Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pay What You Want

Now that it's back-to-school season here's a quiz for you. What's the difference in the following sentences?
  • Jack will do anything for a bargain.

  • Jack believes in paying a fair price.
Here's a personal story that might make the answer more obvious. Several years ago I ventured to Peru for hiking and travel. In the market outside of Cuzco were many vendors selling knitted sweaters, gloves, etc. I'm a knitter so meeting some of these people was important to me. I sifted through the obvious resellers and found a woman sitting on the pavement with just a few items. Since I don't speak Quechuan I used goofy hand language to ask her if she had knitted them. Of course she had. I bought a sweater for a very cheap price, but I didn't bargain. She was so surprised, but I understand how much work went into the beautiful alpaca sweater. Then along came some other American tourists. They were interested in another sweater. They bargained her down to the equivalent of $5.00. Oh such a deal, but there you have a hard working woman who didn't receive a fair wage.

Well there is a couple in Denver with a restaurant that's betting the second Jack will come to dine. It's called SAME Cafe. And at the end of the meal they don't present you with a bill. They just ask you to pay either what you feel the meal was worth or what you can afford.

The name stands for So All May Eat and it opened in metro Denver in October 2006.
Here's a bit from their website:
It is the intent of SAME Cafe to build a healthy community by providing a basic need of food in a respectful and dignified manner to anyone who walks through the door.
SAME Cafe is unique in the lack of a set menu as well as set prices. Daily selections are made using fresh, organic ingredients, and funded by the donations of patrons. Instead of a cash register, a donation box is available for one to pay what they felt their meal was worth, or to leave a little more and help out someone less fortunate. If a diner does not have sufficient money to leave, they are encouraged to exchange an hour of service. Our philosophy is that everyone, regardless of economic status, deserves the chance to eat healthy food while being treated with dignity.

It's a radical concept in a world so driven by money and status, but SAME Cafe seems to thriving. They do it by treating everyone with respect. This isn't some swanky uppercrust attempt to become trendy. SAME really focuses on helping those in need. More from the website:
The Birkys developed this idea through volunteer work over many years. The two were so touched during this service they decided to do something WONDERFULLY DIFFERENT. Over the course of their years working at food banks and shelters they saw the growing number of people needing assistance: hardworking single moms, the elderly who cannot retire, the educated and the uneducated. Some even work 40 hours a week on minimum wage and cannot make ends meet. It is the Birkys' sincere hope that through SAME Café they can make a difference to all who walk through the door, whether it is a person seeking help or a person seeking to help.

Those of us who can afford an meal out can support SAME cafe just by dining their and paying a fair price. And it's nice to know that when times are tough there are kind people to help. So if you're thinking spending Saturday night in the big city before the DNC invades check out SAME Cafe.

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