Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Paying Enough

Posted on: May 20, 2011

Panera Bread, a famous bakery-café chain has around 1500 outlets in America. Out of these, three cafés work in a unique “Donation Only” mode, to support Charity.

These three stores are called “Panera cares”, and they look similar to any standard café: They serve soups, sandwiches and sell bread. But the major difference is, there are no cash registers, only donation boxes.

This means, you can go to these stores and pick whatever food items you like, a suggestive price will be mentioned to you. If you want you can pay it, or pay less, or pay more, or pay nothing at all. No questions asked!

Cute! But Stupid, Right?

Nope. “Panera Cares” stores are running for more than a year now, and surprisingly, they are making good profit. (Of course, all the profit goes for charity work.)

When people are asked to pay whatever-they-can, they have three options: Cheat the system by paying less, or Pay whatever you need to, or Pay more. In case of “Panera cares” the ratio is 20:60:20.

We can understand the 20% people who are cheating, we are happy to note that majority (60%) of the people want to be honest, But what about the other 20%? Why do they pay more? What really motivates them?

The keyword here is ‘voluntary’, as people are determining their own prices, the sense of donation / supporting a fellow human being who may not be able to afford this meal kicks in and makes them pay more. It may be just a dollar or two extra, but they feel happy to contribute. Such donations add up and make the entire operation profitable and useful to the society.

When you extend this formula from a single store, to a community, or a city, or a state, or a nation, or the entire humanity, it changes your view point about the whole concept of Charity. Are we paying enough?



N. Chokkan …

20 05 2011


1 Response to "Why Not? — Paying Enough"

Lovely Post Chokkan. Imagining if this system is implemented in a store in India , what would be the ratios here. Might be (60:20:20) or (80:10:10).

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