By Tom Quiner
The sign stopped us in our tracks:
“Politically Correct Coffee Shop.”
My buddy, Joe, and I looked at each other quizzically. “What in the world?!”
Joe embraces all things liberal just as I embrace most things conservative. We are both coffee drinkers. We enjoy lively conversation. We were hooked and decided to check out this new downtown coffee shop.
We noticed there were two doors in which we could enter. On the left side of the building was a sign that said “liberals only.”
On the right side of the building was a sign that said “conservatives only.”
Joe said, “I’ll meet you inside. You go in your door, I’ll go in mine. But let’s sit on the liberal side. I don’t think I could stomach hanging around with too many conservatives, present company excepted.”
I told him, “Fine with me. See you inside.”
I entered through the “conservative” door. I was greeted by a pleasant sight. The walls were decorated with framed replicas of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. They had a fabulous portrait of Ronald Reagan over the fireplace. And I really liked the nice touch of having economist Milton Friedman’s portrait over by the well-stocked bookshelf, which happened to have a copy of his watershed book, “Free to Choose,” sitting right on top.
I felt right at home.
The shop was pretty full. I saw one man reading The Wall Street Journal. I saw a table of women talking excitedly. One of them was nursing a baby. There were a bunch college students engaged in intense conversation. All in all, it was a happening place.
I looked at the menu. A cup of coffee was a buck and a half. Perfect.
The line was long, but it moved quickly since they had lots of help. In fact, one employee came up to us in line to get our order and expedite our service.
I had my coffee in no time and threw a buck in the tip jar, since the service had been so impressive.
“How long have you been working here?” I asked the young lady who took my order.
“Just a few weeks,” she told me. “I love it here. And the money is really good.”
“How much are they paying you?”
“Just the minimum wage, but the tips have been good. And we have the opportunity for regular raises for good performance. In addition, the business is set up as a corporation … we have an opportunity to receive quarterly bonuses if the store meets certain sales goals. After we have been here a year, we have the option of purchasing shares in the company. It’s all very exciting!”
I told her, “Well I am impressed. Let’s see if the coffee is any good.”
I held the cup to my nose and took in the seductive, pungent aroma. I was already in love! My first sip encountered that buttery, friendly taste I so love in a good cup of coffee.
“Is this a free trade coffee ?” I asked the young lady.
“O heavens, no! We looked into free trade coffee. We didn’t like what we discovered.
With free trade, growers are promised a floor price of $1.40 per pound for the beans. More often than not, they can sell their beans for a higher price than that anyway. Then we retailers are charged more for the product, which we have to pass on to you.
Only 12% of the fair trade revenues are actually reaching the growers. On the other hand, the Fair Labeling Organization International that markets fair trade coffee makes a killing on it. Seventy percent of its revenues comes from licensing fees for use of the “fair trade” label. However, if you want fair trade coffee, you can go next door where they DO offer it. You are “free to choose.”
“No, no … this cup is absolutely delicious. I am more than satisfied. Tell me, how does this business work? It’s a very unusual idea.”
“The other side is a completely different business with different ownership and structure. We provide a fun complement to each other.”
“I’m joining my friend on the other side. Is it okay if I carry my cup over there?”
“Absolutely, with our blessing! Please, come again, and bring more of your friends!”
I thanked her and moved my way to the “liberal” side of the establishment. I couldn’t believe what awaited me there.
[CHECK BACK for Part 2 of the “Politically Correct Coffee Shop.]