Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Leveling the Field

I was listening to Marketplace in the car on my way to work this morning, when a story came on about Streit’s matzo factory, a New York business that plans to relocate out of a space that it has occupied for the past century. One of the interesting tidbits of data from the story was the fact that Streit’s holds about a 40% share of the domestic matzo market. But they’d like to both expand and modernize their business, and so they’re moving to a new space.

Nothing out of the ordinary there. What struck me was this rationale for the move from Aaron Gross, one of the people who runs the business: “We know how to work in four tenement buildings. We know how to load on the street. We know how to do all this stuff. But, the fact that our competitors don’t have to do it, puts us at an unfair disadvantage.”

I find this interesting because it seemed so out of place. The fact that Streit’s has been using the same building “after nearly a century” counts as an unfair disadvantage? What’s so unfair about it?

My own suspicion is “nothing.” It’s just that businesspoeple can become accustomed to describing any of the pressures that their businesses face as “unfair.” It’s the sort of thing that you hear quite often, although I will admit that this is the first time that I’ve ever heard a businessperson describe their own facility as constituting an unfair disadvantage. Part of me thinks that this is part and parcel of businesses working with governments to alter the conditions of business - the best way to lobby for a tax break or other benefit is to describe the status quo as unfair. And like anything else, if you do something long enough, it starts to seep into other parts of life.

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