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May 20, 2010 9:23 AM   Subscribe

The Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe opened Sunday, as an experiment by Ron Shaich, former CEO of Panera Bread. Customers are asked to pay what they can afford.

“Take what you need, leave your fair share,” says a sign at the entrance. Patrons who can’t pay are asked to volunteer their time. The menu is the same as at most of the chain's locations, except for ther baked goods, which arrive one day old. These are unsold items from other St. Louis Bread Company (the local name for the chain) restaurants in the area. This has been tried by individual restaurants before, but not by a national chain. Not everyone approves.
posted by Karmakaze (67 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, that Left Coast Rebel guy is a real asshole.
posted by molecicco at 9:29 AM on May 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


Patrons who can’t pay are asked to volunteer their time.

If you need some bread we can help you out.
If you knead some bread you can help us out.
posted by hal9k at 9:32 AM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


What molecicco said.
posted by box at 9:39 AM on May 20, 2010


Wow, that Left Coast Rebel guy is a real asshole.

Remember when part of the American conservative ethos was that government shouldn't be giving "handouts" because that was better-handled by charity and individual donors? Yeah, now it's just "actually, poor people should never get anything, because they're poor." Ugh.
posted by lunasol at 9:39 AM on May 20, 2010 [34 favorites]


My grandparents patronize a small restaurant in rural northwest Missouri that has been doing this for years, and the owner has always made a good living. This is in a place, however, where my breakfast of two pancakes and two scrambled eggs ran me $2.10 at a competing diner, so the overhead is probably not too high in those parts.

He did find, however, that people pay a lot more when they're asked to leave the money on the table for the server to see it. He had a single donation box by the door for a while and the number of people skipping out entirely was much higher. Guilt needs to be part of the equation, I guess.
posted by something something at 9:41 AM on May 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, that Left Coast Rebel guy is a real asshole.

I read the whole thing just because I wanted to get all angry about something, but I couldn't even comprehend what he was saying. Can someone decipher for me?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 AM on May 20, 2010


This is awesome.
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2010


Let me get this straight.

Problem: "Those people" are slugs, always trying to suckle at my hard-working teat and not pulling their weight. "They" will destroy this unsustainable business model.

Solution: I'm going to walk in there, eat everything they offer, and not pay a dime, even though I can afford to pay. Ha! That'll show those commies!
posted by uncleozzy at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Up with this sort of thing! (with the help of yeast!)
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought Techdirt had a good take on this. It would be great if it works, but the ratio of "paying more than the suggested price" to "paying less than the suggested price" is probably going to be uneven, so it is not sustainable in the long run. It's not like digital goods, where the "pay what you want" model can work pretty well.
posted by gemmy at 9:43 AM on May 20, 2010


That leftcoastrebel thing is amazing. It's rare that you get to see such a clear example of someone clutching their tiny hands into fists and going HURRRRRRRRR when forced to acknowledge the existence of human kindness.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


As long as we have so many "Self interest is a moral imperative" Randy (Ayn & Paul) people running around, this might be dangerous and doomed. I can just see a lot of wingnuts swarming the place just because they can, and some will say it's the Cristian thing to do too.
posted by Some1 at 9:45 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah, "leftcoastrebel" is a confusing name. He's not a CA resident aligned with the left and rebelling against the right wing influence in this country. He's a right winger "rebelling" against the "left coast" by absurdly trying to use this as a critique of "Obamanomics" and the bank bailouts, with just a soupçon of snark about welfare and food stamp recipients.

Pretty much everything you'd expect of someone who sees something good and optimistic in the world and jumps on the chance to poop all over it... from the safety of his blog, of course.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah I don't get the combination of 'The government should not use my tax dollars for charity, let private enterprise handle that' and 'Don't let private enterprise handle that.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am offended that you offer punch to others. I piss in your punch bowl to prove that people are crappy and will always ruin anything nice.
posted by idiopath at 9:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


This same charitable concept was also famously employed by the owners of LA's Clifton's Cafeteria chain during The Great Depression.

The last surviving Clifton's is really quite awesome and worth a visit.
posted by eschatfische at 9:49 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


the ratio of "paying more than the suggested price" to "paying less than the suggested price" is probably going to be uneven

you are right why bother to even try let's just kill ourselves because nothing will ever work
posted by DU at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Eh, what do you mean by `suggested donation'?"

"Pay any amount you wish, sir."

"And uh, what if I wish to pay ... zero?"
posted by bondcliff at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2010


shakespeherian: "I read the whole thing just because I wanted to get all angry about something, but I couldn't even comprehend what he was saying. Can someone decipher for me?"

It's a good example of being willfully perversely stupid.
The point here is that we have a significant segment of the population that is no longer able to answer the question "What do you think/believe/feel/judge?" by saying what it is they really actually think or believe or feel or judge. Their response to any question is to calculate what that question means in terms of the zero-sum game and then to offer the answer they think will be strategically best for scoring points in that game.

This is a fundamentally disingenuous way of talking, voting and living and it's not possible to approach all those things disingenuously without that dishonesty and duplicity coming to shape, stunt and distort one's own thinking.
Pretty much that.
posted by Drastic at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


here's the thing though... well several things actually....

1. Even if it ends up not working in the long run, if it succeeds in feeding a handful of people that otherwise would go hungry I, personally, would count it as an ethical and real win.

2. Last year or so I read about how some farmers opened their fields up after the harvest for anyone who wanted to come claim, gratis, anything that was left over. The response was absolutely huge, I wonder if these folks will end up with more labor then they know what to do with.

3. Yeah, the majority of blowhard assholes on the internet who say they are going to do some random shitty act and then actually follow though? Pretty small. I'd be surprised if the jerk puts his ass where his mouth is.
posted by edgeways at 9:54 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know. If it works for the Met, why shouldn't it work for Panera?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2010


Anyone who calls themselves a revel isn;t.

Also I don't think he knows what pie in the sky means.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on May 20, 2010


the ratio of "paying more than the suggested price" to "paying less than the suggested price" is probably going to be uneven

I'm not sure how it works in the food business, but I work at a theater that regularly makes their Thursday shows 'pay what you can'. Which literally means, pay what you can. We will take any amount of money, including nothing. Long-term statistics show the majority of people pay regular price, some people pay more, and some people pay less. So it ends up being a wash for us.
posted by lholladay at 10:00 AM on May 20, 2010


I'd be surprised if the jerk puts his ass where his mouth is.

Horrifyingly, I think I just figured out what the plot of The Human Centipede 2 is going to be. :(
posted by Riki tiki at 10:02 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


The last surviving Clifton's is really quite awesome and worth a visit.

Oh god yes. it is amazing.

Also I wonder if this was the origin of the "if you can't you pay they'll make you wash the dishes" thing...which I never understood as a kid, wouldn't have have a dish washer? What would he do while we fumble around and break things? What?
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 AM on May 20, 2010


Last year or so I read about how some farmers opened their fields up after the harvest for anyone who wanted to come claim, gratis, anything that was left over.

NPR had something about that just recently, when the big farm talk was about how cheap strawberries were and that farmers were losing money by picking them. The guy they interviewed just opened his unpicked fields to charitable organizations instead of plowing the plants under and the fruit was gone in a couple days.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:05 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. What lunasol said. Apparently altruism, whether private or public, is always a vice.

Also, does this Left Coast Rebel guy use custom CSS for every time he uses the name of his blog in a post? Christ, what an asshole.
posted by brundlefly at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2010


Perhaps I can school Panera Bread in Obamanomics, then:

First off we will send everyone on food stamps, welfare, medicaid, and any other 'benefit recieving Saint Louis resident to the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe (Panera's 'fair share' location).

Then we will line them up all the way down the street and make sure that they haven't eaten for at least a day.

Whereby they will rush the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe upon opening and eat every morsel in sight, (obesity demands, after all!)

From here they will fill out their 'fair share' quotient slip as ∅ and list 'Obama' as the final recipient of any undue cost.

Then after this has run course and many business debt obligations are taken out and foreclosed upon, Obama will bail out a business worth∅ and 'O' will be praised as 'compassionate' with 'his stash.'

Sounds like a good business model to me, how about you?

Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Cafe is then bailed out into perpetuity but America goes bankrupt.

The End.
well. that is clearly the sanest, most level headed approach to the topic.
posted by shmegegge at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2010


I don't know. If it works for the Met, why shouldn't it work for Panera?

Dude, have you actually tried paying only $10 to get into the Met? The ticket people always give you the most snide looks -- rolling their eyes and stuff. I'm curious if there's any relationship between the Met's pay what you can policy and their ticket prices. $20 is a little steep for a lunch hour at a museum.
posted by bluefly at 10:30 AM on May 20, 2010


When this has been done in the past, it worked because of the relationship between the owners and the patrons. My relationship with the cashier McDonald's is different than my relationship with Eli, my favorite bartender.

I have no loyalty towards McDonald's, because it wouldn't benefit me. My loyalty to Eli gets me high fives and free beer. What will loyalty to Panera's get me?

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. I will be pleasantly surprised if it's successful.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:32 AM on May 20, 2010


My summary of the LCR post: "Why would they want to give food away? Don't they know people are terrible creatures that will eat up all the food and pay nothing? If one of these opened near me I would go in there and eat everything without paying just to show them how terrible people are. That will show them!"
posted by borkencode at 10:39 AM on May 20, 2010


Yeah I don't get the combination of 'The government should not use my tax dollars for charity, let private enterprise handle that' and 'Don't let private enterprise handle that.'

if this is truly a nonprofit (as reported by left/right coast rebels), then this is private enterprise handling tax dollars for charity. and regardless of how many people get fed, i'm not down with that.
posted by msconduct at 10:46 AM on May 20, 2010


What will loyalty to Panera's get me?

posted by punchtothehead

posted by uncleozzy at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dude, have you actually tried paying only $10 to get into the Met? The ticket people always give you the most snide looks -- rolling their eyes and stuff. I'm curious if there's any relationship between the Met's pay what you can policy and their ticket prices. $20 is a little steep for a lunch hour at a museum.

The last time I went to the Met, I paid a quarter and had no problems getting in.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2010


I just posted most of what I'm about to say here on Left Coast Rebel, but I'll add it to the discussion here -- I've eaten at the One World Cafe in Salt Lake City as recently as a year and a half ago, and I think its viability since 2003 says a lot in response to the knee-jerk critics that have included Rush Limbaugh as well as whoever this LFC guy is. From what I've read they've had some bumps and have even had to close from time to time, but hey, this isn't exactly unusual for a restaurant and my understanding is that most of the difficulties have had to do with the fact the owner didn't really understand how to run operations rather than having revenue problems.

I think it's also weird how people who look and say "well, that moonbattery is bound to fail -- you can't just offer things for free!" seem to miss that generally, what's on offer isn't actually free. OWC had Daal/Rice for free when I visited, low-cost stuff, the rest was explicitly if not specifically priced: pay something, where something is what you think is fair. Panera is apparently asking for people to work off the cost of their meal if they can't pay. This isn't just "hey, free stuff!" But the critics seem to miss this.

And the funny thing is, social pressure being what it is, I suspect most visitors don't. Even if there's nobody watching, identity is a funny thing. If you're a sociopath, you're naturally going to think "Ha! I win!" when you get a chance to get something for nothing, but most people aren't, most people by nature ask themselves "what kind of person am I?" when they're doing things, even if they're rationalizer. And society rewards people of means who pay their way and pull their weight. No altruism necessary, I strongly suspect most people will pull their weight.

Heck, people do it with digital downloads -- near total intangibles in a realm where the professionals are telling us we have a problem with free culture -- if experiments like those Radiohead did are any indication. I'm confident they'll do it with something a as tangible and visceral as food.
posted by weston at 11:02 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's astonishing how many people have been driven utterly insane by having a black man in the White House.

Panera: "We're going to try a new pricing model."

Left Coast Rebel: "Obamanomics! Communism! Welfare Queens! Bailouts! Obama!"
posted by straight at 11:03 AM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


So until last week I'd never experienced American right-wing talk radio at anything more than soundbite scale. But I had to crisscross Iowa several times by car last week, so I decided to use a bit of the time to fully immerse myself in that world. It's an extraordinary place. The level of paranoid delusion is of course the most immediately disturbing part - there's something even more unhinged about Glenn Beck when you can't see the clownish gesticulations that tip you off to the theatre of it all. But for now anyway Rush Limbaugh's rhetorical style remains the more abundant force, even on the local/regional bloviate-a-thons. Drastic's link above re: pervasive stupidity is a pretty good summary of its most pervasive traits.

This leftcoastrebel link is pure Limbaugh. There's something kind of bluntly artful about it. Basically, you maintain an unwavering tone of baffled outrage, and you sprinkle your rant with just enough proper-nouned, real-world relevance to sound newsy (Obama, medicaid, the store's name in bold and italics) and enough random buzzwordy jargon to sound like you're drawing on a broad and deep store of knowledge on the subject ("otherworldly leftist," "Obamanomics," "debt obligations," "communal" in scare italics).

It all creates a kind of rhetorical wall of Colbertesque truthiness. It sounds just smart enough and in-the-know enough to make you feel like you've got one on the sheeple, and it's so strong and consistent in its roaring indignation that it drowns out any and all counter-evidence delivered in a reasonable tone. This shit is outrageous, and if you are not spittle-sprayingly outraged, you're either too ill-informed to know how outrageous it is or else you're part of the outrage.

It's all sort of hypnotic and lulling in its way. And because all the talk-radio guys spout the same talking points, by Hour Three of this stuff you start to think there really might be a socialist political force on the loose in America or whatever, and by Day Three you've drifted so far out you can barely even see reality on the horizon anymore, all without even noticing you'd untethered your raft.
posted by gompa at 11:04 AM on May 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


Isn't there (or was) a coffee shop that had a pay what you want (you put money into a jar, right in front of the cashier - I wonder if being transparent or not would have an effect - might be a paper there) in San Fransisco near the Haight-Ashbury or am I confusing reality with fiction again?
posted by The Whelk at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2010


Dude, have you actually tried paying only $10 to get into the Met?

We routinely pay $1.00 at the Met, and have never, ever had any issues.
posted by anastasiav at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2010


It's probably collateral stress from this thread, but I am like literally shaking mad at that woman on Left Coast Rebel who just told weston that the Bible says it's wrong to give food to the hungry. I keep trying to comment over there but I cannot get more than three words in before my hands are too tense to type.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:14 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"if you can't you pay they'll make you wash the dishes" thing...which I never understood as a kid...

My ex-husband and I owned a vegetarian restaurant for a few years, and of course we had lots of Rainbow Gathering kids, deadheads, anarchists-until-graduation, and assorted coming round at mealtime with no money. Our policy was feed 'em (we always kept a giant pot of beans and rice going anyways) BUT they had to do SOMEthing to earn their meal - usually that meant staying until will closed and helping sweep or scrub the cooking pots. It's amazing how many of them we had to literally TEACH how to wash a dish properly!
posted by memewit at 11:18 AM on May 20, 2010


In other news: "Have a penny, leave a penny; need a penny, take a penny" is a commie plot to destroy our civilization.

This is why I, as virtuous defender of Capitalism and her glorious principles always take all the pennies. I am now 1 dollar richer thanks to those suckers
posted by symbioid at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Vienna, there's a place called Deewan that's an all-you-can-eat, pay-as-you-wish Pakistani buffet. The concept is extra shocking (at least to an outsider) in Vienna, because this is a city where most places charge extra for tap water, refills, bread, condiments, and, in some places, table rental.

Deewan is over next to the Vienna University, so it attracts a big student crowd. Although college students have a reputation for spending as little as possible on as much food as possible, Deewan has been in business for quite a while now and seems to be doing well. Turns out that most students figure that they will need a place to get an extra cheap meal at some point. They end up paying a little more than they would at a fixed price place to insure the cheap meal option will be in business when they need it. By the same reasoning, there is also seems to be peer pressure to make sure people are paying a fair price when they can. Invest now for dividends later, responsible capitalism at work.
posted by chrisulonic at 11:28 AM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering how much bread and food I've seen similar bakeries and cafes throw out, the pay-what-you-can model seems apt. In terms of available goods, the margins are much higher than you might expect.

Note that everything at the store in question is second-day bread. So it would have been tossed in a dumpster otherwise. It's actually a win for the company provided they can pay the extra employees. They can excuse the lowered quality by following the pay what you can model.
posted by melatonic at 11:50 AM on May 20, 2010


As a Conscientious Customer, I'd be happier to see the base cost of the meal (food plus overhead plus wages) before tossing down my money.

Or is that against the spirit of the thing, embarrassing to the poor or cheap?

Also, not to rain too much on this parade, which in theory sounds nice - but how good is it for the old fashioned sandwich shop across the street? Hard to compete with a concern that is not concerned with profits at all. Kind of a race to the bottom kind of thing, no? Maybe not so good for the community in the long run?

Just a thought....
posted by IndigoJones at 11:54 AM on May 20, 2010


I'm sure that Joe Businessman on his lunch break will opt for fresh bread products in a regular sandwich shop rather than day-old stuff in a shop filled with (shudder) poor people.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:33 PM on May 20, 2010


I am like literally shaking mad at that woman on Left Coast Rebel who just told weston that the Bible says it's wrong to give food to the hungry.

I'm sitting here at work listening to Fr. Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, on Fresh Aire. He was just talking about a speaking gig he did at a church, where he talked about how his organization gets gang members jobs and helps reduce the overall crime rate in their area...

and people were outraged, just apoplectically angry with him, because how dare he offer people jobs and and life skills and not bring them to Jesus.

He told the crowd, "Actually, they bring me to Jesus. Every day."

Crowd wasn't happy, but my Pagan ass was glad to hear it, at least.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:47 PM on May 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


There's a place in Denver that's been doing this for a few years, the SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe. Good, work-a-day food, though it probably won't win any awards. It gladdens me that it's been in business for a few years; I was skeptical about its longevity when it opened.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:15 PM on May 20, 2010


Knowing about this will incline me to go to Panera more. Is that a bad thing?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:25 PM on May 20, 2010


bluefly: "I don't know. If it works for the Met, why shouldn't it work for Panera?

Dude, have you actually tried paying only $10 to get into the Met? The ticket people always give you the most snide looks -- rolling their eyes and stuff. I'm curious if there's any relationship between the Met's pay what you can policy and their ticket prices. $20 is a little steep for a lunch hour at a museum.
"

I dunno, I flashed my student card could only afford two bucks (I had to pay for the train and subway fare from NJ to the Met, which cost me close to the 30 bucks) to take pictures as a required part of my art history class, and I got a big "Hey, don't worry about it, it's 'pay what you can' "
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:35 PM on May 20, 2010


I'm not sure how it works in the food business, but I work at a theater that regularly makes their Thursday shows 'pay what you can'. Which literally means, pay what you can. We will take any amount of money, including nothing. Long-term statistics show the majority of people pay regular price, some people pay more, and some people pay less. So it ends up being a wash for us.

Actually it ends up being more than a wash - presumably most of those who pay less would have ended up not going, so you end up doing more volume even if each customer, on average, pays the same.
posted by heathkit at 3:14 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also arenlt ticket prices mostly a loss? The real money is in concessions I thought? Someone who may not have gone to the movies gives a penny to get in then sends 4 bucks on .33 cents of soda is a net win?
posted by The Whelk at 3:21 PM on May 20, 2010


In 2000, Panera day old bread went to the foodbank my gf worked at in Roger's Park. So it sounds like Panera may have come up with a way to make money off of things that they were going to have to throw away or donate to charity. That's sneaky smart capitalism, I say.
posted by garlic at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I love how the Met tries to hide that it's pay what you wish...called that the Tourist Tax.
posted by saul wright at 5:00 PM on May 20, 2010


Yeah, I love how the Met tries to hide that it's pay what you wish...called that the Tourist Tax.

I hope you're joking. The policy is pretty well laid out when you hit the ticket booths and on their web site. Hardly devious. After all, they don't have to give you that option at all. They could just charge full price to everyone. And the way things are going these days, I could see them doing just that.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:10 PM on May 20, 2010


I bet LCR is a tea bagger.
posted by notreally at 6:29 PM on May 20, 2010


I dunno, the Suggested Donation next to the price is insanely small, they're definitely hoping people don't notice and I have gotten some snide looks for paying a dollar.

But yeah, it's awesome that I could go to the Met for a dollar.
posted by saul wright at 6:34 PM on May 20, 2010


I would imagine that, after taking tickets at the Met for a while, you get to be pretty good at determining who's paying what they can afford and who's trying to get away with something.
posted by box at 6:53 PM on May 20, 2010


I used to live in St. Louis and spent a fair amount of time in Clayton, and there are several socio-economic and environmental structures in place that make me think this will work.

Clayton is a ten-by-ten block business district surrounded by an upscale residential neighborhood. The business are mostly law firms, commercial real estate, professional services and the like. There is also a large courthouse. It's pretty much the financial center of St. Louis, as things have moved there from the downtown on the river.

Individuals who work in these professional buildings and out for lunch will likely visit Panera, or The St. Louis Bread Company as it's known there, in groups. And they will visit, it's an institution in that city. In a group, I think each individual is less likely to be the jagoff to pay nothing. The social pressure will be too high.

I don't think this will do well outside environments very similar to and unique like Clayton, but here I think it will work.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 6:59 PM on May 20, 2010


can you imagine a more idiotic business idea? A patron paying one's 'fair share' for the common good or service, in this case, food?

That's the idea behind Gordon Ramsey's The F Word. But to be fair it's not a non-profit, more of a celebrity romp with recipes, but still ... you don't pay if you don't like the food, is the idea.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:43 PM on May 20, 2010


Lentil as Anything in Melbourne does this too.
posted by Wantok at 8:24 PM on May 20, 2010


you are right why bother to even try let's just kill ourselves because nothing will ever work

Way to pick and choose. What part of "it would be great if it works" didn't you understand?
posted by gemmy at 10:47 PM on May 20, 2010


There is a pay what you think is fair wine bar (that also serves pay what you think is fair homemade dinners) here in Berlin called the Weinerei, near Zionskirchplatz in Mitte. You have to pay a euro for the glass, but after that it's PWYW. It is always packed, and from what I read it's been a little bit of a struggle since they were mentioned in some tour books. But they have been able to maintain, more or less, the culture they were cultivating and are surviving. Although, last time I was there one of the women behind the counter did complain that a lot of young French and Spanish tourists leave without paying anything.
posted by molecicco at 12:14 AM on May 21, 2010


It would be great if it works, but the ratio of "paying more than the suggested price" to "paying less than the suggested price"

Keep in mind that they're using day-old bread, surplus from other stores that, presumably, they couldn't otherwise sell. This might work out really well. People won't pay full price, but dumpsters pay zero.

If they had one near here, I'd happily use it, at least as long as they seemed to have enough stock -- I wouldn't want to take bread from people that really needed it. I probably wouldn't pay Panera retail (it's apparently fairly pricey), but I'd probably leave 75% or so.
posted by Malor at 9:44 AM on May 21, 2010


MarvinTheCat, that's what I came here to say. I think this experiment would go a bit differently if it were taking place in St. Louis proper.
posted by bluishorange at 11:28 AM on May 21, 2010


There's a "suggested donation" yoga joint in our town where you can get yoga for free if you don't feel like/can't pay. I and the other folks I talk to who have been report paying about $2 over the suggested donation of $5 because a) good on you, free yoga place and b) we're subsidizing ourselves for the inevitable day we fall on hard times.
posted by staggering termagant at 12:08 PM on May 21, 2010


There's a place called the City Cafe in Waterloo Ontario that I used to go to when I was in high school. It's a 'pay what you want' type deal as well, and has been open for at least 5 years. They never asked people who couldn't pay to work off their fair share, but they did usually ask that you just pay a little more next time you come in.

I remember talking to the owner once at lunch, and we got into his money situation a bit. I asked him if he ever takes substantial losses from his business model, and he said, "honestly, yes... but I never lose out more than it would cost me to hire a cashier or two."

That guy was alright.
posted by tuck_nroll at 12:53 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


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