Thinking back to senior year civics class one lesson stuck with me to this day…”There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. I don’t remember how long we discussed this concept, but I do remember the entire class brainstorming to find the exception to that rule. We never did.
So the old adage holds true. Now let’s apply this lesson to corporate life.
Many of us have likely read about companies hiring chefs or offering gourmet meals as a job perk. This may have even come up in a discussion with a recruiter or on a job posting.
“Did I mention that the company offers free dinner nightly with a seasonal menu and fresh local ingredients?”, a recruiter once said on an initial call about a new opportunity they were pitching me. I decided to leave them speechless.
“So how does that work, I place the order 15 mins before I leave for the day and they have it in wrapped containers to go? Does that also include a meal for my spouse or is just for me?”, came my retort, which did leave them speechless for a moment. Why? Well because that free meal wasn’t free. It is a clever ploy to keep people working longer.
Who really pays for that meal? You do with a shift your work life balance. So does the government as the company can usually write off the costs of the perk as a business expense to lower its tax bill. (If you believe in trickle down economics, the local restaurants that you otherwise might have patronized during that time also pay.)
Does offering this perk make the company evil? Certainly not and I’m not even suggesting that this perk is not offered altruistically. There are plenty of employees that would have worked late anyway, or work in an area with high housing costs so meals out might be few and far between. In those cases they don’t mind paying for the “free meal”.
Just know it’s not free.