(SCENE: Mitch BERG is standing in the line for car tabs at the Saint Paul Sears with Avery LIBRELLE)
LIBRELLE: I saw your blog post about the restaurant in Mower County that is offering discounts for gun nuts who bring guns into their restaurants.
BERG: Yeah. That’s pretty cool.
LIBRELLE: I’m sure there’ll be a mass shooting there soon.
BERG: (shakes head silently, with deep weariness)
LIBRELLE: What this does mean is that they should raise their minimum wage.
BERG: (wearily) OK, I’ll bite. Why’s that?
LIBRELLE: Because the owner is giving away money.
LIBRELLE: Discounts. That’s money he’s giving away. That means he could afford to increase his staff’s wages.
BERG: Er, the discount – leaving aside the extent to which it might be a personal protest statement – is what’s called a “loss leader”. It’s designed to get people to come out, bring their non-gun-carrying friends – to get people in the door. Once they’re through the door, that’s more traffic, more word of mouth, more potential to win over customers that keep coming back and spending more money.
Sort of like when Chipotle has their Free Burrito Day. They lose money on that day’s burritos – but hopefully create loyal repeat customers who come back later to pay full price.
LIBRELLE: Well, if they can do that, they can afford to pay the dish washers and waitresses and counter staff more.
BERG: Er, why do you think businesses do that?
LIBRELLE: Because they’re rolling in money at the expense of the worker!
BERG: No, it’s to increase business. It’s called Marketing, and Advertising; spending a little money so that there’s more business, which in turn brings in more money, which eventually goes into things like paying off investors and turning a profit and expanding and remodeling and buying a new oven and, by the bye, salaries. Because a successful restaurant can afford to give a raise, while an unsuccessful one can’t even retain workers.
LIBRELLE: Giving away the workers’ money in this way is like the Bush Tax Cuts. That money is needed.
BERG: Government doesn’t need to advertise or market. And even if the money were “the workers’ money”, it’s part of marketing a business, to try to make it successful Like spending money on advertising, or on having clean restrooms and unripped seats, or laminated menus, or quality ingredients and attractive preparation and presentation; it’s about making people come to your business, and then making them want to come back.
But – and I can’t stress this enough – the business’ revenue is not “the workers’ money”. The person or people who started and run the restaurant – which provides the jobs for “the workers” – has the job of using that money to the business’ best advantage, to promote and maintain the business. Which includes paying salaries.
LIBRELLE: It’s more important that they pay the salaries. Without the workers, the owner is nothing.
BERG: Er, what now?
LIBRELLE: It’s the workers that make the business. Without the workers, there’d be no business.
BERG: I’m sure that’s news to every sole-proprietor entrepreneur out there…
LIBRELLE: Look at Bain Capital. Mitt Romney didn’t even show up to work for months at a time. And yet the janitors had to show up every day. Bain could have prospered without Romney, but not without janitors. The janitors deserved the money more than Romney.
BERG: (Stands, gobsmacked in stunned silence)
LIBRELLE: Without those janitors, Bain would have failed.
BERG: So you’re saying that janitors can manage venture capital better than managers can empty trash and sweep floors? Or that restaurants would spontaneously form in Mower County without someone to rent a building, set up a kitchen and a counter and some tables and buy some inventory and hire and train some cooks and waiters and dishwashers.
LIBRELLE: Of course not.
BERG: OK, then…
LIBRELLE: I’m saying that without janitors sweeping the floors, the capital would never have been managed. Without a dishwasher, there’d be no restaurant.
LOUDSPEAKER: ”Number 36″
BERG: Oh, that’s my number. What’s yours?
LIBRELLE: Oh, I don’t have one. I just love hanging out here.
BERG: (shuffling toward the window) You what?
LIBRELLE: Yeah. It’s a great lesson on how business should work!
BERG: Huh. Wow. And to think some people say liberals don’t understand business.
LIBRELLE: I know. Right?