Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

Seattle Coffee Owner Pulls a Papa John, Raises Prices to Make Up for Paid Sick Leave

As Paid Sick Leave becomes the new norm in Seattle, business owners are taking different, um, “approaches” to making it work for their alleged bottom lines. Remember when Papa John’s, Darden Restaurants and that one Denny’s franchise owner said they were going to pass the costs of healthcare reform on to customers? Welp, one Seattle company tried to go that very reputation damaging route earlier this year when Paid Sick Leave came to pass:

Cherry Street Coffee, which has seven locations in and around downtown Seattle, has just put up shiny new signs at all their registers alerting customers to a new “Sick Leave Surcharge” of 1.5 percent on every order.

The sign reads: “Sick Leave Surcharge: To help offset the costs of the City of Seattle’s paid sick leave policy we are adding a 1.5% surcharge to all orders. We appreciate your understanding and continued patronage.”

The sign drew the ire of customers who felt that message was too political for their morning lattes. It seems that Cherry Street Coffee owner and sign author Ali Ghambari is unfamiliar with how much Papa John’s company stock took a dip after their anti-Obamacare statements following the November election. Now, Cherry Street Coffee is feeling the same backlash. The story was picked up by Slog and the woman who tipped the blog off to the story sums up the situation best:

“There were many ways [Cherry Street Coffee owner Ali Ghambari] could have dealt with this. He could have upped prices slightly to compensate, for example.” But instead, says Whitney, “he chose to call himself out as a royal dickhead for life, because now we all know he wasn’t paying for sick leave before forced to by law.”

If you don’t mind, we’re just going to coin the acronym RDH4L (Royal Dickhead for Life).

Slog writer Anna Minard interviewed RDH4L who did himself no favors by coming off exactly as expected:

I called Ghambari to see if he agreed with that assessment. Incidentally, he says on his website that “Cherry Street is all about building love and community.” Ghambari confirms that he’s the author of the signs, which went up at all the cash registers last week. “Obviously, this is something we never had in our budget,” he says. “We never had sick leave before.” He says offering sick leave will cost him “$25,000 to $30,000 a year, easy,” for his 45-plus employees.

“My employees know, hey, you’re gonna get 40 hours time off for sick leave,” he says. “Even if you are not sick, you’ll get that paid to you anyway.” Under the new law, for a business his size, 40 hours of accrued sick time can be rolled over from one year to the next. “If one of my employees is not sick for the whole year,” he says, “all of a sudden next year, you’ve got 80 hours… I don’t want my employees calling in sick when they’re not sick to get a day off.” I asked him how the rollover of sick leave would cause his employees to be dishonest. He did not have an answer. “It’s not about dishonesty,” he says. “I’m not driving a Mercedes, I’m actively working my business. I feel pretty comfy with [this decision]. If some people don’t feel good about it, bring it on, we’ll talk about it.” But so far, he says, “We haven’t gotten any comments about it.”

In America, RDH4L business owners have the right to take such actions. But they can’t act surprised when their actions are unwelcome simply because they are allowed to take them. What’s also allowed in America is for customers to simply stop shopping somewhere. That is basically capitalism in a nutshell, right Whitney?

“I, for one, will not be supporting this asshole any further.”


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