PITTSFIELD >> A few thoughts on character.
There's no easy way to lose a job or to close a business. Yet, there are ways to mediate the damage. This is when the character of our employers comes into play.
We've seen two completely different types of character from employers in the Berkshires recently.
The good — Price Chopper gave its employees almost a month's notice that it plans to close its market in North Adams, has offered to relocate employees to nearby company outlets, and is offering severance packages for employees who don't want to take that journey based on their seniority.
The bad — Ovation Brands, a national restaurant chain, closed Pittsfield's Old Country Buffet on Feb. 4 with no notice at all. Many employees found out they no longer had jobs from a sign that had been placed on the eatery's front door.
Ovation, which operates five buffet restaurant brands, also encouraged its former employees to apply for jobs at nearby outlets. But the company's nearest outlet to the Berkshires is a HomeTown Buffet in Manchester, Conn., which is about 10 miles east of Hartford (Massachusetts' two other Old Country Buffets are located in suburban Boston and outside New Bedford.)
Unless you're originally from one of those areas, traveling that far from here to work in a chain restaurant makes no sense and is unrealistic. It's a hollow offer that means nothing.
Price Chopper, meanwhile, has four other markets in the Berkshires and one in Bennington, Vt. So relocation for those employees is a viable option. It's realistic.
It shows that Price Chopper actually cares about its employees.
Price Chopper is based in Schenectady, N.Y., which is a lot closer to Pittsfield than Ovation Brands' parent company Food Management Partners, which is located in San Antonio, Texas.
And Price Chopper has been in this area much longer than Ovation Brands — the North Adams market has been open since 1959, while Pittsfield's Old Country Buffet opened in the late 1990s.
But distance doesn't excuse a company from treating its employees badly. Pittsfield's Old Country Buffet was one of 74 "underperforming" outlets that Ovation Brands closed across the country on Feb. 4, and many of those closures took place the exact same way, from what I've read. Employees at six San Diego area restaurants were also informed they were no longer employed by signs left on front doors.
In Minnesota, where Ovation Brands has a corporate office, the company closed 7 of its 10 restaurants in the Twin Cities area also without giving employees any advance notice.
Closing a restaurant, a supermarket, or any other business is difficult. But there's a classy way to handle it, and a heavy handed way of doing the same thing.
Price Chopper did it with character. Ovation Brands did not.
I get why Carolina Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton doesn't get it when it comes to acting like a professional. He doesn't know how to. And, it's obvious that no one on that team holds him accountable – yet.
He showed no character at all during his post-Super Bowl press conference after the Panthers lost to the Broncos.
Then, Newton compounded his actions by reacting to the criticism of his press conference performance by saying, "show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."
Newton has faced some adversity before — he was arrested then kicked out of the University of Florida in 2008 for stealing a student's $1,700 laptop — but maybe his current attitude comes from having everything come to him much too fast.
A national championship and the Heisman Trophy during his one year at Auburn; the National Football League's number one overall draft pick in 2011; NFL offensive rookie of the year after his first season; NFL MVP and an almost perfect season with the Panthers this year. That's quite a run.
I have no idea what goes on inside the Carolina Panthers, but from here Newton looks like the kid who's given the keys to an expensive new car, wrecks it, then sulks when he's asked to accept some responsibility for it. He's only 26, so he still has time to learn. But he's good enough that the Panthers made him the face of their franchise. Sulking is not how you handle that kind of responsibility. That's not what the Panthers pay him for, and definitely not what the NFL wants to see.
His performance after the Super Bowl was terrible. Doesn't anybody on that team advise this kid?
Newton has great physical skills. And he's fun to watch. But he needs to grow up. That's what character is all about.