“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. Hopefully lots, if you buy a brand seeking to cash in on it. And so I noted in the paper that Tim’s has plummeted in profitability, eight years running. It seems that RBI, the Brazilian conglomerate which also owns Popeye’s and Burger King, has lost the plot. That’s what happens when you are controlled by an investment firm (3G Capital) that is only focused on bottom line. You do shortsighted things in order to save cash and maximize profits, but in the process damage your own investment. You burn the furniture to heat the house and then wonder what went wrong.
Of course, regular folk could have seen this coming. Tim’s has been on a mission to cut costs no matter what, but to do it off the backs of the kind of people they want to woo as customers is a bad look. When Ontario’s minimum wage went up last year, Tim Horton’s cut employee breaks and slashed benefits. They locked employees out in the cold in a Winnipeg franchise where the staff was vying for a thirty cents per hour raise. Such ongoing labour unrest only makes the company look parsimonious and petty.
And then there is the ever-changing menu. They switch up the offerings like a chameleon changing colours, imagining that if they just keep you guessing, you will keep on coming. They have forgotten their core brand, like those who imprudently abandon old friends for the sake of new. Fancy offerings like Dream Doughnuts, Timbits cereal or a waffle sandwich won’t salvage the conversation if the basics are bad.
Last time I bought Tim Horton’s coffee, I ended up pouring it out the window of my car. The coffee was boiler wash, and unpalatable unless drowned in sugar and cream, which is not how I like it anyway. It’s basic coffee 101. If you are a coffee shop and you can’t make decent coffee, I don’t know what to tell you.
Then there was the BLT I picked up for my daughter and noted just how much they have cut back. The current BLT is literally half the size it used to be. It’s a palm-sized stale excuse for a bun, with bacon so absent I had to go looking for it. There it was, buried between the lettuce and copiously drenched in mayo. A few pale translucent slices, so thin as to be pointless. I vowed to never go back and have been happily making my own coffee and sandwiches at home since.
The purchase of Tim’s was supposed to be a no-brainer. It was popular and profitable. It enraptured our imagination with visions of neighbourhood coaches taking out the team for hot chocolate and Timbits after a hockey practise. They had the pulse of small-town community and a sense of giving back. But you might now call it Tims-No-More. A stranger has entered the room pretending to be family.
It’s not just RBI and Tim’s. It’s every company everywhere, and how globalism affects real people in real places. The basic problem in Globalism, is the divide between the “somewheres” and the “anywheres”. The anywheres could live anywhere. Their power is global and their financial cushion distances them from reality. The somewheres, are everybody else. They are stuck with the particularities of where they live. They are greatly affected by the conditions imposed by globalism. They are you and me, the everyman that Tim Horton’s apparently forgot about.
Still, within every bad story, is a good story waiting to be told. One Tims franchiser decided that he wanted to do things a little differently, that his business was about more than just the bottom line. It was about people. The store owner was a man by the name of Mark Wafer who chose to go against the advice of business experts.
Mark Wafer is a Scarborough franchise owner of seven Tim Horton’s outlets. When Goodwill closed locations and laid off staff, Mark reached out in social media and offered to take in those with disabilities like Down’s Syndrome and other impairments. Mark was operating out of experience, because he has a hearing problem which has greatly affected him. He wanted to help people who also were shut out of life by circumstances.
People told him this was a horrible idea. In a competitive market where speed and accuracy are of concern, how could you bring in workers with diminished capabilities? You would lose money. But that’s not how it turned out. Mark surprised everyone because his outlets quickly gained the status of being most profitable. More than that, he also had a high employee retention rate. Mark had put his finger on a basic principle. Kindness works. Feeling welcome and secure in your job makes for happy employees and a boost in morale. People with disabilities are often more inventive and productive, personal attributes which can benefit an employer. Who knew?
Well, any Bible reader knows that this picture has been in God’s economy for a long time, it’s just that people don’t follow it because it won’t immediately pad your pocket. What it will do, is make for a better world. It’s the laws God set out for his people, in Leviticus chapter 25. It’s where the term “Jubilee” comes from. It’s the economy which allows a place for restoration, which is not focused on the bottom line.
The laws laid out in Leviticus 25 have to do with how one human being treats another. There is forgiveness. People over money. If someone owes you money, rather than put them on a debt treadmill, you lift them up and forgive them. You take time to rest and think about what is holy, wholesome and important. You even give the land a chance to replenish itself. The laws God sets out are based on an entirely different set of priorities which favours the whole instead of the individual, and it is also a vision of sustainability. It is the opposite of globalism. It puts people first in every decision made.
There is a back-to-basics that comes with walking your talk. The original Tim Horton was a man of the people who understood his own customers, and that was the basic power of his brand. He would likely be ashamed to see the kind of mean-spirited economics driving business in today’s world. That may be why Tim’s might now better be called Tim’s-no-more. Business owners in a global environment have forgotten the basic plot. It’s about people, stupid. God’s vision for human interaction is intended to be global in the best sense. But Globalism it is not.