M’aacute;s pizza, menos dinero

Brendan Keep and Brendan Keep

A Dallas-based pizza chain has become a lightning rod for the opinions of both sides of the debate over illegal immigration after starting to accept pesos at all 59 of its stores.

Pizza Patrón, a fairly small operation based in the Southwest U.S., decided to accept pesos as a promotion to drive sales among its largely Hispanic customer base. Sounds like a good business move, right?

For the most part, it is. The only problem with the promotion is that the nation is engaged in a bitter debate over the status of illegal immigrants, many of whom are from Mexico.

As a result, many Americans see this move to accept Mexican currency as being un-American, and overtly welcoming to a group they believe shouldn’t be here in the first place.

A few have gone as far as to send death threats and other hate mail to the pizza chain, as reported by CNN.

There are two somewhat ironic roots from which all of the angst over immigration has come. The first is the economic condition of Mexico and other Central American countries.

There aren’t many jobs, and the ones that do exist pay very little. Very, very little.

Think about it: Why would anyone want to leave his or her family and risk being killed, often at a cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars? This is what many go through to come to America, because they simply have no alternative.

Because of this, even a minimum wage job in the States is worth the risk and cost of being smuggled across the border, often packed into semi trailers and treated like animals.

Normally, Americans wouldn’t really be bothered by an influx of immigrants. That brings us to root cause number two: The American economy isn’t doing that well either.

I don’t presume to know exactly why, but the fact of the matter is that many American workers have already lost their jobs, and many more fear that same fate.

Because of this, many jobless Americans, who are searching for someone to direct their frustration at (and you really can’t blame them, can you?), feel cheated by their government for not enforcing its immigration laws, their employers for hiring illegal immigrants or outsourcing entire factories, or both.

As a result, they have much less tolerance for immigrants (and their respective ethnic communities) than they normally would.

Pizza Patrón, while it may or may not be using this as a stunt for attention, is simply making good business decisions.

The chain was founded by a Hispanic entrepreneur, and part of its mission continues to be “to serve the Hispanic community,” according to its Web site. Pizza Patrón spokesman Andy Gamm said that fully 60 percent of the chain’s customers are Hispanic.

It makes good business sense to cater to your customers’ individual circumstances.

Accepting pesos is a good way to do that while getting a lot of publicity simultaneously through news coverage, according to Brad Williamson, a blogger with Small Business Marketing and Branding.

The promotion seems to have worked; payments in pesos have accounted for 10 percent of sales since it began, according to Pizza Patrón.

The threats and hate mail that have been directed at Pizza Patrón since the promotion began are irrational and uncalled for.

Taking into account the state of the U.S. economy, it’s certainly understandable that many Americans feel uncomfortable about the number of illegal immigrants in the country.

It’s also understandable that those same people would feel insulted by the fact that Mexican currency was being accepted at restaurants in Dallas or Denver (both cities have a Pizza Patrón), hundreds of miles from the border.

The fact is that Pizza Patrón is not making a political statement, not taking a stand against American workers, and not aiding illegal immigrants.

Pizza Patrón is an ordinary business working to make money by better serving its unique customer base. Besides that, their prices are unbelievable.

A 15-inch one topping pizza is only $4.99. There certainly isn’t anything un-American about that.

Send comments to Brendan Keep at [email protected]