Saturday, June 11, 2011

Unfair competition?

Common Table also raises the question of whether it is unfair for a for-profit business to have to compete against a non-profit business.

In this case, I can't really answer for the other fine-dining restaurants.

O.K. Yes, I can. I'm betting it makes no real difference in this particular case. It's not like there isn't tons of competition already; and I'm betting that the majority of the restaurants downtown are probably in support of the idea.

Good 'em.

But I do know that -- competing against a non-profit for the same dollars when there isn't the same need to pay off employees, suppliers, etc. etc. can be difficult.

I guess, in the long run, I don't mind if it truly is a non-profit charity business where the bulk of the revenue streams toward the intended goals. Charity is needed in this world.

What has always bothered me are the for-profit businesses that cloak themselves as for-the-public type businesses. The kind that says, "Hey, this is all for YOU! We don't care if we make money! We're providing this service and this space for YOU! This is for the COMMUNITY!"

Meanwhile, they are indeed a for-profit business.

So -- I guess it's a pretty good marketing ploy, but I suspect in the majority of cases that is all it is.

If not, they don't stick around long. Because believe you me, a business that is not run like a business does not survive.

Meanwhile, it can be hard to compete with a "holier than thou" type business.

I ran into this problem back at the peak of the sports card business. A store would open up, professing to be "for the kids." "We aren't trying to make money off you," they'd announce, "We just want there to be a place for kids to have fun!"

The implication, of course, is that us "for profit" businesses are making money off the kids and how dare we?

Ummmm. To stay in business?

How is it that the public is totally supportive of the idea of small businesses making a profit -- IN THEORY -- and yet, so often opposed to it in reality?

It's interesting psychology.

Underlying it all, I believe, is the feeling that businesses that earn money are somehow taking advantage of us. Scratch underneath any popular hobby, and there is the feeling that a hobby should be pure -- and how dare you make money! It should be fun! For us! For the kids!
How dare you?

Capitalism is a great idea, until it gets in the way of what you want.


H. Bruce Miller said...

Damn, your rheumatiz must be bad this morning, Dunc -- you're in full-on Grumpy Old Man mode. Why don't you go outside and yell at some kids for walking on your lawn, that'll cheer you up.

Duncan McGeary said...

Ah, you know. Just throwing caution to the wind on the weekend since no one reads these anyway...

Duncan McGeary said...

I'm just trying to explore some ideas.

I'm sort of reaching for a philosophy that says that many of the so-called liberal ideas are at their base more purely conservative and many so-called conservative ideas == aren't.

For example -- small businesses seem to me to be the very epitome of capitalism. Of profit and loss.

We really get little or no help from the government.

Meanwhile, big business is in fact subsidized by governments big and small -- and guess who is championed by conservatives?

Or, take the liberal idea of non-profit charities -- which I think sometimes are less effective than government programs in actually changing things.

It's like the idea of privatizing war-- it makes lots of people money, but is it truly cost-effective -- or effective?

It's more a conservative idea that charity should be grounded in some kind of money making thing.

Conservatives have gone from a more or less sometimes but not always valid case of saying that government programs breed dependence, to creating so call "points of light" that are just as dependent -- if not more so.

And probably even less effective.

Or at least, less efficient.

Like I said, I'm just exploring ideas.

I could be all wet.

H. Bruce Miller said...

Is Common Table really a "fine-dining restaurant"? Is it competition for the likes of 900 Wall or the Pine Tavern? Somehow I can't see it that way.

Duncan McGeary said...

"Is Common Table really a "fine-dining restaurant"?

I think it is, though maybe someone who has eaten there can say.

"Is it competition for the likes of 900 Wall or the Pine Tavern?"

That is a different question. Like I said, I kind of doubt it too.

Anonymous said...

I look at it this way:

While your for-profit restaurant has to pay for non-volunteer staff, your non-profit restaurant sends money off to a charitable organization. Without access to the books, one can only guess how many shekels Common Table has left over when the day is done, compared to, say, Blacksmith, but one hopes that Common Table's business model allows for as much money to go to the charity as Blacksmith's employees gross.

Anonymous said...

Duncan: It's not that you're a capitalist or a conservative. You're a Calvinist. Not that there's anything WRONG with that...