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Posted on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:39 a.m.

Zingerman's developing 'thrive-able wage' for employees

By Cindy Heflin


Zingerman's Deli at 422 Detroit St. in Ann Arbor.

Jessica Webster |

Zingerman’s plan to develop a “thrive-able” wage got some attention this week from the website RH Reality Check.

Paul Saginaw, co-founder of the famous Ann Arbor deli, brought up the thrive-able wage idea in an interview with in February. At that time, he said it was the company’s goal to have every employee earning what he calls a "thrive-able wage" within the next year.

"We think a living wage is kind of a base minimum, and we want to have a wage our employees thrive on," he said.

The Reality Check article quoted a vision statement drafted at a retreat last year:

“Higher wages lead to higher morale and is the engine that keeps everything spiraling upward.”

The Reality Check article notes that every Zingerman’s employee receives health and dental benefits as well as paid time off.

Saginaw and partner Ari Weinzweig founded the now world-famous Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor in 1982. The Zingerman's family of businesses consists of eight businesses in Ann Arbor, including the original Deli and Zingerman's Roadhouse on Jackson Avenue.



Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

I think Zings can afford to pay more because of all the free advertising they get on A2dotcom.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

So now Zingerman's employees will actually be able to afford to eat there once awhile?


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

I'd just like some reasonably realistic price-points to go with all this progressivism and goodwill towards mankind.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Sweet! So then we don't have to tip at Zingerman's anymore, right!

Lou Velker

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

I have never eaten there. I am aware of their high prices and can't afford it. I would love to know what this wage is that is enough so their employees "don't have to worry about money." I am sure it varies greatly for every person. If all their employees are "Thriving", then I'd love to know that figure that is "enough."

harry b

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:02 p.m.

I have always wanted to eat there but could never bring myself to pay that much for a sandwhich. Maybe this year i will splurge and try it.

Ed Anderson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

I would add that the average 1 bedroom apt. in Ann Arbor is $872 a month.

Hot Sam

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

If the traditional concept of housing being 25%that would be $21.80 per hour

Ed Anderson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

I think people would be shocked to know that employees, who, for example, bust their humps making bread all night long so Zing can make the premium $20 sandwich, only make $8-9 an hour. That is not even a LIVABLE wage for any single independent adult. Bring home for full-time job is less than $1000 a month. Zingerman's want everyone to work there because they are the greatest place on earth and be willing to eat air.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

I think Harry B brings up a good point; one would have to live in Yspilanti or some other area with a lower cost of living. It's not a liveable wage if you want to live in Ann Arbor. I basically agree with his analysis of the take home. That leaves basically a weekly disposable budget of $64.75 per week. Its definitely not much but it's doable. Considering that Zingerman's employees get health benefits and paid time off an argument could even be made that a dual income family could thrive if both members were making this same wage.

harry b

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

Sure it is. $8 x 40 hrs per week is $320 per week. Gross 256. 256 x 52/12 is $1109 per month. In Ypsi you can get a apt for $500 per month ( Russell Andreson includes water and heat). Car payment of $200 plus $100 insurance plus $50 electricity leaves you with $259 for food, gas and clothes. You can live on that. No extra's and you will probably shop at thrift store but you can survive. Zing will probably give you a meal a day. Most restaraunts do. (and that is on $8 per hour and no roomate.)


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:08 p.m.

Hey, look! Someone's doing something great! Let's find something wrong with it!


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

I think it's a great idea! This topic was just discussed by a few friends of mine. We think this would be a lot of proper and positive motivation to excell at te company that trains and teaches so well!

Dirty Mouth

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

I would love to hear what the formula is for a "thrive-able" wage according to Paul because clearly the federal minimum wage is not.

Milton Shift

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:48 a.m.

Yeah, reorganizing your priorities is exactly what it is. Namely, good nutrition, preparing for any sort of retirement, saving for a rainy day, sending your kids to school (or even feeding them), going to a doctor when ill or injured, taking vacations to visit family, driving a car that's something more than a rustbucket deathtrap, all fall off the bottom of the list, to be replaced by not going homeless and not starving.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

I'm still trying to figure out what "paying your fair share" means (exactly). It seems deliberately imprecise so that a politician can come and pick your pocket over and over and over again.

harry b

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

You can get a flat in detroit for $200 per month. You can live on min. wage, you just have to reorganize your priorities.

RudyBob Brach

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:57 p.m.

Me too


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

So there already above market prices are going to go even higher ? For what you get, they are way overpriced and that is the reason I never dine there. Good Day


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

Your lack of support really seems to be hitting them where it hurts.

RudyBob Brach

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Overpriced? If you can't afford it don't go. Perhaps that is what they have in mind. If I had a bar/restaurant and wanted a certain cliental that is what I would do. I would make my prices as high as I could


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Meant "their", not "there". Good Day


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

If all employers paid and treated their employees well, unions wouldn't be necessary. But greed blocks the way. All people deserve a wage they can live on without having to work 2 or 3 jobs. The rich have a moral responsibility to share with their employees. Hurrah for any employer who is trying to do the right thing !

Milton Shift

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:50 a.m.

Yes they do, they are pampered and waited on hand and foot by the workers they claim are dragging them down. Atlas Shrugged? More like Goliath smited.

RudyBob Brach

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

The rich don't have any moral responsibility to the less rich or poor. That's why they are taxed taxed and taxed. Get over it and you will be happier

Donna Samuelson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:44 a.m.

I don't know why there are so many Zingerman's haters in Ann Arbor. My husband is a former/temp employee of ZIngerman's, and they are an incredible company to work for. If there is someone who will pay the high prices for their food, especially if they know that the company will fairly and generously compensate even the "lowest" workers, why is that a problem? They have created a dynasty based on excellent ingredients, excellent customer service and excellent treatment of employees. The idea that creating a positive morale for the staff makes for good business is genius. It's a win-win for everyone. If you can't afford the coffee cake, you don't have to buy it. But someone else will.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

Probably wouldn't matter if you paid someone 100$ an hour with the bad attitude in this country. As long as there is someone with more there will be people that are unhappy--- go work for a mission in a third world country and then maybe you'll be thankful for what you have.

Milton Shift

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:46 a.m.

Because they always want more, even if it means others die (lack of health care, poor nutrition, suicides from unemployment and debt) as a result. Look at the rabid opposition to minimum wage and even just paying the same tax rate as their secretaries (Warren Buffet pays about 17%, his secretary about 35%).

Hot Sam

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:24 a.m.

@Tim...your right on... @Milton...what makes you think, they're not?

Milton Shift

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

Then why aren't the rich thankful for what they have?


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:30 a.m.

Zingerman's is relatively expensive compared to the places slinging swill and calling it food. This is different than being overpriced. If Zingerman's was overpriced, it would have been out of business a long time ago.

Steve Hendel

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

@MacabreSunset: how do you know what Zingerman's profits are, or where they rank in comparison with other delis?

RudyBob Brach

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:38 a.m.

Someone needs to define thrive. I earn $34/hr and I am not thriving. I watch my budget. I have 1 car payment, no house payment, directv, internet, medical and cellphone $36/month. By watching what I spend and making sure I save I get along but thrive? hardly. This is mumbo jumbo or a zinger take your pick

Milton Shift

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

I believed you.

RudyBob Brach

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I left out all kinds of many people I support aka family size, medical expenses, etc..I wanted to see how seriously I would be panned rather than taken at my word and see what folk would think of my intelligence and bookeeping skills. Thanks

Donna Samuelson

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

Definitely need to rethink your budget/lifestyle if you can't thrive on $34/hr...seriously, or I guess, define what thriving would be.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:37 a.m.

If you're making $70,000/yr. with no house payment and 1 car payment and little else around your neck and you're not thriving.....something's definitely wrong in your personal financial system.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

Go ahead and raise prices. I haven't been to Zingerman's in 4 years. Not worth the wait.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:14 a.m.

A good friend of mine works for Zingermans. He enjoys the work, atmosphere, training, food benefits, attitude of coworkers, and the general climate of the company, but the pay is the reason why he is searching for other jobs. Most of his coworkers are highly educated, many with higher degrees, but enjoy working for the company and working in the food industry. Their businesses seems very profitable, but it seems that little of the profits are passed on to the average worker. Even the managers who work 60+ hour weeks make meager average salaries compared to similar jobs in other companies. I admire Zingerman's charitable ventures, but hope that they do raise the hourly wage of their employees.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Good for them to pay higher wages. I do believe their food is overpriced, however. I have eaten at the deli and the Roadhouse, and both are very high priced for small portions, and sometimes bad dishes. The mac and cheese at the Roadhouse that I had was incredibly overpriced and a watery pool of overcooked macaroni and runny cheese. Terrible. My dinner partner didn't fare any better. The deli sandwiches are not worth the high prices. This isn't NYC! As far as working conditions, some of the jobs are tough. My daughter in law worked for them one holiday season in the catalog ordering area, and she was very disappointed with the management's training program. It was very haphazard, and she was assigned to a regular employee for training who texted on her phone during the entire training period and was clueless when asked questions. Very poor for a company that is supposedly marketing their training programs.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

It is funny how people's experiences can vary. I have been to Zingermans hundreds of times over the last couple of decades and in the course of that time, they have made ONE mistake with my food order. One that I am sure they would have put right had I bothered to tell them about it. That is a really good record for a food service business.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

Paying employees of any organization a good salary really is the key to keeping businesses going. Of course, the employees need to be doing the required work to receive the good salaries. And, maybe they would work harder if CEO's shared the profits with them. In this day, it seems that CEOs or the higher ups get most of the $$$ and the smaller workers get less. Food for thought.

Milton Shift

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

No, it is not an exaggeration. Look at those graphs. The top 1% of Americans have nearly 50% of the wealth, and just shy of the bottom 50% of Americans have less than 1% of the wealth.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

"Most of the dollars" is an exaggeration.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:20 a.m.

Every one of the Zingerman's businesses has some sort of profit sharing.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

Good for Paul and Ari !! Two of the nicest guys and business men in our area. Their business is an asset to Ann Arbor

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

The beauty of democracy and the free market is that it fails to provide for or consider the needs of nearly all who actually create the wealth. (Hint: wealth is not created in an investment firm, it is destroyed. Wealth is physical and tangible, dollars are not.) Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:26 a.m.

Steve, they think it is the people slapping the Iphone together that creates the wealth (and not the inventor). Just to be clear. :P

Milton Shift

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

Wealth is what makes our lives richer in a materialistic sense. Whether you make a breakthrough in the lab, or design a new product, or assemble it yourself, you are creating wealth. The bureaucrats do nothing but manage "resources" (human labor) at best, and act as parasites at worst. All the Dilberts of the world can tell you we don't need them, and may even be better off without them.

Robert Granville

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

I accidentally downvoted you... definitely did not intend to do that.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:09 a.m.

Steve Wealth POTENTIAL is the result of the people who invented and perfected it AND the people who actually built it. WEALTH itself is made by the millions of people who have the money to actually BUY one. If you've got a great idea and no one to manufacture the product, you've got a great idea. If you've got a million people with money to spend but no actual product being made, you've got a million people with money to spend. A great idea + a product derived from that idea + people willing to spend for the product; now you've got something. It takes all 3.

Steve Hendel

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

"(Hint: wealth is not created in an investment firm, it is destroyed. Wealth is physical and tangible, dollars are not)" Would you please explain what you mean here? Is the wealth created, say, by the sale of the iPhone the result primarily of the efforts of the people who invented and perfected it, or the factory people who assembled it?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

VERY interesting graphs. And you are absolutely right, a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, perhaps tens of thousands.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

Now maybe the employees can afford to eat there.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

The beauty of a democracy and private industry is that they can pay what they will and the public will decide if the prices they charge are not competitive. Pretty simple math here. I applaud any business willing to pay their staff better than a competitor. Free market. But, if it leads to Zingermans not being competitive, the market will determine success or failure. Always love the "living wage" ideal, as no one has a ball and chain on their leg to work for someone, and can always better themselves if they have the drive. A burger at McDonalds at $8.00 will lead to more sack lunches and fewer McDonalds. If that is the end game, so be it.

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

Yeah. Poverty. No health care. Hunger. So be it.

Nick Danger

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

Zingermans is a good neighbor and I applaud their decision.But how about moving some of your part time employess to full time so they can survive and thrive.I have no problem paying a little more to a company who treats their employess with dignity and pays a decent wage.We need more employers with the zingerman attitude

Tom Joad

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

I bought a sardine sandwich at Zingerman's 20 years ago and it was $12. It had a couple of sardines on it, less than you can get from a tin of sardines at the grocery store. I haven't been back since. Zingerman's must rely on sinecure workers at UM earning over 100k a year as well as out-or-town visitors who pay for the experience dearly of visiting Zingerman's once. The unashamed greedy prices obviously don't deter too many customers.

you can't handle the truth

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:10 p.m.

How overpriced will the already most overpriced restaurant on Earth be now?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

Ok you need to understand this and let me make this clear. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS OVERPRICED. Whatever people are WILLING to pay for an item is what it is worth. YOU may noit be able to afford it, but I can and do. I consider food from McDonald's to be substandard at a $1. I would not pay it. Price is what you PAY, VALUE is what you get. The value at Zingermans is better than the value I get at most restaurants in this town.

Irwin Daniels

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

@aggatt - maybe the $ 12 sandwich you get fills you for two meals; for most people including me will not last two meals and no I am not overweight.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

I'm in my 20's, so now. That's what I get now. Maybe you just eat a lot more? Amer's is nowhere near the same quality. And I've always found the roadhouse mac n cheese to be too filling for me to finish anyways. But I also eat slowly, which gives me time to register that I'm full before I shovel it all in.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Maybe they lasted 2 meals 20 years ago, but they are much smaller now and much more expensive. I go to Amer's and get the same thing for less. Don't even get me started on the Roadhouse.........teeny-tiny, hugely expensive side of macaroni and cheese. The emperor's new clothes!


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

they're really not that overpriced. I get a 12 dollar sandwich there that lasts me 2 meals, and the quality is amazing. That's not a bad deal at all. Plus they have half off patries late at night.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

Does thrivable wage mean able to afford to live in these spanking new high rises with their $1500-$2000 a bed rents?

C.C. Ingersoll

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:07 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that those places are built for out-of-towner college kids that have mommy and daddy paying for everything. The good news though is that with the rental market over-saturated by these highrises you can get a nice place in a 100 year old mansion with hardwood floors for about $600 if you look hard enough

Bryan Briegel

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

With their prices and mark up I bet this isnt hard to support


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

I asked someone I know who does the financials for a nice downtown restaurant about the cost of food? 28% for food/beverages. That pesky factual information.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

70% for the ingredients? Baloney, even if it's $25/lb artisanal baloney.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9 p.m.

In case you did not figure it out CC. I don't believe your figures for a minute!


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

Sorry C.C.. If your food costs were 70%, you would be out of the restaurant/sandwich business in six months. Good restaurants run around 33% food costs. Plus, Zingerman's make a lot of their own ingredients so I bet their food costs are much lower than that.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

C.C. Could you give us a breakdown of the cost you seem to be an insider! Really 70%

C.C. Ingersoll

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

70% of the price of a sandwich there is the actual physical cost of the ingredients. They make their profit through bulk sales; and that's only possible because of the quality of their product. This isn't some coffee shop where you pay a nickle for some coffee grounds and a paper cup and the other $4.45 is pure profit.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:57 p.m.

Until we KNOW what their idea of a "thrive-able" wage is. It means nothing! The difference between a living wage and their "thrive-able" wage is all conjecture at this point. It may not be that much of a difference.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

"vile hyperbole"? Nice. If you think their concept is "new" then terms like flex time, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, and others must all be revelations. But none were mentioned in this article, nor was your "opening the books". Only money (vision statement and "higher wages")... It is a nice PR term however, human resources consultants often come up with such clever catchphrases.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

What we know, if we're paying attention here, is that the "thrive-able" wage *is* their idea, and that it is a new concept they are developing with their workers. Concretely, it takes the "living wage" as a base and CLEARLY is meant to go UP from there. More money to workers in the form of wages and benefits, AND more control in the workplace ("opening the books"). It means something, although you're right (despite your vile hyperbole) it's not completely defined yet.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Exactly jcj. Seems to be a dose of Ben&Jerryism PR. If the owner had cited recent Princeton and/or National Academy of Sciences Studies on "money and happiness" to assist in determining that magic "thrive-ability" term... They would at least have a range to talk about ($50-75k) - and we could plan accordingly for the 35 dollar sandwich.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

@ Davidian, re: "That's all well and good - but nobody should expect to life (sic) comfortably on a job that literally anyone can do." Well, that is certainly a very popular opinion these days, a centerpiece of the Right To Work, Race To The Bottom movement Back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, we set our sights a bit higher...


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:32 p.m.

If they are going to do this, then hurrah. As a former employee, I would improve the working conditions and train their employees better. (managers) I would never reccommend working there to anyone. :P

Atticus F.

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Good for Zingerman's. This sort of policy is good for the economy as a whole, in the sense that the person washing dishes can now afford to go to the movies, have a nice dinner out, or put a downpayment on a car. Our economy works best when wealth is circulated among all the people who's labor produces wealth.

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:29 p.m.

It's certainly an interesting concept. I look forward to our follow-up stories about this as Zingerman's further develops the plan.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

@ fjord, re: "I'm all for unions, but if Zingerman's is determined to treat their employees this well, why would those employees unionize?" I remember my father, a salaried worker at Ford in the 50s through mid-70s, commenting that Ford always gave the salaried workers everything they gave the union, as a disincentive to unionize. As you say, if workers are treated well, there is less, if any, need to unionize.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Life's fun when you can charge $20 for a sandwich. Wal-Mart could do the same for its employees if it charged $20 for a loaf of bread. But it would be an empty Wal-Mart, and would probably have about as many employees as Zingerman's.


Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

Wal-Mart gets away with paying what they do because they have this sense of entitlement to having government (i.e. us) subsidize its payrolls, at the expense of companies like Zingerman's and thousands of other small businesses that pull their own weight. And ignoranceisbliss, what you fail to bring into your equation is the fact that with a living wage, you find that you have much lower turnover (and associated recruiting and training costs), much lower absenteeism, less employee theft, experienced and more productive workers, and better employee morale that translates into happier and more loyal customers. This is the lesson learned by Costco which, though they pay their workers 40% more in pay and compensation than Sam's Club, somehow manages to be cost-competitive with similar profit margins- despite having to compete with a corporate monstrosity that expects the taxpayers to pick up the tab for healthcare coverage for its employees' families and provide them with food stamps. The biggest failing of those with an accountant's mentality (and unfortunately, far too many of our corporations seem to be run by accountants rather than business people) is to look at wages and benefits superficially, and assume that the less they can get away with paying per hour, the lower their overally payroll costs will be- without even getting into the greater issue of whether or not the government should be subsidizing the payroll costs of a highly profitable corporation, or supporting one that can't survive without it (and the fantasy that any increased costs would be passed along to customers, as if WalMart is not already charging every penny as much as they figure they can get away with).

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

You would be surprised at how little prices would go up if Walmart started paying their workers more. Compare Sam's Club prices to Costco's prices for example. Both have nearly identical business models but Costco pays their employee's significantly more and yet is still very competitive on price.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

ROFL, good post Sunset ! Good Day


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:33 a.m.

And every tax payer In the country subsidize Walmart because they pay so little that most of their employees qualify for public assistance. Plus the Walton family's worth equals that of the bottom 40% of this countries citizens. Greed is greed.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:53 p.m.

"walmart has 2,000,000 employees with an average wage of 21k/year." Not true: Walmart's average sale Associate makes $8.81 per hour, according to IBISWorld, an independent market research group. This translates to annual pay of $15,576, based upon Walmart's full-time status of 34 hours per week 1. This is significantly below the 2010 Federal Poverty Level You can not add in the CEO salary and upper management and say, well he is part of the average. If Wal Mart increased pay by $4 per hour for 2 million employees it would cost them way less than the over $15 billion in profits they made in 2011 AND if they stopped bullying manufactureres to cut pricing and quality people in other industries might make money. THe fact is Wal Mart is the complete dumbing down of society, It is everythingthat is wrong with the world Cheap crappy products are what you get and they teach their employees how to use tax dollars to their advantage.

Jon Saalberg

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

@Macabre: I would love to know what you mean by "at the top of the profit curve". As one who worked at Zingerman's for many years, and was involved in budgeting and setting sandwich prices, I never felt the deli was attempting price items in a manner that would gouge anyone or to make the owners rich. I do believe that is a common misperception among people who do not understand how food costs and pricing work. The deli has always stood behind using the best ingredients, so using those ingredient means higher food costs. Contrary to what you seem to imply, they do not "generate a lot of profit out of every sandwich". What does that even mean? Relative to what? Relative to what a fast food chain generates out of every sandwich? I think you would be surprised to find that it is exactly the opposite - that the fast food chains are the ones generating a lot of revenue out of every sandwich.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

Or even increasing from 21k to 30k would increase cost by 18 billion dollars and cause the company to lose money.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

YpsiYapper, clearly math was not your forte. Currently walmart has 2,000,000 employees with an average wage of 21k/year. If they gave all employees $50,000/year it would be $100 billion dollars is employee wage cost. Wal-mart profitted 15.7 billion last year. Increasing wages from 21k/year to 50k/year would increase cost by over $58 billion dollars. This would lead to a $42.3 billion dollar loss, not a profit.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:56 p.m.

Walmart could pay it's employee's 50 grand a year, with good benefits, charge the same prices they are charging right now, and still walk away with hundred of millions in profits every year. They do not negotiate what they pay for in bulk, they tell their vendors what they will be paying and if the vendor does not like it, Walmart will just tell the next guy down the line what they will be paying. The Walton family no longer runs Walmart. They hired a Management Company years ago and pick up their checks once a month. (re-named Walmart holdings, Inc.) The Management Company is run by a bunch of heartless people who'incentive is a bigger bonus for bigger profits. They are saiaried with a quarterly bonus. This goes right down the line right in to the Store Managers. The Store Manager will look for the measliest excuse to tell the hourly employees why they do not deserve a quarterly bonus , which in turn makes theirs larger. They have a huge computer system that the Assistant Managers manipulate so the numbers get them a bonus. That's why there is alway a skeleton crew there. Less Labor, more profit, bigger bonus. There is total chaos inside everyone of their stores behind the scenes. I predict Meijer will be the dominat force in retail within 15 years. Meijer is smart and standing by learning from Walmart's mistakes. Meijer is slowly growing at the right speed. Walmart is in a rush to open a store every week and is going to saturate the market. One of their biggest mistakes is the amount of turnover and the way they treat and pay their employees. Walmart is right now in the process of digging it's own grave. good luck finding an employeee on the sales floor with a real smiley face!

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

My point being that through marketing and buzz and a knowledge of the sandwich industry, Zingerman's has created a environment where it can generate a lot of profit out of every lunch. Hence they can support giving a lot of money to a small number of employees. They're at the top of the profit curve. Many businesses cannot operate there, so unskilled workers get paid much less (and are free to work elsewhere, or gain new skills). For that matter, if I'm selling $12 and $17 sandwiches, I might want the best sandwich preparer in the area, so I will pay a much higher wage to attract and keep him or her.

Cole Bertsos

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

I gotta say — i resisted for a long time and though I still seldom go there, I always find I get what I pay for. Haven't been disappointed yet!


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

I get the same chicken sandwich every time for around 12 bucks. I eat half, and then save half for the next day. Doesn't seem too expensive to me...

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:41 p.m.

Life's fun when you can charge $17 for a sandwich. Wal-Mart could do the same for its employees if it charged $17 for a loaf of bread. But it would be an empty Wal-Mart, and would probably have about as many employees as Zingerman's.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

@fjord, I believe there is a fish sandwich on a bagel that is $19.99. But you are correct, $20 is a bit of an exaggeration. Many sandwiches can cost around $17 though (with tax). Of course, if you add extra sauces/veggies or cheese, you can easily hit the $20 mark.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

You do realize that there isn't a single sandwich at Zingerman's that costs $20 ... right?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

Good for Zingerman' if only we could get the Wal-Mart's of the world to care about the people they actually employ, this country would be onto something. With the divisive corporate ideology that is spreading in state capitols across the country like cancer, it is highly unlikely. Caring about the people you employ would leave less profits for the CEO...and we can't have that can we?

Sean Thomas

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

costco pays its employees a healthy wage starting at 11-12/hr with health benefits. shop there! :)

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:27 p.m.

Next, we will hear how our economy really is democratic because all you need to do is work hard enough for a couple million years, save a few billion dollars, and buy enough shares to have enough votes to matter. Nothing standing in your way except reality.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

Bob I think ds wants to take your choice away, you know everyone should be eating $20 sandwiches. After all it's only fair.

Basic Bob

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:42 p.m.

You have the power to shop at Zingerman's instead of Walmart. It is your choice.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:07 p.m.

That's all well and good - but nobody should expect to life comfortably on a job that literally anyone can do.

Milton Shift

Fri, Mar 8, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

One more: troops on the ground should be paid a lot more than the secretary of the DoD. Is it really harder to sit in an office guarded by laser guided missiles than to get shot at in a battlefield for years, an ocean and (seemingly) a lifetime from friends and family? To miss the birth of your child?

Milton Shift

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

Agreed. Pay people according to how much of a sacrifice they make to hold the job. Paramedics should be paid twice that of the CEOs running their companies.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

Not all revolutions are violent. Sometimes what happens is people wake up and start going to the voting booth. While there are valid reasons to have wage inequality, there is no need for those at the top to make hundreds of times more than those at the bottom.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

There should be no jobs made to be too difficult for any one of us.

Reverend Bubba X

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:33 a.m.

Ignoranceisbliss, Zingerman's is a sucessful businees making this change IN THE FREE MARKET. No one is making them do this. Talk about ingnorance.

Milton Shift

Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 1 a.m.

The most exploited people in our country are those in the military. The irony is those who shout "support the troops!" tend to be for the policies that are worst for them: slashing safety nets (try dealing with PTSD with no support) and sending them off into a hail of bullets, because getting shot is what they hoped for when they joined. Paid absolute pennies, too. It's pitiful.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

@ Davidian, So you are against a PRIVATE company CHOOSING to pay its people what THEY want to pay them? Really? How about we stop paying people who join the military, We really dont need to pay them anything, we just need a warm body that can shoot a gun and follow orders. We will pay tp brass HUGE amounts, but we should pay disposable people next to nothing.

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:34 p.m.

I forgot to mention - what about all the veterans? I can tell you firsthand, having known a sniper in the Marines, that they are many things, but soft is not one of them. I thought conservatives had pride in their country.

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:19 p.m. According to this, the typical US citizen is poorer than the typical person from Australia, Italy, Japan, England, Switzerland, Ireland, France, Canada, Norway, Finland, Spain, New Zealand, Holland, Israel, Taiwan, and Germany.

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

Really? America is soft? Is Detroit soft? What about LA? Perhaps you've been a little sheltered if you don't think there's an incredible amount of anger brewing here in our own country, and that there aren't any riots around the corner.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

Milton, spend five minutes in Africa or Asia or most of the rest of the world, for that matter, and come back and tell us about the difficulties an American with a job faces. Revolution? We're so soft we couldn't even play Revolution on a Nintendo.

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

Welcome to a future where revolution looms imminent. Regardless of our opinions on the matter, it is a fact that there is a point at which people will not simply accept their situation anymore. I take it you want to see that line crossed?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:15 p.m.

Yes, Dennis. Any job that takes very little skill should be paid poorly. It is all about supply and demand. Everyone in America (or the world now) gets paid based on how many other people are willing AND ABLE to perform said job effectively. Why did Albert Puljos get paid 25 million$ a year, because he does something very few people can do. Why do Sandwich Artist get paid very little, because just about anyone can do that job and there are lots of people looking for work. Although even McDonalds pays employees high wages in areas where employment options are limited. Supply of workers is low. Welcome to the free market. The style that has brought the US to the top of he world.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

My daughter works there at the deli, I would like to see you working there on a saturday morning of a home football game. Or a friday evening. Sincy ANYONE can do it. I would not want to have to deal with what she has to deal with.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

So basically all the jobs that are required for our society to function (janitor, sandwich maker, gas station attendant) but anyone can do, people who do these jobs should just have to live in poverty? That's what you are saying?

Milton Shift

Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

That's a good call, especially since thanks to automation and robotics, more and more jobs are involving nothing but pushing buttons. Even cars will soon be driving by computers. Let's have everyone starve. It's their fault there's nothing useful for them to do.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Dealing directly with the public is not a job literally anyone can do. I work in Ann Arbor and deal with the public with a very well known entity as I will call it. Myself and co-workers are often both praised and shredded to pieces right here in this comment section and at times right to our faces. Some of the things that are said to me after I have literally bent over backwards to serve with a smile would shock most people.. There are about 110 of us that do this. My superiors explained to each and every one of when, they are paying us not so much to do the job but to deal with the people we encounter on a daily basis. I remember laughing inside when I was told this. My thought was this Job must be a piece of cake. For the most part the majority of people in Ann Arbor are a pleasure to serve. However there is a certain percentage who will find something to whine about no matter how how above and beyond I go to give them great service. I have to be able to read these people before a word is even said to me at times. Public service is a skill. It may not take a college degree but I've been working directly with the public for 34 years. It takes a special kind of person to put up with the demands at times and keep a smile on your face when you are being screamed at or called names while some clown is taking his or her anger out on you. Or just dealing with certain people who think their waste does not smell if you get my drift. Anyone who works the front lines with the public and continues to do it deserves a wage that will make them thrive. That includes food servers who probably have the hardest and most demanding position dealing with the public. Public service in any form is a "skilled position".


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

So what is a 'thrive-able wage'? Why no meantion of what that is? Maybe a union can sort this out for them, which would perfect protection the employees


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 11:38 p.m.

If you can't thrive on $50 k a year, you really need to learn money management or you are supporting a huge brood. Most Zingerman employees will be younger. The industry tends to attract younger people. Zingermans has ALWAYS paid better than the typical Ann Arbor restaurant (yes I am talking to you Mike Gibbons and Dennis Serras). The fact that they are looking for ways to make it even BETTER is not a negative. Doing something for 30 years and then trying to do it even better is NOT a bad thing, despite what you may think.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

cinnabar7071, It's obvious you don't eat there. On any given day or night, you will find Ari sitting at the counter at the Roadhouse working on his laptop, or filling the water, or clearing tables. He doesn't walk around announcing himself as the owner and asking how everything is... he is actually working. And, if you didn't recognize him you would think he is making the wage of a bus person. Hands on work and unrivaled customer service is what is taught and modeled at Zingermans.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

UpperDecker many think there is no other way. After all Paul didn't build that himself.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:35 p.m.

lol are you being sarcastic or something? Is somebody that went through all of the hard work to create a business supposed to pay everyone equally from the top down just because that business is now successful?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

"I'm all for unions, but if Zingerman's is determined to treat their employees this well, why would those employees unionize?" Because the owners are getting rich off the labor of the workers, and we all know how wrong that is.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 6:10 p.m.

Unionize a small restaurant/deli, lol what a joke of an idea.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

cinnabar - You must have a pretty extragravant lifestyle - or a lot of dependents. I live in AA and am quite comfortable on an income of less than $1000 / month. Of course I bought my house over 30 years ago, no dependents and I don't eat at Zingermans


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:38 p.m.

Yeah, I'm sure they're doing it for attention, because before this nobody had ever heard of Zingerman's. Amirite?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

fjord zingermans has had 30 years to do this and it seems to me they are doing this for just for the attention. So what do you think is a 'thrive-able wage' in ann arbor is? I make over $50k a year and I couldn't afford to survive in ann arbor, let alone thive. So are we to believe zingermans is going to pay they deli staff upwards of $60k per year? Just wondering how this business is to survive paying that kind of money.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

Why no mention of it? Because it's been expressed as a goal, but they still haven't finalized what it actually is. You can't report something that no one knows yet. I'm all for unions, but if Zingerman's is determined to treat their employees this well, why would those employees unionize?


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

In other words...brace yourself for higher prices.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 3:23 a.m.

Which is better working at Zingermans or Walmart? The Walton family's net worth is equal to the total income of the lowest 40% in this country, while 80% of qualify for public assistance. So through our taxes we add to the Walton family's net worth. We should be extatic over the Thrive-able wage.


Thu, Mar 7, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

Quality treatment and benefits towards employees, quality customer service, and quality ingredients aren't cheap. If you don't like the way Zingerman's handles these issues, don't go there. I for one will continue to be a loyal patron.


Wed, Mar 6, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

Apparently they already have high prices. Either the higher wages are coming from an owner who has made enough and is willing to reduce his income for the employees that work for him, or you are correct and prices are going up. Can the employees that work for him even afford to buy his food on a regular basis?