasis Cafe has been in the business spotlight recently for taking out their frustrations about a raise in minimum wage on its customers. The gist: they’ve added a line item to all receipts entitled “Minimum Wage Fee” for $0.35. Their justification is that the $0.75/hour increase in wages will cost the company an additional $10,000 per year.
It’s one thing to raise prices in response to minimum wage increases. After all, from grocery stores to gas stations and fast food restaurants workers are generally paid that rate or close. But generally a business will respond to this change by simply raising prices slightly (and quietly). Years ago when minimum wage was raised in New York I saw a roughly $0.40 price increase across the board at Burger King, for example. But creating a separate line item seems petty and hostile.
For one thing, they’re taking it out on the wrong target. Your customers are the ones keeping you in business. If you’re pissed about a state mandate, take it up with the state. Drawing attention to the fact that you’re passing this cost onto the customer in the form of a “fee” comes across like you’re punishing them. For what? It was a PR gamble with this little rebellion against the state. And like any gamble, there’s a chance it will backfire hard in your face.
In the age of social media, blowback is fast — scroll down a bit to see some examples. Reactions varied, but several people announced they wouldn’t be eating there again. They claim the increased expense would cost the company $10,000, but what is the cost of looking like an asshat and losing that much business? And apparently when one failed decision rears its head, the quickest way to alleviate it is by being snarky with the same people you just insulted. As seen toward the end of the above linked article, the restaurant created a Facebook post pitching a new breakfast and tailing it with “now THAT is worth all the many expressed exclamation points.” Which is essentially to say “Unlike the opinions of all you idiots, this is something worth the fuss.”
When you’re making a joke in light of a bad situation to diffuse the tension you make the joke at your own expense, not the recipient’s. Imagine being the social media person for that restaurant and having to explain to your boss how many of the 750 comments (at the time of this post) are people up in arms. Replies were from other states across the U.S. and even in other countries, so there is no hope of it being a small local thing that will blow over quickly. (The fact that the post happened in late July is proof of that.) Woof.
As someone who works in the profession of helping businesses control their messaging, this story was an amusing cautionary tale.
There’s a saying in business that seems pertinent here. “There is only one boss: the customers. And they can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down by spending their money somewhere else.”