Not Glad: Chicago Restaurant “Dupes” Diners

gladWhen it comes to interacting with the public, companies and organizations are expected to be transparent. But how transparent is transparent? That was one important issue raised by a case involving a Chicago restaurant that “duped” social media influencers who were invited to attend a special dinner. The owners of Giant, an upscale restaurant in downtown Chicago, invited a number of journalists and social media influencers to a special seating for the debut of its new menu, “Three Moons.” So far, so good.

However, during the last course of the first seating (there were two), servers brought out plates wrapped in Glad Press ’n Seal and set them on diner’s tables. They then explained that the dinner they had just enjoyed was prepared three days earlier and kept fresh with the aid of the plastic wrap. Hidden cameras were reportedly placed in table centerpieces to record the surprised reactions.

They certainly were surprised. Some attendees reportedly got up and left. Some of those invited to the second seating heard the news and opted out. A few of the social media influencers who attended took to social media. Adam Sokolowski, one of the attendees, posted Giant’s invitation on Instagram (see below). The new menu, according to the invite, was to “continue [Giant’s] theme of honest, unpretentious and delicious food” using “interesting preservation techniques.”

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Later it was reported that what took place was a marketing stunt. Glad had reportedly rented the restaurant for the evening (said to cost $10,000) and intended to use the videos from the centerpieces as part of a promotional campaign for Press ’n Seal.

That this seems patently unethical begs the question: Did not someone at Giant or Glad realize that it is bad to invite participants to an event under false pretenses? Did they really think that using the phrase “interesting preservation techniques” was sufficient disclosure? To me, this seems to be a clear case of ill-formed intent: Those involved knew what they were doing and knowingly hid the truth from participants. In other words they were knowingly not transparent. What do you think?

Thanks to Emily Belden for the tip!


Experts: Digital Living Will (Mostly) Be Good

Slightly less than half of technology experts believe that digital living will help us over the course of the next decade. That’s one primary finding in a recent study of 1,150 technology experts in a joint effort between Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imaging the Internet Center.  The report, issued today, comes on the heels of several high profile technology debacles including Facebook’s recent admission that 87 million users’ data was compromised. Although the authors admit that their findings are not representative of all points of view, the study nevertheless “reveal[s] a wide range of valuable observations based on current trends.”

The experts that comprised the sample were asked a single question: “Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally?” According to the authors three themes emerged from the open-ended responses to the question: people will be more helped than harmed when it comes to well-being; potential harms; and remedies that can mitigate foreseeable problems. Each theme was then broken down into five or six sub-categories.

Although the findings cannot be adequately summed up here, a variety of opinions were reflected in the findings. Daniel Weitzner, principle research scientist and founding director or MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative said, “Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Whether on questions of politics, community affairs, science, education, romance or economic life, the internet does connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships. … I have to feel confident that we can continue to gain fulfillment from these human connections.”

However, connectedness may come at a price. That view was expressed by well-known technology expert Nicholas Carr who said, “We now have a substantial body of empirical and experiential evidence on the personal effects of the internet, social media and smartphones. The news is not good. While there are certainly people who benefit from connectedness – those who have suffered social or physical isolation in the past, for instance – the evidence makes clear that, in general, the kind of constant, intrusive connectedness that now characterizes people’s lives has harmful cognitive and emotional consequences. Among other things, the research reveals a strong association, and likely a causal one, between heavy phone and internet use and losses of analytical and problem-solving skill, memory formation, contextual thinking, conversational depth and empathy as well as increases in anxiety.”

To me, the findings were not all that surprising; many of the experts whose opinions were published have long espoused different opinions on the future of digital living. MIT professor Sherry Turkle (one of the experts in the sample), for example, has published widely on different aspects of living with technology. Her 2012 book (revised in 2017) “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” was a New York Times Best Seller. The report, however, is still a good read and it’s good to have ready access to differing views of technology experts in a single document. You can download the entire document using this link: “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World.”

–Jeffrey Maciejewski