« Freakonomics Radio

64. The Days of Wine and Mouses

2012-02-27 | 🔗
Do more expensive wines taste better? And: what does one little rodent in a salad say about a restaurant’s future?
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Slash explore so lever. A college friend years once told me that your favorite meal during college was a deal pickle. Beef, jerking grape, so does at you. I did indeed have that breakfast, but to tell the truth, it sounded better before anything after Steve Lever. My free economics friend and co author and esteemed accommodating invasive Chicago has an extreme refined power. So you got beef. Jerky big deal pickle. What? What? What are your favorite food like when you favour places like you could drive across Amerika can pick any place to stop any? What's gonna me, you know I love the Billygoat Tavern, it's the cheap place that was made famous in the nineteen,
The seventies answer- and I live with that cheap no pepsico incredible, thereby stake sandwich pretty much cheaper, the food, the better? There is almost no fast food Donna door. The cave see the cave see Burger Poland kill for two partly. So how would you describe your palette underdeveloped? you know, but it's good, I mean the thing is wonderful, wonderful gift to like cheap food? I mean some people did happen. Like expensive food and then their unhappy must have the time or us they spend their money. For If you just by chance, loving cheap food. Then you can eat everything that you love, haven't how much you like wine. Why do not like at all
I'm happy from a Lamb, american public media and w and Y see. This is Reaganomics radio today why wine exports just put a quarter and what happens when you're ending in a restaurant in someone finds and here's your house Stevens Abner, good wine were told, is the province of mark superior people, they they tasting a whole mother level and people like you and me,
men are allocated rashly old. George is funky solely on it, but I have a question for you is that superiority deserved the wines that exports love the ones that bring out the natural beauty of the great but aren't too funky? They cost a lot more four hundred and fifty dollars, but are expensive wines really that much better than she points or is it possible that developing your palette, just mucks things up complicates things. Maybe we'd all be better off if we had taste buds like Steve Levitt covered to Poland after graduate go, live it was invited to join an elite club at Harvard called the society of Fellows a junior fellow like him was it a modest salary to work on his own research with view obligations other than a formal Monday night dinner with the senior fellows. Who were some of them? Remarkable scholars, alive people like you aren't you sand and Nobel Prize winning Physic
what I mean you sit around the table Nathan Lee the table was Oliver Wendell hones table. This lady, he gifted society fellows, for dinner. They engaged in witty learned conversation, they eat venison, other fine food and they drink expensive wine bottled after bottle this budding young economist with beef, jerky taste and the great soda budget, all that crazy wine wasn't doing him any good. He had a thought. Innocently. I was I was young. I didn't understand other world work. I thought like an economist. I suggested that perhaps we should have two tracks of the side effects it would be the drinking track and the absence track and for those of us who chose the absence track because the cost of the wine was perhaps sixty dollars per meal that over there forces of a fifty weeks of the year. That would work out to be about three thousand dollars, and they could add three thousand dollars to the paycheck of those of us on the abstinence path.
Did you have any other people in your absence? Campos is just leave it Well, you know I didn't really get that far beyond his very actual, quite negative limits. The kind of person who likes to use data, not a personal agenda, to make his arguments so he set out to get some data were data, the wine they were drinking at these dinners clause, five or ten times with a cheap bottle of wine cost. Was it really five or ten times better? He had the plan The society those held wine tastings from time to time. He suggested that the next one be his to organise, so I I worked with. The wine steward disliked two excellent bottles of wine spent about one you probably close to a hundred dollar bottles of wine. And then I went to the liquor store
that way down the street and I said: can I have the cheapest bottle of wine? You have that what there was the same great, but I remember with great, limit used for decanters into the first decanter. He poured why the expensive bottles of wine, the other expensive wine went into decanter number two in the third decanter. He poured the cheap wine which cost around eight dollars. Fourth decanter. He repeated one of the expensive wine. So as far as the people knew, there were or different lines- were all wine that were coming out of the wine cellar of the side effects, your tricking him from the outset, your ear, leading them to believe that the fourth the cheap wine is also from the line. So I dont yes, I thought about that. this world them a bit sniff them and said: he wrote down their ratings. As
look at the numbers, love it's cold economist, heart warned: the data could not have cooperated more completely opened, my hypothesis. So for starters, the for wines received, identical ratings on average other work, a widespread among individuals on average, is tell it up. People did not prefer the expensive lines to the cheap one On top of that- and this was the thing that I was hope before and dreaming of, but didn't believe it acted came to it turned out when you meet among individuals if you compare how different they raided. You need two of the wind tat they had. It turned out that by a small margin, people actually raided the same wine from the same bottle, but presented in a different again he's being the most different learning, so so the two I tat were absolutely identical. When you looked at the distant that the gap between the
Meetings at an individual gave to those lines. The gap was bigger, Then they did between the other wines, which actually were different a few men. After the tasting was over Steve, but share the results with the senior fellows the the mood in the room suddenly when people lies. They had been tricked that there had been this cheap wine, the same I wasn't wisely and they really realised that the nature of the game had been somewhat different, know what they thought and when they heard the results, collectively they had no ability to identify wines, we're not happy. In particular, there was one senior fell, so one of the professors at Harvard who who is quite outspoken about his on wine, and he loudly announced that he had a cold. Otherwise, he clearly could mean the distinctions Annie torn from the room and and left left the party prematurely. What was his discipline? I think, for the sake
anonymity. I should not reveal that particular piece of information. You are the humanist. He was a unanimous in other words, no now the opposite has happened, so. What does limits? Even little experiment teach us about wine, we're. Not all that much wasn't very scientific tasting, really The society fellows was just having an off night. The humanist had a cold rate. Or maybe this was just a group of people who didn't know as much about wine as they thought they knew. It never be able to pull this kind of stunt on wine exports. Would you, Ah, my team over master somewhere
to master one candidates for people other than in the trade for many years deserve sophisticated wine professionals. That's Brian De Marco, talking about the people that he gathered for a blind tasting of his own, where we get to that, let's hear a little bit more about Brian Special, as in helping customer. Consumers, private collectors and retailers and restaurants, decide what to put on their list, but ones that collect what ones the cell and I have a small import business and also company, and we need to show one final over Europe and south in New York City, so year Asta Wine agents than ya know any more than just an importer and in many ways s brain De Marco is one people who decide what we drink. He goes to France, ITALY, California, tastes wine fresh out of the tank, so he determines what's good or bad
any critics whispering sweet ratings into his ear. Then he puts his money where's taste buds. Are he writes a check? No. According to demand he makes as much money sewing. Fifteen dollar bottle of wine to a restaurant or shop, as he does selling fifty dollar. But if that's true ECHO is an honest broker his job. We define wine that you or I would want to drink, because think about it. There are thousands on thousands of bottles to choose from picture the rose bottles lining the shelves at every wine shop. You kind the sword, a maybe think you wanna buy a more low, forgive pick the one with pretty flowers on the label. You go with the one that Robber Parker high priest of wine ratings of worth a lot of his Parker points to or like a lot of people. Do you let price beer guide. If you believe, even a little bit in the free market, you'd have to think that expensive wines cost more because they tastes better right,
Brian De Marco wanted to know how much people were tasting the dollars when they drank and expensive wine. So, like Steve Levitt, he conducted a little experiment with some the people who work for him. As the Marco said, these were no amateurs. We did a tasty brown bag, and we had the exact same wine and both bags and we told them that one bottle was a fifty our bottle and write. The reviews is another was attend, our bottle to rather reviews and, of course, her most wanted our bottles according to retail, what they would sell any retail store, and then we reverse it so now the tender bottle is really the fifty and everyone like that. Our bottle better in both servant, that is because they perceived the prize. There had either thought there's something their missing when really like you Funds are still somewhat yeah, but their different. A lot of people call two or three people said. Is this the same wine?
We support this view to determine and the more they thought about it, the more the intellectualize that the more decided there was differences that one This wasn't a wildly scientific experiment either, but to Brian Arco. The message couldn't have been clear when people know a wine is more expensive or even think it is. It tastes better. Now. Obviously, this idea doesn't apply just to wine house? The costs Five hundred thousand dollars oughta be five times There are some level than a hundred thousand dollar house this size that construction, the schools neighborhood? So. Is a wine that costs fifty dollars five times better. Then a ten dollar bottle or even better at all,
So tell me your name and what you do or how you describe yourself, name's Robin Goldstein. I right about wine and food. Basically, my book, the wine trials has been made because principle outlet for writing by wine, but have also been other sing academic papers on topics of taste. From a cognitive perspective and an economic perspective, usually co, authored, with colleagues from different academic fields, have been exploring the neuroscience side of it. A bit have been exploring, behavioral side of it and, in particular, I'm interested in price signals and how people's knowledge of price affects their experience. A wine on the most basic sensory level, now, first summit, this guy I've heard good things about this lovely little restaurant MILAN called Austria Intrepidity I've! Actually I've been to the restaurant, but it's actually located in.
My friend Giuliano as a former apartment in MILAN, the restaurant- really, I wouldn't say great, mostly they serve left over pizza and their wine cellar consists mostly iversen. Left over bottles of multiple found? A brutal from three weeks ago learning its meaning, it's not really restaurant, it's an apartment. So it's just an address. Really who's. The real intrepidity doesn't exist: the fake restaurant. I've been Goldstein made up? Why? Well, it's strange story coastlines? Research in writing on wine, made him sceptical about critics and awards. He believed that so called experts were at best subjective and that the carried way too much influence. He went, about the awards. Magazines like wine spectator, gave to rest that's for their wine lists. Didn't work like that really mean that the wines that restaurant were excellent, so he
vented Austria, intrepidity or fearless restaurant. He created a fake menu, a fake website and a faint voice, mail message saying: the restaurant was closed for vacation, Mr Medina. Some of these people began before me such interrupted, as for the US to real, intrepid a wine list. Seen made that up to included several Spencer wines that wine spectator itself had given bad reviews in the past. One of them was a nineteen me, too Brunel Eau De Mantle Chino, which the magazine had given sixty seven points, were deep plus rating calling it boring. You already indicated he lives. Another vintage- that wine spectator had reviewed as unacceptable, sweet and clawing and smells like spray. Then off his application went with the fake, mindless and a real man. My hype,
this was that the two hundred and fifty dollar fee was really the functional part of the application? In other words, The entire awards programme was really just an advertising scheme and then it was being fraudulently misrepresented as an exercise of expert judgement by inspected. I see no was a little piece of you expecting that when you applied for this, that they were send someone around to drink some your wine or eat some of your food? Well, of course, ethics. Right, so I didn't know I mean I didn't. I wasn't we're going into this- that I would win an award. There are two questions being tested here. One was do you have to have a good wine list to win and wine spectator award of excellence? And the second was: do you have to exist to win a wine spectator awarded excellent, and so I thought that it was quite possible that my experiment would fail his experiment. Didn't
fail. Wine spectator call to tell him that austrian Intrepidity had one and by the way they asked with senior Goldstein to maybe take out an ad in their magazine to publicize that fact, rapture, and what was the name of the word that you one for your fictional restaurant, though one spectator award of excellence. So regulations its awesome that you're a winner? Thank you. I too could be a winner, presumably yeah, a few Fisher wines or bad enough coming up and for economic growth. Steve Levitt is served something fishy. Their society of Fellows dinner pay back. I never thought about that, but given
Evil genius is who I run a place, it's quite a passport, and I stumble upon another dining disaster. This time in a restaurant hereby me and you're sort of crying and half screaming. If you'd like more frequent comics radio, you can subscribe to our free weekly podcast on Itunes. You can also go to free economic stock com, we'll find lots of radio applaud the books and more Economics, radio, sponsored by wonder is business movers podcast when cocoa will it change their recipe to what they called new Coke in nineteen
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Thousand wines, four thousand spirits in twenty five hundred years to choose from you can always expect the unexpected what'll it be. They explore more in store or at total line that come from the Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch offs, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to find and with new every month, big top rises and second chance, drawings, excitements, always in order so try, Pennsylvania, lottery scratch, offer your ticket to fund and get yours? Did I keep on scratch? It must be eighteen or older. Please pay responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day. From W and Y see and eight p M american public media. This is freedom, annex radio, here's, your house, Stevens Abner in August, two thousand, eight the American Association of Wine economists, that is a real thing, held its annual conference in Portland Oregon
That's where Robin Goldstein revealed the award of excellence. He got from wine spectator magazine for the fake wine list from his fake restaurant. The press drank it up. From the New York Post Quote: Wine mag humbled by hoax according the delay times. Wine spectre. There was now quote drinking a hearty glass. Lush wine spectator vigorously defended its Lord system, the executive editor said that the magazine never claimed a visit every restaurant, and then it did its due diligence. On us to real intrepidity looking over its website and calling the restaurant, but that it kept reaching an answering machine. Robin Goldstein for his part- was convinced. The wine system was fundamentally flawed if a fake, restaurant with a wireless that included bad expensive wines could win an award of excellence for when the most precise
It is why magazines in the world we supposed to trust my take, who is that experts. Sources in the media are trusted too much and that are then that their prone two abusing their positions of power. The way of making money, but the phenomenon were an ad. What's really an ad is posing as real expert expert judgment is, is very problematic for consumers, because consumers really put trust in these magazines. We put fast and expert there's so many fields out there that we don't know as much about as the experts do, and so we use experts as an information to media intermediaries as a proxy for good judgment and in an area that we don't know as much as the experts s birthday and when we know- and we trust experts too much and they sell their awards.
Two entities that are really their customers- that's quite problematic Robin Goldstein also had an academic paper to present at that conference of wine economists, the paper was called: do more expensive wines tastes better if the ocean, intrepid o stun was just a stunt and if the Steve Levin Brine De Marco blind tastings, we heard about earlier we're just unscientific tricks. Well, Goldstein Paper was the opposite of that it gathered data from seventeen blind tastings, the gold sign himself organised the It included more than six thousand observations from more than five hundred people from amateur wine drinkers to some all gaze and wine makers. He tested red wines, whites roses The prices ranged from a dollar sixty five a bottle to a hundred fifty dollars about it was as rigorous as you can get.
And what did good sign learn that overall people liked expensive wine less than cheap ones? When you don't know what a bottle of wine costs appear, You don't know how good it supposed to taste. Even the most expert tasted could barely tell the difference. Expensive wine and cheap once its unsettling. Isn't it buying a bottle of wine should be as complicated buying house, but thanks to the layers of experts between us and the grapes, we ve got performance anxiety. Wine it's supposed to be a drag, its a celebration, a beloved recipe civilization in a bottle, you're drinking the handcrafted fruit Some farmers vines the middle back hundreds of years. Grown under the same sun shining Forbid, tens of years when it be nice to drop the pretence
to set aside the ratings and price in just drink rind, Marco, the wine importer. That's what he's really after who are we two to tell the Connecticut housewife that that Oki short now she's been slamming down for the last ten years from California. She's, not driving pleasure from that, surely is, but there just there are so many other things. It's like limiting you're, you're you're on your musical notes only playing after unseen. Oh it's! You left your life. It's only eating cheeseburgers, hamburgers, the rest of your life. If you want to try other foods and other cultures and other things it is over, This bottle of real ha somehow take. Spain and makes you feel like you on top of that has done its job and whether its fifteen, our bottle were thirty dollars. Bottle is irrelevant. At that point I mean that then two nuances of of good. In great Britain,
the ball of one is dotted attracted, and these are changed your day. The front from alcoholics avoid getting to a certain point, we're ok, this is this is or for people myself in the trade, it's it's something you have with food, I mean growing The Thai and household. We weren't you great wine. But to me, why wasn't alcohol? Why? cholera sooner jug that was portal. Jews classes from my grandfather, and that was what you have with dinner. Drink Jimmy was Budweiser Jack Daniels, no sneaking out on Friday night to go drink limit ass. He was sitting urinate array YO studio in downtown New York with kind of mucus, colored sound, padding in artificial laid in this. Basically, nothing good about this space is no air. There's nothing bustlers, but transport me for a minute. So tell me Brian, the room that you would like to be sitting in right now and the food that you'd like to be?
eating rate now and most of all, what the wine is with that food and what that wine tastes like to you. I think I could said sir, would you for great now and with some sort Kirk Mature, and maybe I'm salad with little vinegar at the kind of perfect, not today but definitely has its place and and maybe have a back a bottle on ice. You, too, bull got room for another guy they're yours
with me? Is this press? The would table was, I thinking can hold an iceberg, it I'm pretty pretty confident, not too long. Steve Levitt conducted that sneaky wine experiment at the society fellows he attended another dinner there and they were smoked fish one night and paid team to taste
and about a half an hour later, the rule homeless, during the spin had like sweating profusely, I felt awful and I turn to the guy next to me. Can embryo Gregory great Historian- and I left it What has come to say? How do you feel, but I only have to ask him because this what was dripping other absolutely sick, and I looked in my bed. I think we need something bad He said, oh, my god and ass. It turned out that I don't know. One of the pieces was bad when so about seven people around the room were but virtually on their death bed staggering home, barely alive and the other twenty four people room felt perfectly fine, I'm just curious. I you know you pulled the stunt on the society. Fellows wine exe.
You think this might have been a little bit of wine exports revenge unless it, let's give let the bad fish pay back. That's that back, and I never thought about tat, but given the evil geniuses who are running play. That's quite a passport. our next story, is about another dining experience, gone wrong, very wrong, So I'm on Broadway walking down Broadway low ideas and I'm about to get through this restaurant, where I used to go all the time and its the pen quoted in and I used to go like us quite often and healthy, delicious food, and then something happened. That will one day that
led to my not coming back here once and today is a day that I'm gonna revisit the scene of the crime I brought one of our producers with me Chris near Nervous, I'm not a son and my nervous about something bad happened again. No, I mean because the thing that happened was bad enough, that it has to be very unlikely, because if it, if it happened more frequently than there's no way the place, is so big business. So I know that is a very rare event and logical. It's a very wherever LE pen What city and is a nice place a chain, but that doesn't feel like a chain. The founder is a belgian baker and the place feels like this beautiful old belgian farm. It's got thick wooden tables, including one massive communal table and
simple, healthy food, good pace, trees and strong coffee vegetable, there's a roasted turkey avocado. Later the places dick and civilised. At the same time, a lot of macbooks lot of enlightened conversation, classical music playing in the background, the one Talking about Upper West side of Manhattan, Broadway and ninety first street. I used to there all the time with my friend James Altitude, and it was very comfortable, as are the big tables, well out of space. We can spread out, so Maybe there are eleven forty five, which was always crucial cause. You beat the lunch crowd by fifteen minutes without sacrificing Your appetite or anything James is a neat guy, smart guy he's done. A lot of things has been an investor, a financial writer dot com with he was a nationally rank Chess master James and I
play backgammon, usually over lunch. These long running one hundred and one point matches that might take a couple years to complete. If we play every two or three weeks for a long time, we played at play city diner on Broadway and ninth street, but the waitress that James liked quit. So we moved uptown whole block to the pen criterion. For the most part. We are really happy there. Until one day we were in the middle of a game when the incident happened, I noticed this woman was crying at the table next to us use crying and right behind you she's right behind a rabbi me and she was sort of crying and half screaming Ok, I don't love. You can imagine that, because it doesn't normally happens like little kids, don't cry like I like that you're wrong. You don't really see, adults like kind of crying and screaming. The same time and what was your first thought curiosity
so I wanted to know what was going on like one. Should the woman's you Where was walking around the manager was coming over and this one woman was kindly paralyze crying screaming what'd, you think, might have happened. Could I remember my thought. War was your initial, that my thought is that these you were too old friends. These were two Ladys who were. Maybe there are no sixties or so seemed like? Maybe someone had died? I thought that they were old friends. And one of them, her husband had recently die, This is just the scenario that I my mind, Konrad and Millisecond, and that they were A discussion about it and the emotion just welled up and she kind of lost it, which seemed like a perfectly natural thing: I didn't feel like that, because that that sort of crying is sadness, writing quite feel. I felt more a terror thing outing and that's why I stood up and basely walked over to that.
They were asking that well, she's cry I am and managers over there and there was a dead mouse in her salad say it again, so perfect of Ankara daddy end. There was that there was a day I walked over there. There was a dead man. Sounds kind of curled up on living like a like a little feeders baby, but it was a fully A broad mass yup, a mouse carcass in the salad James, take a picture of it with myself, phone we weren't done eating and we're in the middle of our backing game, but we decide to leave. I think you can understand why we packed up, and I asked to talk to the manager you off The manager, the opportunity to praise the meal was very freak economics ash of you? I said to the man,
we're leaving now, because the mouse gross to sell and leaving some of our food, and if you want us to pay, will pay, but I don't think we should pay, and you said to me in advance what use The managers should do in fact he did do that, which is he said, look the meal don't worry about it, hope. You and your friends come back here as we did the actual rising. I offered him the chance to set the price, but only after I suggested what the price should pay. Zero. I was engaging in a little angry, as behavioral economists call, it simply means trying to influence the outcome of a decision. By establishing a numerical anchor whether or not that number actually makes sense the original experiment was, they asked people a question. I think it was what percentage of
four can countries are represented in the United Nations. That's Richard Thaler teaches at the university Chicago many people, myself included, would call him the godfather of behavioral economics. When I think of anchoring, I think of Dick, and they had a wheel of fortune tat day, spun with numb There's between zero and a hundred- and I would say, but some number say thirty five and then they would ask people. Do you think that my answer is about or below thirty five and then what do you think? The answer is and people's answers were info announced by the number that came up on that will a fortune, even though they saw that the NUTS was generated, a grand. So if you ask people, do you think the percentage of countries,
Africa representative in the U N has anything to do with the number that came up on the wheel of fortune. Lady, no, of course not. What are you crazy but nevertheless, if they started thirty, five they're going to come up with a lower number than if they start at eighty five, it's pretty much inevitable. So the starting point influences the final answer. Even if the starting point is meaningless, that's how anchoring works at the pen quoted in when I talked to the manager on the way out, I set the anchor of the price of our lunch at zero. If he The charges for our mousy meal he'd have to dislodge the anchor. I asked Richard Thaler how he thought I handled it. Will I think it is The case that in many situations you want the other side to make the first offer you do. I would think that exactly wrong. Why is that because sometimes they are going to offer a deal better.
Then you would have asked for the manager, look pretty sure and up himself by the mouse, and really he couldn't handle things. Much better me look bad things happening. It's what you do next that matter train a few months after it happened. I asked James to put on his investor hat tat. About what that mouse meant every chain that goes from regional international goes through this, not us these types of health issues, but you know a Starbucks vector they all have their role, fishes and This one is having its growth issue in this particular way. But you know is this: a growth issuers is just one mountains and I'm interested By this I mean it was no. This is a growth issue, because too many things went wrong, so each ear One thing has a low probability, so a mouse gets into this.
An open, salad, bagger happens. We lie around. That's inappropriate, guy, the mouse dies there. So I don't. I wasn't there overnight. The guy take tat in and puts it in a ball and didn't see the mouse, the waitress or waiter, is the mouse over didn't notice it so for if I things went wrong. Maybe the sound was delivered with the mouse in it to the store to begin with. So we don't know where went wrong. This is a typical thing that could happen not this exacting, but this aspect of things breaking down. Multiple things breaking down happens when doing that regional to national surge of a business Le pen criterion is a growing company. It started in Brussels in nineteen ninety and now has more than a hundred fifty locations around the world, including a couple dozen in Manhattan alone and its planning to grow some more. But I wondered is that growth respond,
for the mouse in the salad. I wondered about other things too, like what did the ninety. ST location do after the mouse incident to prevent a reply. Had they make amends to the customer who that serve the mouse and, most of all, when you're running a business in something bad. Something really bad happens. How who were gain the trust of your cousin. These are some of the questions I wanted to ask the pen quitted. That's why I went back that day found the man drawn duty, nice enough, guy and asked if we could talk, I pulled out a picture of the mouse in the south, you wasn't quite, as you will not remember the incident to be sure, but he said he wouldn't talk. Couldn't talk about it. He gave me a card from the Pain Quotidien New York headquarters suggest that I talked to corporate communications
so I gave my call a very nice woman told me that the appropriate party get back to me soon, but it didn't happen. I kept calling I was told that a lawyer and then a pr person would answer my questions about the mouse and the salad, but neither one did. I thought this was strange. Something like this happened in your account, Will you at least one return? Some reporters Paul and explain yourself maybe offer an apology as proof that apology might be since the penalty and wasn't talking to me. I called someone else: someone with his own disaster. Experience hundred hours, I consulted on communications After a long and storied career in journalism, Gowers went into corporate communications. First Lehman brothers. Not long before collapsed and then straight to BP, where he worked during the deepwater horizon spill. His job in each case was to represent.
Company to the public. It puts one little mouse in the salad into perspective. Doesn't it I asked Gowers what a company large or small needs to do when disaster strikes. I do think there is a serious premium on doing your best to be as transparent and clear about. What's going on as possible, I say that an appropriate cautious way because in crises, it's it's very often the possible to know everything was going on. But if there's any suggestion that you are behind the curve in terms of withholding information or, worse still, disguising or gilding and nation. Then you are on a hiding two very difficult place: the penguin the M wasn't being very transparent worthy. I gave him another call. They stolen talk was, straining eyebrows was puzzling and then find After many weeks, many requests myself on Rang
it was a company seo. He agreed to meet me back at the scene of the mouse coming up on free economics, radio, this incident started to question. Our basic philosophy of food. How much one dead mouse resonate in a restaurant chain.
I am giving Jacobs and I'm Deanna reason over. We ve got a new podcast called if that worry politically taught to scientists, engineers NASA folks, just a bunch of really smart, curious people about cool stuff, Julian, I think most people know you from your work on love and community, and most people would know you as forensic scientists, Casey Heinz on Anti I ass. So we were both. But what most people don't now is that we're both really curious in past about stem. If we have a more diverse outlook in how we look at science and engineering and technology and map, then what This is possible. I get Eddie? When I get to speak to these people carriages tat back into my curiosity excitement you know that I have a kid about: all these are protects so come on. This journey,
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I'm currently very busy at living in a great journey with the package in, as I am overseeing the strategy and of overseeing look, I gotta worldwide, so Herbert the pen, Cotillions CEO, sat with me at one end of the very long communal table mere feet away from where the incident occurred. I asked what he did about the mouse in the salad, We had a crisis, we had a crisis. It is unfortunate. I regret it understand why didn't understand how it happened, but give me a couple of opportunities, one, the fact you were there. It took a certain certain momentum. As a leader travel. Around the world, etc, etc. I'm not I would have gotten the full story if you would have been so,
maybe to happen before but at least now I know- and this this this opportunity is that as a leader it invited me it requested me. It made me dig into my business to double check if everything was fine. So that's already a positive. There is a crisis happening. And if you look at it and if you do introspection, in fact, it tells you Vincent go and dig into the business which I I ask all the questions. Why didn't happen? about the quality assurance? What about the vendor? what about all the processes? What did we do about? The customer you know. How do we respond to the media if the meagre comes to us by asking those questions? I'm coming to realise that there are a couple of things that I could do better and I think that these deal unity of owning things are happening too.
Vincent. Let me ask you this tell me what you are old. When you were first told about it, and I want to know what your reaction was it, whether internally and externally, what did you think? What did you say when I heard about the incident, He was, he was told to me the very clinical way in a very way in a very rational way so very sequential way what I was missing and it's my gut feed what I was missing was healthy dose of emotions and I'm seeing healthy, a more honest, transparent.
Suggestion or game plan or action plan that would stick or to or values and when I'm seeing values. I'm talking about authenticity, you know we we ve got to be transparent and honest. That is the most important thing of bankruptcy when we're we're we're doing this. We don't menu win or people, we we we, we just want to be genuine and again here you know. If things happen, you know we we we got to be brave enough to say this is it. This is ours. I take responsibility and we're gonna be transport. And we are going to pick up the phone when people ask is what happens and we just gonna be a blush. We gonna be sorry we're going to do the best we can with talk to me about
the fact that you wanted to come here and talk to me about this incident, whereas the other people who work in your firm took exactly the opposite tack and what that says about the way firms handle bad news these days. I think well what for us? It's it's a very new appearance to have the media commuters, we're pretty shy to the media, therefore what I realised through that incident. Another good opportunity. A good lesson is that we need to get better at understanding. How to partner with the media so that we are open and transparent and in the right context that the first the action indeed of my team was scared. Paralysed in. I don't know what to do.
It's only gonna be negative. It's it's! huge liability as we say, the better, it is kind of avoiding and as a person and as the leader of this organisation, I very much disagree with that. I think I think this is an opportunity again too, to tell the people what we stand for. Ok. So Herbert is pulling his company down the road towards transparency, but the first I want to know is what happened: how did that mouse Yet in that poor, lady salad was the kid overrun with mice. Maybe there was a a disgruntled worker their who just studied have some fun or maybe maybe victim wasn't really victim. Maybe that lady was some kind of a full on Griffin, who goes into restaurants all over town with dead Meissner pocket just trying to set up a shake them. Yes, so we
we went through all the processes. Many questions to older older people and we determined with the vendor that it came from the field, so it from the letters from the field. Was very, very interesting and and and a very important moment when, in fact, this incident start question our basic philosophy of of food, which is, our philosophy of bankruptcies, organic food- you know we're we're, Do you believe in organic farming and when an incident like this, it's amazing how an incident Agus wouldn't make people think about what do we keep going organic because this is a business and something like this if it's taken out of proportion out of context and and we We jump over this issue destroy this business. It could destroy this small growing company people
It was amazing how, in my team, even in my team You and some people say well we're just gonna change, we're not organic we just gonna eat it all. We gonna go to us, as some people are saying. We because the mouse came into the salad from the field and because it's an organic vendor. Presumably, if we got non organic salad, we would not have amount so so there are people putting putting the pressure to do that. What did you say to that? Where there is no pressure was there was a again a rational, detective the suggestion to say well. If we don't want this to happen again, we just change or philosophy and we go from organic to conventional. We use pesticides and we use all those crazy things and yes, they're, not gonna, be any baby field mouses in letters, and it's not gonna happen again. There was nobody in the team that suggests that we had to change a philosophy that was very reconfirm for me to say: ok, my team still or die
hard believers in the core philosophy of the baggage, again, For me there was no question so as we're describes. The mouse in the salad became an internal referendum on whether the pen quantity and should carry on its organic mission. In the answer he says was a big fat. Yes, now is it true that using organic greens actually created this problem? That is if the pen criterion bought convent finally farmed greens would. The Maoists have necessarily been eliminated before got to the salad bowl. Apparently not we talk to some agricultural researchers who told us the typical pesticides don't actually addressed rodents so the penalty and may have all kinds of reasons for sticking to its organic guns, but that doesn't really explain the mouse. That said Herbert told me
he stopped using that salad vendor after they sold them a mouse. Now the woman who was served. The mouse you sell it. The woman who might imagined was distraught over some kind of private loss rather than public mouse. She didn't want to be interviewed, She didn't want me to user name on the air, but we did exchanged a few emails or know the most amazing thing she still eats at the pen criterion that same pen quoted in all time. She said she respects and admires third organic mission. She forgave them for the mouse entirely. I ask Vincent Herbert had happened. He said the pen quoted, kept her trust by being brutally honest, and I think the honesty and transparency, the empathy,
with that incidents was very important. Nothing to customer understood, one that This is something that is very unusual and and we're talking about an issue that happening one store in this, but she understood We we ve for this, we were sorry. We gotta everything we can we are honest: we would just human beings talking to another human being in saying this happens, you know when we're not gonna run away from its it happens. And we're sorry, but this is and I think this is me work. This is a great person. She understood that this is there are no guarantees. The only thing is given to us is to do our best efforts What did you besides all that beside communicating with her in a very human humane way did you let her eat here for free for a year life. Was there any kind of arrangement like that Not that I know I think I think
monetary stimuli and knows. I think I don't think that that would make any different types of data is like motivating people to work in a company. It's it's, not the money that you pay it's more than the culture, the the honesty transparency in the way you treat people the way you talk to them. I think that's more important, nothing! That's where the team did a good job as they they weren't. There were no hiding. They were just like me, This is it doesnt reflex, It is not what we represent. We try to do our best. We have a setback and We really gonna try to do better. I mean, let's be honest, talking to me this is a story that will work its way into the public bloodstream.
Some day. Somebody may Reda harboured business review case. Study of this is the way Vincent Herbert took a bad incident at a restaurant and turned it into a positive. I mean is that it is and I think what everybody What I know when I spoke with a couple of friends and my wife and she's deafening my big mentor by the way she's an animal psychology, social. She understands it was instincts and Duffy understands me very well and and and we were we're thinkingly but about the fear factor- and you know, things like this happen. The first instinct is kind of like fear, skeered. You know I got to go hiding it. If you know this is bad and them, and I think that the fear factor can push you. To do something extraordinary and I'm nervous about this, because I dont Y know
well enough. What your intentions are with this, but again I gotta trust that might be brutally honest within an environment of a setback that that its? gotta, be taken out of context that that we get stronger out of it. This is an opportunity to tell the people that we have. Integrity that we, have resilience. We have tenacity, you know I think, he will keep going organic. We're not gonna jeopardize be no going compromise, our vision to provide organic food to our people and and its, and it's about taking certain risks and managing them. How can you help what respect Vincent Herbert
Yes, it took a while for his company to answer the call, but here is now front and centre taking ownership of the mouse in this. I am in good for him. Bad things happen in life, might be your fault might but at some point someone's gotta put up his hand and say I'm taking responsible. For better or worse, for the incident itself and for the aftermath. That said when I finally went back to the pen quantity and for the first time after the mouse affair, I ordered the key I just did never stomach for salad.
We can all mixed radio was produced by W and Y see a p M american public Media and Dublin productions. This episode was produced by calling Campbell, Andrew our trail. Susie electing Burke increase an eerie, our staffing, its Diana win. Catherine Wells, Bahrain, Lamb, increase, Bannon David. When is our engineer, if you want more fully economics, radio subscribed to our free pod passed on Itunes and go to free economic stock com
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-16.