Three months after the New York Times crowned Berkeley’s Boichik Bagels the best in the land, a local financial planner who was trying to amuse his clients advised them against spending $3 for a Boichik bagel — an attempt at humor that came back to bite him, big time.
It started a brouhaha that continued on social media well after the initial salvo.
Things kicked off when Benjamin Packard, founder of Lula Financial in Oakland, sent a newsletter to his clients on June 10 with the subject line: “If you buy Boichik Bagels, you deserve to be poor,” it read. “The sons of bit*hes charge $3 per bagel. That’s without cream cheese or butter! Effective immediately, I am prohibiting all clients from visiting Boichik Bagels more than once per year.”
Two of Boichik’s regular customers forwarded the newsletter to owner Emily Winston, who told J. she slept on it before deciding to post it to her Instagram account. The comments defending her came fast and furious, many from fellow artisan food producers and others who berated Packard for dumping on a fellow small-business owner.
“Wait until they find out about our $9 hummus,” wrote Obour Foods. Josey the Baker weighed in: “Effective immediately I prohibit [Lula] clients from wasting any of their money on this type of bogus advice.”
Others were sarcastic: “Oh so *that’s* why I can’t afford to buy a house in Oakland! All those dang bagels! Got it.”
Boichik’s Instagram post had over 1,500 likes and 300 comments defending the bagel’s price tag, while some took to Lula Financial’s Yelp page, giving it one star.
Yelp put an “unusual activity alert” on the business after so many negative reviews in a short amount of time, along with a number of positive reviews — written by Packard’s clients and all referring to the bagel incident, suggesting that those who are upset can’t take a joke.
Packard declined to speak to J. but offered a statement instead:
“As a Jewish kid from the East Bay, I’ll be the first to admit that Boichik makes a delicious bagel. I also have mad respect for any other small business who brings much needed jobs to our community. I use humour to make financial planning more accessible to my clients. The post was meant as a joke and I never meant to offend a fellow small business owner. Especially one who is sharing a tasty piece of my culture with the world!”
Packard went on to explain that frugality is a core concept he talks about with young families saving to buy their first home in the Bay Area’s crazy market, concluding, “This was just a friendly (and funny) reminder to be conscientious about their spending.”
But Winston and her camp found it neither friendly nor funny. The fact that her bagels are expensive isn’t news to her; she’s certainly heard that critique before.
“I’ve always been really into food, it was a big piece of our life in my family growing up,” she told J. “People shouldn’t be shamed for making their own personal decisions about how they spend their money, whether it be on their stamp collections or for a Tesla. If someone is happy eating Costco bagels, more power to them.”