Israeli Businesses Must Learn: Money Isn't Everything

The Cafe Cafe chain stopped using the electronic page bracelet because it wanted a good image - not for ethical or ideological reasons, that is, but for financial ones.

Some 150 businesses in Israel already use what are known as "quiet paging systems." That is a euphemistic way of referring to electronic bracelets worn by waiters, which vibrate whenever a customer pushes a button for service. Nimrod Haim, who owns the concession for the bracelet, first saw the product in Panama and attended a training program in South Korea. "The international community has seen how much we've achieved in Israel in such a short time and was taken aback," he said. "Today they use our business plan and our tips around the world."

Business owners, who pay anything from NIS 500 to NIS 1,500 a month for the paging system, trot out the overused justification that the electronic bracelet is meant to improve service. Presumably they are not considering the ethical cost of this improvement of service. The fact that people are being activated at the push of a button, as though they were robots, does not raise a red flag for advocates of the bracelet. The status of service providers, which was low to begin with, has fed into businesses' obsession with what they refer to as improving service - in other words, improving the conditions for making money. That has pushed them onto the slippery slope that has led us to this: A person presses a button, an electronic signal is sent, and another person's body vibrates - just to get a cup of coffee or an omelet as fast as possible.

The Cafe Cafe chain started using the bracelet on a trial basis, but decided more than two weeks ago to stop, after protesters threatened a consumer boycott and got the ball rolling by flooding Facebook with petitions against its use. The coffee-shop chain stopped using the bracelet because it wanted a good image - not for ethical or ideological reasons, that is, but for financial ones.

And so it seems that the most effective way to get rid of the electronic bracelet is for consumers to refuse to cooperate. Not just by signing petitions promulgated on Facebook or on other websites, but in real life - in cafes and restaurants that use call buttons. At least until business owners recognize that waiters are not servants, customers are not masters, and money isn't everything.

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