June 8, 2004

Michael Moore as tip inducer.

So I go to Fair Trade Coffee House for a little coffee and blogging. Which reminds me: the Wall Street Journal has a nice front page article today about how "[s]ome food retailers tout 'fair-trade' programs that pay struggling farmers in poor countries more than market rate for commodities like coffee, bananas and chocolate. While the farmers benefit, retailers often gain by charging huge markups." I read in the paper version but can't link to because it's only for subscribers, but it was interesting to learn that the coffee growers in the program receive 44 cents per pound over the regular price for coffee, but some stores charge $4 more per pound to customers who fork (spoon?) over the extra money thinking all the extra is going for the good. They even think more of the retailer that is engaging in this scam because it looks like they care about the growers, when in fact, they are using the sympathetic image of the growers to grotesquely overcharge! Nice little game, which would be more exposed if the page was open to nonsubscribers.

But the coffee here at Fair Exchange doesn't seem more expensive than elsewhere. I'm drinking a plain cup of black coffee, and as usual, I dump my change in the tip jar. The tip jar here has a cut-out photo of Michael Moore, with outstretched arms, attached to the top of it.

"Aren't you worried that picture of Michael Moore is going to make people who don't like him tip less?"

"Well, it might make people who like him tip more."

"Maybe the theory is that conservatives will just tip anyway, but left wingers need an extra incentive to tip. It could be read as insulting to lefties, that they won't tip enough unless you play up to their political preferences."

"That's a good theory."

But really, isn't it more conservative to think that you contribute in proportion to your assessment of who deserves it and more liberal to think that everyone ought to give a generous amount without passing judgment? That is, conservatives would do more through charity and liberals through taxing?

UPDATE: My readers may have noticed that I have a way of calling the café in question Fair Exchange and Fair Trade with about equal frequency. Sorry. It's Fair Exchange. "Fair Trade" is the name of the program designed to give growers a larger share of the coffee selling proceeds. INCREDIBLY LAME FURTHER UPDATE: The name of the café is Fair Trade! Let's just say it's not a sufficiently memorable name ... and I'm an idiot!

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