Years ago, before my employer started its regular “Great Places to Work” program, it maintained a less grandiose practice of occasionally but regularly asking employees for feedback on how it could improve. At the time I figured this was pointless lip-service, but I dutifully responded with reasonable requests. One of these requests was for free coffee.
I didn’t expect them to hire a barista, serving Arabica blends. Of course, I didn’t expect them to seriously consider the request at all. But after several years, respond they did, and by popular demand installed coffee machines. And for a good solid month I enjoyed free coffee–nothing great, but a drinkable instant coffee blend. Quick and effective.
Then, someone cut costs and changed the blend. Now, I can drink some pretty awful coffee, but overnight, the coffee had turned into toxic waste. And toxic waste is probably less bitter–you know, the glowing green kind? Sadly, I returned to making my own. But the years passed and the machines remained, so someone had to of been drinking it. Upon this realization, I started more closely observing who was still getting cups of the sludge. They all fell into a certain demographic: from Sales, tall, men, middle-aged. I wondered why successful businessmen were less picky about the quality of their coffee. Then, I considered my father-in-law. He is a retired defense-contractor engineer. He also drinks Folgers.
I wondered: is coffee quality preference inversely proportionate to income level? To answer this question, I decided to waste time and put off auditing the emails I needed to send out.
To quantify this correlation, I needed figures. I felt it was safe to assume that the cost of the coffee blend increases with its quality. What I needed then, were some salary figures. To graph the slope, I only needed two points. The first point was easy: take the most expensive coffee I see regularly in grocery stores: $15 a bag; and the lowest income bracket, minimum wage: $15,080. For the second point, I needed the cost of the cheapest instant coffee available (what I presumed was being used in the machines at work). Courtesy of Amazon, I found it at $3.33 a bag. Then, consulting the various online utilities designed to inform the masses that everyone’s underpaid, I found the average salary for an experienced Sales manager to be around $115,000. Now I had two points. It was time to calculate the equation.
First, I calculated the cost per ounce of each coffee. Going off a 12-ounce bag, the expensive coffee was $1.25 and the cheap coffee was $0.28. But, to make these number more manageable for a formula, I multiplied by 100 to use cents, creating nice whole numbers to work with: 125 and 28.
With standard algebra, we can calculate the slope with (Y2-Y1)/(X2-X1):
(28-125)/(115000-15080)=~-0.000970777, or if you want to follow significant figures, -0.00097.
Following Y=MX+B, we need B to be X0 (in this case, the baseline of minimum wage) to equal the $15 coffee mark. But first we divide by 100 to bring the scale back down. After doing so, B is simply calculated to be 140. Final formula:
Sadly, I could not find an online calculator that provides coffee products by cost per ounce. Searching for one only yielded a number of self-righteous articles criticizing how much coffee costs and how stupid people are for buying Keurigs or going to coffee shops. But I did plug some numbers into the calculator, and my own coffee preference: Peet’s, ranks approximately by cost the type of coffee I should be buying. So once again, the math doesn’t lie: