Sunday, August 02, 2015


Did you hear the one about the socialist hippie fool who jacked up every employee's salary at his company and destroyed his business? Well, here's to tell you that right-wing cautionary tale, accurately or otherwise:
The Seattle CEO who reaped a publicity bonanza when he boosted the salaries of his employees to a minimum of $70,000 a year says he has fallen on hard times.

Dan Price, 31, tells the New York Times that things have gotten so bad he’s been forced to rent out his house.

Only three months ago Price was generating headlines -- and accusations of being a socialist -- when he announced the new salary minimum for all 120 employees at his Gravity Payments credit card processing firm. Price said he was doing it, and slashing his $1 million pay package to pay for it, to address the wealth gap.

“I’m working as hard as I ever worked to make it work,” he told the Times in a video that shows him sitting on a plastic bucket in the garage of his house. “I’m renting out my house right now to try and make ends meet myself.”

The Times article said Price’s decision ended up costing him a few customers and two of his “most valued” employees, who quit after newer employees ended up with bigger salary hikes than older ones.
See? This sort of generosity is a terrible trait for a CEO to have! Nothing but harm comes from it! You do anything as a CEO other than endeavor to maximize profits and terrible things will result!

Except that that's not what the Times story says. The Times story says that some good things have happened to Price's company, but the changes have been ... well, more unsettling than disastrous:
... a few customers, dismayed by what they viewed as a political statement, withdrew their business. Others, anticipating a fee increase -- despite repeated assurances to the contrary -- also left. While dozens of new clients, inspired by Mr. Price’s announcement, were signing up, those accounts will not start paying off for at least another year. To handle the flood, he has already had to hire a dozen additional employees -- now at a significantly higher cost -- and is struggling to figure out whether more are needed without knowing for certain how long the bonanza will last.

Two of Mr. Price’s most valued employees quit, spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises. Some friends and associates in Seattle’s close-knit entrepreneurial network were also piqued that Mr. Price’s action made them look stingy in front of their own employees.

Then potentially the worst blow of all: Less than two weeks after the announcement, Mr. Price’s older brother and Gravity co-founder, Lucas Price, citing longstanding differences, filed a lawsuit that potentially threatened the company’s very existence. With legal bills quickly mounting and most of his own paycheck and last year’s $2.2 million in profits plowed into the salary increases, Dan Price said, “We don’t have a margin of error to pay those legal fees.”
The Fox story doesn't mention the influx of new business, which the Times calls a "bonanza." And Fox doesn't quote any still-satisfied old customers, like this one quoted by the Times:
Early on, [Price] signed up Pure Food Fish. The shop was a backdrop in the film “Sleepless in Seattle,” but more important, it was run by the 86-year-old Solly Amon, who inherited the pocket store from his father and is lovingly known as the “cod father.” When other merchants heard Mr. Amon trusted Dan, they did too.

“They give us tremendous service,” Mr. Amon said. He remembered an incident years ago when Mr. Price had a new credit card machine up and running within three hours after his old one died.

In addition to providing the devices and software that merchants use when a customer whips out a credit card, Gravity makes sure the money shifts securely and quickly among buyer, bank and business. In an industry dominated by global banking giants and mammoth processors, the company last year processed $6.5 billion in sales for 12,000 clients, most of them small and medium-size businesses.

Was Mr. Amon bothered by Mr. Price’s new payroll policy? “He takes care of his business, and I’ll take care of my business,” he declared.
The Fox story gets the word "socialist" into paragraph 3 (admittedly, the word shows up in the Times story, too), but it never mentions an aspect of Price's upbringing that ought to impress a member of the Fox audience: He was raised as a right-wing Christian.

From the Times story:
If there was a 19th-century thinker Mr. Price drew inspiration from, it would be not Karl Marx, but Russell Conwell, the Baptist minister and Temple University founder, whose famed “Acres of Diamonds” speech fused Christianity and capitalism. “To make money honestly is to preach the Gospel,” Mr. Conwell exhorted his listeners. To get rich “is our Christian and godly duty.”

Growing up in rural southwestern Idaho, Mr. Price frequently listened to a recording of the speech on tape.

Every day he and his four brothers and one sister rose as early as 5 a.m. to recite a proverb, a psalm, a Gospel chapter and an excerpt from the Old and New Testaments. Home-schooled until he was 12 and taught to accept the Bible as the literal truth, Mr. Price also listened to the Rush Limbaugh show for three hours a day -- never imagining he would one day be the subject of a rant by the host.
He did not actively oppose Seattle’s minimum-wage increase, but a reason he urges other business owners to follow his lead on pay is to avoid more government regulation.
The Fox story quotes the dismayed owner of "a family restaurant":
Brian Canlis, co-owner of a family restaurant, already worried about how to deal with Seattle’s new minimum wage, told Price the pay raise at Gravity “makes it harder for the rest of us.”

“It pains me to hear Brian Canlis say that,” Price said. “The last think I would ever want to do is make a client feel uncomfortable.”
You probably read "family restaurant" and imagined a down-home place serving unpretentious food at reasonable prices. The Times story, by contrast, describes Canlis as "a co-owner of his family-named restaurant." The restaurant isn't what you'd call "a family restaurant" -- there's a $22,500 bottle of wine on the 90-page wine list -- and while dinner isn't expensive by Manhattan standards ($85 for a three-course prix fixe, $100 for four courses), it ain't cheap.

Price really might get through this rough patch, and if he doesn't, as the Times story makes clear, it might be because some customers think he's going to raise fees or scrimp on service, even though he's working hard not to. That's clear from the Times story. You'd never know it from Fox.


Victor said...

I wish those two putz's who quit a lot of luck finding another place that will pay them north of $70,000!

But I've never been insulted by anywhere near a $70,000 a year salary, so wtf do I know?

I hope Price's company thrives - much to the chagrin of all of his nay-sayers and FOX "news."

Jen S said...

Canlis isn't a family restaurant like Applebee's or whatever. Canlis is a family-owned business -- I think Brian and his brothers are the second generation owners. It is quite the Seattle institution.

petrilli said...

The biggest obstacle right now is his partner brother's lawsuit. From the article, it sounds as though they've been able to bring in enough new business to offset the losses. Without the lawsuit, he'd likely be in the clear with his new wonderfully subversive business model. I wish Dan Price luck. Sounds like one of the good guys. I watched the video. He sounds humble. He admits his idea might not work, but he's putting it all out on the line for what he believes. He wants his wealth to make a better world. If he can bring his brother around, he may succeed.