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  #1  
Old 23 January 2013, 03:01 PM
Bill Bill is offline
 
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Default Panera's "pay-what-you-can" restaurant" now open in Boston

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/01/2...pen-in-boston/

It's a "Panera Cares Cafe."

There are suggested prices, but you pay what you can, and if you can't pay you can "volunteer" and get a "food voucher."

Thanks.

Bill
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  #2  
Old 23 January 2013, 03:11 PM
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Great idea, hope it does well.
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  #3  
Old 23 January 2013, 04:06 PM
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I likes this idea. "I pays what I feels like payin'."
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  #4  
Old 23 January 2013, 04:13 PM
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Good for them!
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  #5  
Old 23 January 2013, 04:42 PM
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They've opened several of them around the country, having a hard time finding cites but I believe they take about 75% of normal revenue even after the various "people who pay less or nothing", presumably from people who are paying more than normal menu cost.

It's funny I read about this on a conservative blog that was linked on facebook. I swear some crazy people will hate on anything. I mean I can understand not liking the opposite 'side's' politics, after all liberals do that all the time (even me, I'll be honest, the moment I see the "R" after a person's name I become biased, even though I try not to) and I can even.. Well.. 'Sort of" understand some of the various conspiracy nuts out there, but the people who are angry about a company basically giving out less cost/free food to the needy*? I just don't get it and it really makes me think a lot (ok that's unfair, it's a lot of people in terms of whom I 'know' but not a lot worldwide, it may be an anecdotal anomaly) of conservatives are just hateful about anybody else getting any kind of good fortune that they didn't have to work for (and by work they mean at least as hard as they perceive themselves to have worked).

I sometimes feel that the 'privileged' thing is taken too far, and people are basically told that everything they have is only there because of luck and they did nothing to earn it. However the opposite side (that everything I have is cause I earned it and privledge did nothing to help me) seems much more common.

*I guess you could be pissed if people who didn't really need to pay less were doing so.. But then you'd be mad at those people taking advantage of a charitable offer not the company offering the charity. Just like if I decided I was gonna get dressed up as a homeless person and hit the soup kitchen. Also many people commenting were saying they should do just that (start eating at Panera and not paying, not the soup kitchen part) to run their charity out of business so obviously they are just mad that a private company is donating their time and money to help a cause.

ETA:

Wow, that turned into a rant quickly.. Sorry sometimes facebook does that to me (and they are classmates I am working with for school so I can't just unfriend them or turn their posts off)
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  #6  
Old 23 January 2013, 04:46 PM
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What's especially odd about that is that people who eat free food do work for it, via volunteering at the cafe.
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  #7  
Old 23 January 2013, 04:56 PM
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I remember watching a documentary about the Summer of Love in which one of the participants, who was part of a group that served free food in the park, spoke about how they weren't merely trying to help people--they wanted to upset the social order. They would stand in traffic during morning rush hour and offer food to people to try to make them question why they were going to work. Another person interviewed talked about how he had participated in the beginning, when it had been "fun" because you were just sitting in a park eating soup with strangers. But as time went on and more people poured into the city, some of them much younger and poorer, he said it became "squalid" because "the people there really needed that soup" and he never went back.

I think I can understand a little bit the fear that these kinds of outreach engender. When a charity is clearly labeled as such, there's a certain level of shame associated with taking that assistance that keeps most people from doing it unless they're desperate. But when it's a bright, clean, hipster sort of enterprise where people of all income levels come together and can just enjoy themselves without contributing, it's reasonable to worry that people might lose some incentive to work hard and participate equally in the system. History has shown it doesn't really work that way, but I think one can be fearful of or angry about something like this without necessarily hating poor people or wanting everyone else to suffer.
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  #8  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
Also many people commenting were saying they should do just that (start eating at Panera and not paying, not the soup kitchen part) to run their charity out of business so obviously they are just mad that a private company is donating their time and money to help a cause.
The conservative ideology that the government should get out of the charity business and that charities should minister to the poor is at odds with those comments. Many people who label themselves as "conservative" are really just cranky selfish people. I'm a conservative, and I have no problem - in fact I applaud - this (ETA: "this" being the OP, not cranky selfish people). But then again, I don't understand how people can be against birth control, abortion, and a social safety net for children.
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  #9  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:10 PM
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This seems pretty much just like a charity to me.. That said I'd hope there was some level of shame associated with people who take advantage of any policy/organization when they don't deserve it.

Lets delve completely away from charity; REI is an outdoor clothing/supply store that charges slightly more than average for their good (in general, they do have some really good sales) and the benefit is that they are supposed to have better than average customer service, equipment, and a lifetime return guarantee for anything no matter it's present condition no questions asked.

Eighty bucks for a pair of sneakers may sound like a lot until you realize you just bought a pair of sneakers for life!

That said, most people, at least good people, I know who shop there don't treat it like that. If something breaks down earlier than you feel it should you can return it but you don't take advantage of it either. For example I bought a pair of low end (for them) hiking boots that got a hole in them after a year and a half. This seemed way too soon for me so I took them back and got different ones (I had the option of getting my money back too but so far I've been pleased with REI). My wife, on the other hand, bought her boots like four or five years ago and they are still going strong. Even if they only last another year she feels she's gotten her money's worth out of them and wouldn't try returning them.

I guess that's my long-winded example of hoping that people would still feel shame about taking advantage of something just because they are good, adjusted, people, and if they don't it's those people who should be 'the bad guy', not the company for offering a charity/service that benefits others.
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  #10  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:14 PM
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But the fact is that Panera Cares has systems in place to avoid having people just take pure advantage. It might still happen, but seems less likely, with these systems.

From Panera Cares:

Quote:
When we opened our first Panera Cares community cafe, we quickly realized that many people wanted to contribute to our cause even if they were unable to do so monetarily. So we created a way for people to give and become part of our community even if they could not give through our donation bin. If a customer is unable to leave a monetary contribution, we offer the option of volunteering one hour of time to working in our cafe in exchange for a meal. This allows everyone to share in the responsibility of operating Panera Cares community cafes and do their part to impact our sustainability.
Also, in answer to the question, "Do I have to leave money?"

Quote:
No, you do not, but since we are a non-profit, self-sustaining operation we need you to help keep us afloat. That said, if you cannot leave any money today, that’s okay with us. You may volunteer an hour of your time in exchange for a meal if you so desire.
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  #11  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
...I guess that's my long-winded example of hoping that people would still feel shame about taking advantage of something just because they are good, adjusted, people, and if they don't it's those people who should be 'the bad guy', not the company for offering a charity/service that benefits others.
I doubt they feel shame about it if they knowingly do it. But, I would bet that few of those who might be labeled as taking advantage would admit as much themselves. If someone has $3 on their pocket and they pay all of it for a sandwich aren't they paying what they can regardless of their income level?
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  #12  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:23 PM
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But they are 'contributing'. They are supposed to volunteer if they can't pay, which means that those who don't have cash will be 'working for their food'. Where is the incentive to hate that system?

Added: don't go to the washroom and then post without refreshing!
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  #13  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:23 PM
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Well.. Yes and no.. I don't think the idea is that you should pay whatever you have on you at the time.

Beyond that if literally you are hungry and forgot your wallet and you only have a buck or two and nowhere else is cheap enough sure I guess you could do that, but the responsible thing (IMO) to do is to come back at a later time and donate more to make up for it (ETA: or as above volunteer some time).

You 'can' afford more, you just don't have it on you. It is basically the same, to me, as a much more trust-based credit.. Sort of like a non-enforced tab at a bar. You don't have it on you now, go on and eat, but either pay it back for their generosity so those in real need can keep going there or if you can't (lets say you are just passing through) pay it forward.

ETA2:

That said I have no doubt there are people who take advantage and convince themselves they aren't. Much like plenty of people who pirate media manage to convince themselves that it's not them who are thieves, it's somehow the companies fault, or in my example at REI I'm sure there are people who figure "Hey these hiking boots cost almost eighty bucks, they should last at least twenty years right? I'm not being cheap!".

If there is one thing people seem great at it's convincing themselves of whatever it is they want to believe.
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  #14  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:26 PM
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But even the 'afford' thing gets sticky. If one can't afford more money for lunch because I have my kids in private school and have a huge mortgage and car payment, are they wrong for paying less than standard?
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  #15  
Old 23 January 2013, 05:33 PM
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ETA: Well they are basically becoming the semi-mythical "welfare queen".. Except for charity.

It's an honor system, so only (g)you can answer that question. Some people will be in the right, some people will truly be able to 100% convince themselves they are in the right, and some will just tell themselves they are but never really believe it (and of course some will just take advantage cause nobody is there to stop them).

You can always play the "Well you shouldn't have bought X" game to make most all of us well off.. I mean after all if a lot of poor people never had kids they wouldn't be so poor now would they? But at some point it becomes unreasonable.

Personally for me I'd hold this to the same standard as a soup kitchen or a 'free store'*. If I knew somebody who was using those things was living large and as a result technically didn't have a lot left over at the end of the month I'd probably still judge them as unworthy, but that's between them and the charity.

*They are stores, typically run by churches IME, that have more or less a pay what you can aspect to a Goodwill type store. Much like Panera some people work there to help 'pay' for goods, but there is no requirement. Nothing stops Bill Gates from walking in there and taking a bunch of goods for free.
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  #16  
Old 23 January 2013, 06:29 PM
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Jon Bon Jovi has a restaurant that's based on the same premise.

Also, a fascinating story on a "bagel guy" who utilizes the honour system (spoiler: about 10% of his product goes unpaid for)
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  #17  
Old 23 January 2013, 06:36 PM
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Not long ago a snopester (not someone who's posted in this thread, that I've seen) posted critically of private food banks that choose not to question eligibility. He went beyond saying that he wouldn't contribute to one to say that they just shouldn't do it, and IIRC he took awhile to come around to the idea that if it wasn't his money, it wasn't any of his business.

I don't know why people think they have the right to tell others how to spend their charitable donations, but some people do.
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  #18  
Old 23 January 2013, 06:49 PM
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When I worked for Panera, and found out about this, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I wish we had one in our area, but knowing the owner of all the cafes around here, that's a no go.

I think, given the price of the food, that one hour of volunteering for a meal is a good deal.
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  #19  
Old 23 January 2013, 06:53 PM
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Realistically they probably as a company come out ahead here. Assuming the "each store makes 75% their normal sales" thing is true they aren't that far behind and they get oodles of free and extremely good (save for some nutsos) publicity which could easily result in somebody who wouldn't normally eat there doing so because they see it as a more ethical company.
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  #20  
Old 23 January 2013, 06:59 PM
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In one particular area of Seattle there are a lot of teen-aged street people. They also have an organization called Teen Feed that is there specifically to provide food and--importantly--someone to talk to. It's run mostly by volunteers. Those who work directly with the poor are called Advocates and it seems to do very well.* This Panera cafe doesn't sound all that different, really.

Seaboe

*full disclosure: my nephew was advocate of the year for 2012.
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