It's not just that Ben and Jerry's ideas are stupid; it's that these guys don't practice what they preach. There is an article that some naïve reviewers on this board should read. It's called "The Evil Empire" in the New Republic (hardly the voice of capitalism or the political right). Amazingly the New Republic finds Ben and Jerry's arrogance just too hard to swallow.
What does the article have to say?
On Ben and Jerry's success:
"With the publicity came the inevitable backlash: that Ben and Jerry are nothing more than New Age scam artists, feeding social consciousness to gullible yuppies and pocketing the cash. The scarier truth may be that they've scammed themselves. Like their fortysomething followers, they believe the most flattering image of themselves: that, despite their millions, they haven't sold out."
How Ben and Jerry discovered why CEOs get paid big salaries:
This doesn't mean the company is built on scandalous lies--just little white lies, mutual delusions that keep everyone happy. For example, one tenet of caring capitalism is to be "real," to "connect with the customer." This spirit is what drove the company's offbeat search for a new CEO. Early last summer, Ben and Jerry held a press conference to announce that Ben would step down as CEO. Profits had plummeted, the superpremium ice cream market was shrinking; in short, the company had grown too complicated for a "multi-college dropout and failed pottery teacher to run," Ben announced. What pained him most was the company's decision to give up the salary cap that had limited the top executive's salary to seven times that of the lowest-paid employee, the $8 an hour scooper (a sacrifice that had always obscured Ben's millions in stock shares).
And my favorite section of the Article when Ben and Jerry show their hypocracy for all the world to see:
"Then there are the inner-city initiatives that fail. If there are any doubts about B&J's bloodless business instincts, they can be dispelled by another holy man, the Reverend James Carter, who crossed the company's path in 1992. Back then, Carter ran a modest New Jersey bakery called LaSoul, where recovering addicts churned out pumpkin pies for the local groceries. A week after he saw Ben on ABC's "20/20," Carter packed up a trunk full of pies and drove to the company headquarters. Ben loved both the pies and "Reverend Carter's vision of building a sound business." In three weeks, Carter had a letter of intent to do business with the company, which he showed to the bank to borrow money for equipment. Ben flew down to New Jersey to tape a TV show of himself helping ex-addicts mix batches of the new Apple Pie frozen yogurt.
After two years, however, sales of the flavor were flagging. In May 1994, Ben and Jerry's drastically decreased its orders, leaving Carter with freezers full of pies. Frantic, Carter laid off all but two employees and called Ben. The next day, Ben flew to New Jersey, "sat down, looked them straight in the eye," and, recalls Carter, said, "Don't worry, we'll stick with you." But orders never picked up, and, this June, Carter received a letter from the company, by fax, that congratulated him on his "good works" and canceled all remaining orders. He was left half a million dollars in debt. "It's pretty cute, this social mission," Carter says bitterly. "But the bottom line is, Ben and Jerry's buried my company."
Ask Ben about the incident, and he sounds more like Gordon Gecko than Robin Hood: "We told Jim to find more customers. We gave him six months' notice." When the normally upbeat Alan Parker is reminded of a spreadsheet dated November 11, 1994, that projected $500,000 worth of orders from LaSoul in 1995, he replies: "That spreadsheet was given to him as a best-case scenario for volume expectations. Nothing about that memo could be construed as a firm commitment, and it's really disingenuous for him to cite it." Do they feel at all responsible? "Sure, we feel sad," says Parker. "But our sadness is tempered with `why are we being blamed?' We worked closely with him to make our demands on him easier, and that's not something many customers would do for their suppliers. In the end, LaSoul was just not a viable business enterprise."
Anyway for those who would rather read a true story than this useless book I suggest getting a hold of the whole article:
Source: New Republic, 9/11/95, Vol. 213 Issue 11, p22, 4p, 1 cartoon Author(s): Rosin, Hanna