Monday, November 15, 2010

The Carrotmob: Teaism

Organizers explain Teasim's selection
Early Saturday morning I found myself in Penn Quarter for a change. I was attending DC's first Carrotmob. The general idea is that consumers can reward a business for making socially responsible actions by "mobbing" it, bringing in a lot of new customers at once and promoting continued patronage. We weren't actually a mob though. The event was pretty orderly. The gathering was not impulsive and the owners of the business knew about the event in advance. As a matter of fact they attended and were presented with an award.

The Carrotmob descended on Teasim's Penn Quarter location from 10:00am until about noon. The restaurant was being singled out for extending paid sick days to all employees. Under DC code, tipped restaurant workers are not guaranteed paid sick days like other full time employed individuals. But Teasm's owners Michelle Brown and Linda Neumann offer than benefit to all employees despite not being required to by law. 

DC Carrotmob approached over 30 restaurants with the proposal to extend these benefits and 6 agreed to (Teasim, Busboys and Poets, Freshii, Maoz Vegetarian, SEI, and Sticky Rice). An online vote was held to determine which of the businesses to mob first.

DC Council member Tommy Wells was present and spoke about the history of the related legislation and gave personal thanks to the owners. A cadre of local organizations came together to organize DC Carrotmob including Restaurant Opportunities Center, DC Employment Justice Center, Mom's Rising and a bunch of others.

This was a really cool event. I love the idea of "using the carrot, not stick" approach opposed to utilizing a boycott as punishment for unpopular behavior. Small businesses, especially, are nimble enough to make incremental but significant changes and can reap the benefits of being recognized for good work. DC Carrotmob will continue to support businesses for operating in a sustainable and responsible way and I'll continue to support them. I'll try to give a heads up before the next event happens so you can come along, too.