Wednesday, November 12, 2008

HR PR in a downturn

A couple of weeks ago, I was unpleasantly surprised when I trotted into my office kitchen to purchase my usual 25-cent bag of nacho cheese Doritos to accompany my usual six-inch turkey on wheat. The quarter I had carried all the way from my cube on the other side of my floor (past the closest “kitchen,” which should really just be called “crappy coffee area” because it lacks definitive elements such as a microwave, toaster, vending machine and CNN) was not going to be sufficient. With no warning, the price of my florescent snack had inflated more than 300 percent. As if my desktop lunch wasn’t depressing enough to begin with.

When I started my job, the vending machines were presented as quite the perk—because, I was told—they were filled with cheap and healthy options. While I wouldn’t exactly call my weekly, sometimes daily Doritos and Twix fixes “healthy,” they were in fact quite cheap. And I quickly got into the habit of forgoing Subway’s meal deal to buy chips from the trusty vending machine for less.

But it seems those days are over… after weeks of chaos and confusion and $1.40 Pop-Tarts, I just noticed an interesting note displayed on the vending machine. Under the company logo, in the company font, with company heads and subheads clarifying the message—my colleagues and I are being given a two-fold explanation for the snack price hike: 1) It’s part of an ongoing program to promote healthy living—even though I had been told the former options were healthy; and 2) It’s to unify pricing in offices across the nation—apparently consistent M&M prices help traveling employees feel more at home.

Hm… part of an ongoing program to promote healthy living… interesting that Phase Vending Machine Hijack aligned quite nicely with the economy tanking… also interesting that Doritos and M&Ms are still available… Really the only “healthy” additions I’ve noticed are VitaminWater (which may actually not be that healthy) and suspicious-looking tuna crackers.

Seriously now, I am a little pissed that I can’t get Doritos for a quarter anymore, but I’m mostly just annoyed with the poor PR surrounding the price hike. First, there was silence—never a good idea. People are going to notice, and they are going to start complaining (even to HR, according to a friend of a friend who wasn’t prepared with any talking points to respond with), and with no information from above, they are going to start rumors. Then, there was this fluffy, BS explanation—I think my cubemates and I would appreciate some honesty: The market sucks right now, and there’s going to be some belt tightening all around. They were honest when explaining travel restrictions—why should the vending machine strategy be any different? (Do studies show people get more emotional about food?)

So I’d recommend saving the printing costs on those vending machine notes and just sending us an honest e-mail, maybe with the subject line: “Would you rather lose your job or pay 80 cents for Doritos?” That would shut me up.

1 comment:

doubtful dater said...

Our's just jumped from 80 cents to 90! I thought a few of the attorney's I work with were going to have a heart attack! Why is it always the precious Doritos?!!

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