Wow, have I got a story to share with you!
Joe Koblenzer is a 73-year-old Vietman veteran who spent the last 3 years working at a Cracker Barrel in Sarasota, Fla. But not anymore; Joe was fired for giving away a pittance of cornbread to a “needy” person—the latest of a reported 5 infractions Joe had against the company that led to his dismissal.
Is Cracker Barrel the Grinch that stole Christmas?
Joe said he was approached by a homeless person who was preparing some fish and wanted tartar sauce and mayonnaise. In addition to the condiments, Joe also gave this “needy” person the cornbread.
That’s when he was fired. The company said in a statement, "Mr. Koblenzer received multiple counselings and written warnings reminding him about the company's policies and the consequences associated with violating them … On the fifth occasion, again per company policy, Mr. Koblenzer was terminated. Cracker Barrel is grateful and honors Mr. Koblenzer's service to our country as we honor all service men and women and their families."
Two other infractions reportedly included Joe giving a free cup of coffee to a customer on the way out the door, and Joe sipping a Coke while at the host station in violation of the company's beverage policy for staffers. (Cracker Barrel did not say what the other 2 alleged infractions were.)
My take on this story? I believe Cracker Barrel is within its rights to have whatever policies it wants and to expect employees to follow them. But here's the thing; is Cracker Barrel doing business in the right way? Because right now, they're looking like the Grinch that stole Christmas!
To understand what I'm saying you have to contrast their approach with that of a company like Panera Bread. Panera has reported positive results from its experiment with a pay-what-you-want business model at 3 locations across the country.
What a gutsy experiment! All of Panera's pay-what-you-want locations stores have a suggested price for every item, but you can pay what you wish...from zero to a lot of money.
Two different companies, two very different approaches. In Cracker Barrel’s case, the company says you can’t give away product no matter what. Yet the monetary loss the company sustained from Joe’s actions is probably 10 or 12 cents. Is it worth the terrible publicity they’re getting now? The answer is obvious.
I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: In business, the companies that do well are generally good to employees, who in turn are good to the customers.