Freshii has hired a new cashier named Percy, and after learning that these virtual employees only earn $3.75 per hour, people want them fired.
After major backlash, the third-party company that runs the virtual cashier system set up a Twitter account in an attempt to curb the outrage.
“Hi, I’m Percy! How Can I Help You…(understand me better)?” the company tweeted on Wednesday.
Hi, I’m Percy! How Can I Help You…(understand me better)? 🧵
— Percy (@hipercy__) April 27, 2022
In the thread, it explains that Percy is named after the “reliable and eager-to-please” tank engine from Thomas and Friends, and its main goal is to help understaffed restaurants.
Freshii, a Canadian franchise known for serving healthy fast-food alternatives, has attached these video-calling devices to cash registers at several locations in Ontario. When a customer approaches, it lights up to show the face of a cashier thousands of kilometres away in Central America.
These employees from Nicaragua are making way less than Ontario’s $15 minimum wage (which is set to increase in October).
Percy has been on the receiving end of harsh criticism from the public after a recent investigation by the Toronto Star revealed that the virtual cashier system has been operating since around last November at three locations in Ontario — two in Toronto and one in Waterloo.
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“It’s not about replacing people or jobs. It isn’t about lower pay or working conditions. It’s about a labor shortage across the restaurant industry,” Percy tweeted.
The company didn’t directly address its Nicaraguan employees’ wages, simply stating that they “pay all team members above their local minimum wage.”
Percy went on to list other examples of automation in the food and retail industry like UberEats and Amazon.
The Twitter account has only been retweeting reactions that defend Percy.
I’m failing to see a difference between this and the thousands of companies who outsource their call centers.
— Robert Porter (@rsporter) April 26, 2022
So everyone wants poor Percy to lose his job? Now let’s disclose how many other companies outsource customer service (and have for decades). #Freshii #CustomerService #OutsourceEmployee
— Management Writes (@BIZeWORDS) April 27, 2022
But the consensus with most of the reactions on social media is anger.
“Stomach-churning corporate greed,” tweeted Canadian Labour Congress President Beatrice Bruske. “Companies should invest in employees, not exploit them and hurt our communities.”
Stomach churning corporate greed.
Offshoring jobs to low-wage workers who serve Cdn customers but don’t pay Cdn taxes & aren’t protected by Cdn laws.
Companies should invest in employees, not exploit them & hurt our communities. #canlab #cdnpolihttps://t.co/mP86aK0Xbi
— Beatrice Bruske, CLC President (@PresidentCLC) April 26, 2022
“I’ll no longer be frequenting [Freshii]…will boycott until such time as they adhere to local labour laws and pay their staff a decent wage,” another person tweeted.
I’ll no longer be frequenting @freshii. It’s unfortunate – they’re Canadian and have ordered from them (in person) often in the past. But will boycott until such time as they adhere to local labour laws and pay their staff a decent wage. #canlab #boycottfreshi https://t.co/sO34pDnX1a
— Morgan Gay (@Morgan_Gay) April 26, 2022
However, employment lawyers told the Star that this practice is completely legal.
Others say this is straight out of a dystopian novel.
Freshii is leading us into the dystopian future of work that we were all warned about.https://t.co/6olxutiBtg
— Jen Hassum (@jenhassum) April 26, 2022
We need a stronger word than dystopian. https://t.co/I5YeeFoJr5 pic.twitter.com/ygDmWlwlHF
— ishmael n. daro (@iD4RO) April 26, 2022
According to a recent corporate filing, Freshii adopted the new program in order to “further assist partners in managing costs and protecting profitability.”
Daily Hive has reached out to Freshii for comment.