Monday, November 17, 2008

Combining Institutions

Some while back my local Safeway store installed a Starbucks counter. One would think it's good for everyone--Safeway customers get their caffeine fix, Safeway gets more traffic and profits from the counter--everyone profits.

But, as is often the case with people and institutions, it's not that simple. For one thing, the Starbucks employees are actually Safeway employees, subject to their rules. In the wider world, Starbuck stores have a tip jar at the register, which tends to fill up rather quickly. But Safeway employees aren't supposed to take tips. And I'd suspect manning Starbucks counters is probably less desirable work than being a Safeway clerk, and probably gets paid a lower starting salary.

So over time there's been a big turnover of employees. And there's been attempts to put out a tip jar, which Safeway management at my local store seemed to cast a blind eye on, for a while. But in the last weeks, the jar has vanished, along with the woman who was the best (IMHO) employee, and the one who handled the Starbucks paperwork.

(Having lived through attempts to consolidate USDA agencies, I'm sensitized to these sorts of conflicts and problems.)

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