Friday, September 23, 2011

Snorks and $16 Muffins

“To fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality”
- Hilton Hotels Vision Statement

I just want to know the name of the person who sold $16 muffins, $10 cookies and $8 coffee to the Department of Justice. (By now you must have heard the story. If you haven’t, go back to sleep or playing Angry Birds or whatever it is you do.) I also want to know who bought this stuff. I mean who buys $16 muffins? Probably the same people who buy $5 corn chips and $8 beers from a hotel room mini-bar. (I have never, even in my weakest, hungry, stumbling drunk moments; purchased anything from a hotel mini-bar.) But someone sold and someone bought the $16 muffin/$10 cookie/$8 coffee deal. I read somewhere that it’s called the morning “Eye-Opener”. They should call it the morning “Bend-Over”.

The truth of the matter is that the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington looks just as bad in this as the Department of Justice. We’ve all read stories about government waste and crazy expenditures. But whenever the government is “buying badly” there is also a vendor who is “selling badly”. One may say that the Capital Hilton was just acting in the best interest of the Capital Hilton in selling over-priced muffins, cookies and coffee. But there is a point where maximizing profit in the short-run is not in ones best interest. This greedy, get-all-can-you-now way of doing business is a big part of our current economic crisis. In business and in politics, we want to win and win big. Don’t leave anything on the table. But it’s the wrong way to operate. Even if you are indifferent to the moral and ethical reasons for “doing the right thing”, you should consider that, strategically, “doing the right thing” is good business (and good politics) over the long run.

I guess it’s too late to do much about the $16 muffin fiasco. The DOJ will spend thousands of taxpayer dollars developing and communicating new expense policies. Perhaps the Hilton will give some money back to the DOJ and revisit their special event pricing strategies. Conservative politicians will rail about the $16 muffin and liberals will argue that it’s just another example of a greedy corporation’s price gouging. Until we acknowledge that there are two problems here, not just one, we will continue to go in circles. Sort of like a snork. You know, a snork…that seldom scene, nearly extinct bird that flies around and around in a circle, going faster and faster as the circle becomes smaller and smaller until finally, at the moment when the snork and the circle become one, the snork’s head goes up its own ass and the snork disappears.

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