Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Many businesses are being drawn into socio-politics.
Some have been there for a while but always wanting to operate behind the scenes. (Translation: buying politicians.)
Recently, though, public neutrality has been hard to achieve.
Just ask Delta Air Lines.
A business in New Orleans, however, took its public stance on socio-politics one step further.
The owner of Saartj, a food stall in New Orleans, decided to charge white people two-and-a-half times the amount he charged minorities.
Tunde Way explained to NPR that the price difference accurately reflected the income disparity between African-Americans and whites in the city.
It’s not as if Way just charges the disparate amounts and doesn’t say why.
There’s a board outside that raises the issue.
Moreover, when people come up to his stall, Way engages them in conversation and explains why the requested price is $12 for minorities and $30 for those who identify as white.
The price for white people sn’t compulsory. Way explains that if they choose to pay it, he will redistribute the difference among the minorities who come to his stall.
Surely, though, he’s had to face outrage from white people who think this discrimination.
“Some of them are enthusiastic, some of them are bamboozled a bit by it. But the majority of white folks, nearly 80 percent, decided to pay,” he told NPR.
This wasn’t just Way’s way of seeing what would happen.
His partner in the experiment was Anjali Prasertong, a graduate student in public health at Tulane University.
She said she was surprised at how people reacted and how many white people paid the inflated price.
And not just by how white people reacted.
The vast majority of the Latino, African-American and Asian people who were offered the redistributed money declined.
Prasertong suspects this is because most of the customers were from relatively higher income brackets.
The experiment does, though, underline how strongly some businesses might choose to respond to socio-political issues that they — or, perhaps more importantly — their customers and employees care deeply about. (Enormous legal issues notwithstanding, of course.)
Both customers and employees have come to increasingly examine companies’ ethical and social stances.
Whether it be on the subject of climate change or racial and gender equality, they want to know what a company’s management believes and what they’re prepared to do about it.
In Way’s case, he was very upfront about what he wanted to do about it and at least some people understood and, it seems, even appreciated his stance.
It was just an experiment.
But society is in something of an experimental phase these days.
Old certainties are dissolving. New questions are being asked.
How much this will change the way companies do business will be fascinating to watch.
After all, one of the main reasons they’re being dragged into these issues is that many have lost faith in governments.
Some see corporations as harboring more social common sense than those who have been elected to do sensible things.
It’s quite a burden for managements whose heart has, for the longest time, just been in making as much money as they can.