Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Level playing fields

One thing that's always intrigued me is the way any change in the overall business climate always results in a handful of business owners howling like wounded banshees about the devastating effect those changes will have on their specific companies. We hear the howls every time a suggestion is made to raise the minimum wage, alter the legal hours minors can work, or limit the tasks certain classes of workers can do. At the moment, we're still hearing the howls about the evil, evil effects of the Affordable Care Act. You'd think that after the shit storm that erupted over John Schnatter's pronouncements about the ACA forcing him to lay off workers that business owners would have learned to keep their mouths shut. You'd be wrong. The latest idiot is some fool in Omaha who owns a few Wendy's franchises. He apparently hasn't figured out that bloviating about cutting your workers' hours to avoid paying for health insurance isn't a real smart move.

Leaving aside for now the issues of the negative publicity he's generating, i.e., he's openly saying he'd rather have his employees' illnesses go untreated than make sure they could afford to see a doctor occasionally (does Wendy's have a secret sauce? And just how much snot goes into it?), just think about the ego involved. The man thinks the world revolves around his business, that his handful of fast food outlets is absolutely unique in the costs he's encountering as part of doing business. His expenses are going up so how is he expected to compete with the other purveyors of grease and soggy french fries? It doesn't seem to have occurred to him or to John Schnatter or any of the other asshats whining about the costs resulting from the Affordable Care Act that every other business owner in the U.S. is facing those same cost increases. The playing field is level. Their competition is going to be experiencing the same situation; everyone's costs are going up by the same amount and they all risk similar penalties for noncompliance.

If only one hamburger outlet had to raise the prices on its cheeseburgers by a dime to compensate for an increased business expense, the business might have a reason to whine. It would be harder to compete if only one business was getting hit. But when all of them are? Maybe the cumulative effect will be that customers buy a few less burgers over a year's time, but the price increase isn't going to be what determines which specific burgers they buy -- it's going to be the overall image of the company that makes the difference. Everyone's been subjected to the same change in the cost of doing business; no one's been advantaged or disadvantaged relative to the competition.

In short, while there maybe some minor differences in the products being sold (e.g., Wendy's has its mystery meat chili, Runza has runzas, McDonald's has the filet-o-fish), for most people fast food is fast food. Not a whole lot of thought goes into deciding between one quick lunch and another. I think the S.O. and I are pretty typical in the way we pick a place to eat when we're in a hurry: convenient location comes first on the list and what's actually on the menu is a secondary consideration. Unless, of course, the CEO for that particular company has managed to demonstrate some first-class asshat behavior, in which case it doesn't matter if it's the only fast food outlet in the county, we won't eat there.

Just how stupid does a CEO have to be to go out and deliberately generate negative publicity for his business? And just how do these idiots get to be CEOs in the first place? The stupid, it burns.


  1. I am with you on this. I have done some research and quizzed the accountant who send my company these dire warnings about the ACA and no one can explains what the big hubbub is all about. Idiots being idiots.

  2. Here, across the lake, there is talk of raising the minimum wage to $7.50. If a person did without a few luxuries like food they could save enough for an extra blanket.


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