Business Ethics ?

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business_ethicsIf a business owner falls behind on their rent because of the lousy economic climate, yet creates a new business model that successfully meets the crisis, should the landlord evict them before they can recoup losses and pay the rent?

Back on the 18th of March, I posted the story of Sam Lippert and the Java Street Café, in Kettering, Ohio—Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy. That was in the midst of the first media blitz because of Sam’s creative commitment to taking all the prices off his menu and letting the customer determine their own fair price. Here’s the link to the live CNN interview with Sam from that post.

That seemingly crazy idea worked, very well!  Sam’s sales quickly increased. Before he implemented the no-price policy, he was tracking last year’s sales dead-even. Since implementing it, his sales are 13% higher than last year. Comparing March to January and February, his sales are up 32%. And, if that’s not enough proof, a food supplier informed Sam that, due to his good example, 15 restaurants in Michigan have adopted the no-price policy…

So…

On the 31st of March, the landlord called and said an eviction notice would be sent the week of April 6th.

Admittedly, the landlord is within their legal rights yet, in this business climate, why would they be willing to kick Java Street Café out when they’re clearly showing their ability to weather the economic storm and thrive in spite of it? Do they feel they can quickly fill the space with another business in this economic downturn? Do they care? Is it possible they don’t give a ____ about Sam’s ability to thrive and pay his debt because they can write it all off and “balance” their books with not a thought about what ethics in business means?

Speaking of business ethics, Sam, in the midst of crushing economic circumstances, made a commitment to a business model that put the customer in the driver’s seat—gave the customer a chance to afford that cup of coffee or sandwich they may have been otherwise unable to justify purchasing.

Take a look at Sam’s latest Press Release

By the way, Sam is open to offering Franchise Opportunities – Call him at: 937-294-5280

My final question:

Who wins if the landlord kicks Sam out?

Spiritual Quote:

“He feels you should both consider the competent running of your business not only a moral obligation to any creditors outstanding, but also the wise and proper thing to do.”
from a letter written on behalf of Shoghí Effendí: 6 June 1954, Compilation on Trustworthiness

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Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy

no_price_cafeI hang out at a local café (you may have noticed I use many imaginative dialogues at the beginning of posts and they’re almost always in a café). I also do some of my own work at the café plus volunteering a little marketing and promotion—basically, I like the place.

However, this creeping, crawling economic downturn (aka recession or crunch) hit the owner of Java Street Café  pretty hard. I’ve spent hours talking business with him and watched as a bright and friendly man became progressively morose and extremely exhausted (when a business has hard times, paying employees becomes a problem and the owner has to not only run the business but literally Work  it).

Months went by, things getting worse, while the owner, Sam, in spite of the grueling conditions, continued  to try various ideas to attract customers…

Finally, last week, an idea he’d been experimenting with became a what-the-hell—”I can’t lose more than I already have”—Decision:

Take All The Prices Off The Menu—let people pay whatever they  feel is a Fair Price!

Sam had his back against the wall, he was willing to try just about anything, and he “happened” to choose and made a commitment to act  on what could seem like a very crazy idea…

That was last week…

Since then, he’s been interviewed on CNN twice, phone interviewed on MSNBC and Fox, appeared on all four of the local channels, been on three out-of-state radio talk shows, will be appearing in a morning cooking segment on the local Fox affiliate, and received calls of thanks from three other states and Canada…

As if that weren’t enough, the blogosphere is starting to warm up to the story and it’s on the edge of tipping into the viral realm.

Why?

Because it’s “crazy” and unusual?

Nope.

That may have been the initial and conscious decision of the media but, after watching it happen and, especially, watching his customers react, the real and deeper reason for all the interest certainly seems to be related to a nearly archaic principle—Business Ethics…

Sam’s customer’s have a variety of reactions when he takes their order then says, “O.K., what do you think is a fair price for what you just ordered ?”:

“Huh?”

“Me?”

“What’s your usual price?”

“Oh, my! I have to think  about it?”

“You’re kidding, right?

Sam’s not kidding, they do have to think about it, his “usual” price is now “your price”, and, when the day is done, the under-payers and the over-payers even out and he’s collecting what he used to get when he had prices…

Of all the various reactions, my personal favorite, and the one that sings  of ethics in business during hard times, is what the woman from Missouri said, when she called to thank Sam for his decision:

“After I saw the story on CNN, I cried…”

Spiritual Quote:

“As a practical step in contributing to a dialogue about development and social transformation that explicitly takes account of spiritual values and perspectives, some 100 influential development organizations, international and government agencies, religious representatives, and academics recently gathered in New Delhi to participate in a colloquium on the theme of Science, Religion and Development. The primary goal of the event was to explore how a unified interaction between scientific methods and religious insights can promote the building of human capacity, particularly in the areas of governance, education, technology and economic activity.”
2001 Jun 11, Universal House of Justice, Overcoming Corruption

Please leave Your  thoughts and feelings in the Comments.
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