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Googler Opens "Pay What You Want" Cafe  (View post)

MJ Rich [PersonRank 6]

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
11 years ago4,619 views

I don't think there are enough "basically good" people to balance out the "basically cheap" people. I really hope this works out, but I also believe it won't.

Ryan [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

yeah, I think the cheap people will dominate.

I say this now, after I watched a girl literally throw a fit over "splitting up a check" last week because she would have had to pay 12 cents more than her bill came to.

Good luck. Must be nice to have that kind of money lying around to just open up a business with a questionable business model.

I wish him luck though, maybe he's on to something.

justinf [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

depends on where the branch is located. affluent/upper middle class area – yeah. it could work.

run down/chav scum/high crime area full of hookers/drugs and drive by shootings – not a chance.

DPic [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

This is similar to the way www.magnatune.com offers CD's to be downloaded and you can pay $5-$18

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Justin, have a look at the Bagel man story from Freakonomics – it might surprise you:
freakonomics.com/article2.php

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

This is a great idea. At weekend I went for a meal where I would have easily overpaid had I been asked to pay what I thought it was worth. So long as this place doesn't attract people who are going for a freebie, it will probably do very well – providing they actually have good service and good food/drinks to go with it!

Hans [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Nice idea. Someone should set up the "Foo Bar" right next to the cafe ;)

/pd [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

from an interesting comment on blog..

freakonomics.com/blog/2007/02/ ...

"It’s very unsurprising that the coffee shop was opened by a software developer with Google. It has certain parallels to the corporate work environment in that company."

[..]

They [google] use two types of incentives: financial and social. Developers have a large amount of freedom in the work they do, but they can only attain large rewards by making meaningful contributions to corporate goals. The social reward is directly fostered by the company: it goes out of its way to provide open recognition of the people who are best contributing.

seav [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

There's a restaurant in London with the same business model. See this link from two year ago via Kottke. :)

kottke.org/remainder/04/11/683 ...

Peter [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

failed business model. failed in just about every place it's ever been tried. if it exists anywhere, it's a minor miracle. miracles do happen, apparently.

just strikes me as so arrogant.

"Hey fellow drunks – let's like, do a restaurant and like, you know, let people like pay whatever they think the meal was worth. Ya know? Wouldn't that be cool??!! And we could...."

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

> if it exists anywhere, it's a minor miracle.

Yup, exists in Austria. You can take the daily newspaper out of a box, and then put your money into the locked box, but there's no mechanism enforcing this – totally voluntarily, and yet, people end up doing it. This also used to be like this in places in Germany like Munich, I don't know if it's still the case as I've not been to Munich in a while :)

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

<< You can take the daily newspaper out of a box, and then put your money into the locked box ... >>

This is available in some newsagents in the UK too.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

The difference is that, as I understand it, most newspapers are partially (mostly?) funded by advertising, the cost of a paper serves to pay the distributors like newsagents.

If no one paid for a newspaper for a week the paper themselves would likely be fine (witness all the free dailys) – though the newsagents would start hurting. Try running a restaurant for a week with no one paying. The owner bears *all* the cost, every veal parmigiana and bottle of Chianti is coming straight out of their pocket... And given the margins most restaurants work on... well better him than me ;)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

So it basically comes down to whether you believe humans can be voluntarily good or not. Or in this case, Kirkland humans.

justinf [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

"Justin, have a look at the Bagel man story from Freakonomics"

wow. fascinating reading.

justinf [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

"This is available in some newsagents in the UK too."

yeah – i can confirm that. WH Smiths in Reading train station was the last time i saw that. Pick up newspaper – throw in the amount. very useful if you are in a rush and have to catch a train.

Reto Meier [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

"So it basically comes down to whether you believe humans can be voluntarily good or not."

Essentially. Though it's my belief that most people's capacity for voluntary good is inversely proportional to the 'price' of that act.

Throwing a silver coin in a box for a newspaper? No problem. Giving a buck or two to a decent busker? Maybe.

I think this guy will get the right money (or even a little more) for 'cheap' things like coffees and snacks, but bigger meals? I'm not so sure. Then again, I'm pretty darn cynical at the best of times ;)

MJ Rich [PersonRank 6]

11 years ago #

Depends on their clientele, really. If they get enough upper middle class families who come in for a good meal and overpay, it should balance out the well-dressed homeless.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

MJ Rich: “Underneath, people are all pretty much the same.”

homelessmanspeaks.wordpress.co ...

FYI.. I have been following a homeless man's blog for sometime now, its pretty weird to see that even the bummers and homeless are pretty much just like any other human being.. take time to go thru this story..!!

Danz [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

There was a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs in the late 70s/early 80s that did exactly this and...not surprisingly...it went under/changed its ways in a short time.

While you can argue that its existence depends on whether the majority of people are good or bad you also have to factor in the whether people can fully appreciate the cost of their experience. Even if everyone is all good, if they underestimate the cost of their meal by more than the profit margin, the restaurant will lose money. I know I always feel like my dinner check after tip is about 20% too high at most places, so I'd wind up underpaying if I truly tried to pay what the meal was worth.

Perhaps, though, this is a loss leader to develop a clientele and publicity and will eventually turn into a regular business.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

<< I know I always feel like my dinner check after tip is about 20% too high at most places ... >>

Then you're going to the wrong places... or maybe you're just incredibily tight with your money...? ;-)

Michael Visser [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Earlier this year a man won a prestigious Australian award for this kind of restaurant. The franchise – if you can class it as that – was called Lentil as Anything. I have provided a link to their website, lentilasanything.com

Good luck and kudos for getting in there!

Danz [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Tony Ruscoe: "Then you're going to the wrong places... or maybe you're just incredibily tight with your money...? ;-)"

I prefer to be called "conservative" with my money. My wife and I choose to only eat out once a week. The fast food places and nicer nicer restaurants we eat at fall in the seems-like-too-much category. While some mom & pop sandwich and mexican restaurants fall into the about-right category. Whenever a tip is involved, it's always closer to 20% than to 15%.

But, then again, I'll accept that I'm tight if that goes with fully funding my retirement at the expense of buying frivolities and saving to buy high quality major purchases rather than going the quicker and cheaper route. So, for examply, in my living room I enjoy a top of the line Sony HDTV surrounded by high end furniture which should last generations....meanwhile I use generic deodorant, my wife cuts my hair, my shirts are no-wrinkle to save on dry cleaning, and I drive a used car because it was half the price two years old with only 15k miles.

Is that tight? Or, smart? It's a fine line.

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I biked over there this Saturday:

gmap-pedometer.com/?r=711008

I didn't bring my camera because it is heavy, so no pictures. I ended up having a chocolate muffin and a latte. They didn't have any hot sandwiches and their veggie options were lacking. I think it would be a better breakfast place than lunch place. The food was good and the staff was friendly.

Also, they didn't have many tables and chairs; my friend and I decided to sit on the Xbox bench (since it was near the window) and rest our food on the bench. My friend thought they could use more decorations, but I didn't mind (of course, perhaps I'm biased: I've lived in my apartment for 18 months and have yet to put anything on the walls).

I'll have to check it out again next time I'm in Kirkland (although, that isn't very often).

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Thanks for the review! So did you pay? :)

Andrew Hitchcock [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I paid what I thought I would have pay at another place. My friend thought I overpaid (he thinks espresso drinks are overpriced). He actually didn't put in very much, but he didn't have change. He says he'll put in extra next time he goes :)

coba [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

In my country they is no that type of business if they do it will go bankrupt.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

And your country is...

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