Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chick-fil-A, don't'cha just love it?

I've been paying attention to all this Chick-fil-A controversy.  I have a long history with Chick-fil-A, so naturally I sit up and listen whenever I hear them mentioned in the news, or in conversation.  I've found that they are neither the paragon of virtue nor the bastion of evil that everyone seems to make them out to be, but like every company out there they have their good points and their bad points.  Which outweigh the others I don't know.

I started working at Chick-fil-A at the front counter when I was 16, and continued working there off and on as school allowed for a little over five years.  When I first started working there the operator of the store I worked at had two stores, but within a year of my starting he left the store I worked at and went on as operator to other stores.  His assistant manager became our new operator.  It's worth mentioning that the corporate office at Chick-fil-A likes to keep tabs on what's going on at their stores.  All stores are owned by Chick-fil-A, not somebody at the store, and Chick-fil-A has pretty stringent rules about who can become an operator (the equivalent of owner/manager at most franchises) of any store.  There may be a very small handful of independently owned stores still out there, but Chick-fil-A stopped granting such franchises years ago, and the few that remain were grandfathered in.

Our new operator held the store together through some really rough years.  Shortly after I started, the main anchor store in the shopping center closed.  And over the next few years anchor stores came and went, but were gone more than they were there.  We also had the unique benefit of being near where several corporate executives lived, so they would often stop by the store to "check up on us" quite frequently.  It was at this point that I came to recognize the misogynistic attitude of the corporate office at Chick-fil-A.  It's worth noting that a new operator was a divorced woman.  When I started working at this Chick-fil-A store it was the closest one to my house, but by the time I left I actually passed three Chick-fil-A's to get to this one.  As more stores opened up in the area they naturally cut into the business of the pre-existing store.

One store was within 3 miles of ours.  It is debatable whether so many stores in the immediate area would have been approved had the operator at our store held any regard or received any respect from the corporate office.  During this time the store was both remodeled and major construction was undertaken to install a new playground.  Instead of corporate recognizing that difficult situation, we were expected to grow revenues as if we were still located in a busy shopping center with little competition in the area.  Despite hard times remain profitable, even though we didn't achieve the revenue growth dictated by corporate.

Instead of recognizing the achievement of holding the store together in adverse circumstances, win a new super Wal-Mart opened in our shopping center the store was taken away from our operator and given to a new operator.  This demonstrates the utter lack of respect that the Chick-fil-A corporate office had for our operator.

Yes Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, but it is far from the Christian work environment that you might think.  For one being closed on Sundays does nothing for orthodox Jews or Seventh Day Adventists.  Sure, I worked with plenty of youth pastors who enjoyed the freedom to work two jobs and the assurance that came from knowing that their schedules would never conflict.  But I also worked with those who were mentally unstable, had superiors who cursed like sailors, and others who displayed misogynistic behavior including leaving white flour hand prints in inappropriate places on the navy pants of female employees.  I had my butt pinched once (he got slapped) and was hit on repeatedly.  But with very few exceptions the customers were worse than my co-workers.

However, Chick-fil-A's not a den of iniquity from top to bottom.  It has it's redeeming qualities.  For starters I worked my way from front counter through pretty much every position in the store, and ended up marketing manager.  Chick-fil-A taught me about work ethic and team work, oh, and how to filet chicken.  We weren't located in the highest end neighborhood, so this particular Chick-fil-A gave opportunity to some pretty underprivileged folks, and a pretty diverse demographic.  I particularly admired one family that had escaped from some South American dictatorship, and all the women in the family worked at Chick-fil-A.  It certainly opened my eyes to a variety of circumstances and what can me accomplished with hard work.  Lots of folks have heard of Chick-fil-A's Winshape scholarships, but Chick-fil-A has a college scholarship program available to all employees who work a certain number of hours (I don't remember how many).  No, it didn't pay for an entire semester, but every little bit helps.

And let's not forget the best thing about Chick-fil-A.  I met my husband when we both worked there in high school, and we had our wedding catered by Chick-fil-A years later (by the same operator we both worked for).

Chick-fil-A's probably the only fast food place I could work at and still eat there.  In fact, up until a few years ago I still ate at Chick-fil-A at least once a week.  I eat there less now not because of any aversion, but simply because I eat out less than I used to.

So no matter what Dan Cathy says, his principles are not pervasive throughout Chick-fil-A, and what he does with his money is his own business.  That being said, Chick-fil-A is a privately held company, and I don't know what percentage Dan owns I don't know, but I'm sure its significant.  Some part of every dollar spent there is going to trickle up to him eventually.

Not to long ago I realized that in living in a capitalistic society one of the ways we vote is by what we buy.  It's a big part of why I drive the car I drive, and buy the frozen pizza that I buy, and Dan Cathy has the right to vote the way he wants as well.  It's up to you to decide whether a vote for scholarships and Sundays off outweighs a vote for Dan and misogyny.  Or if you just care about the chicken.

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