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Oakland businesses offer election day specials for voters

on November 8, 2016

On his lunch break on election day, James Chen walked into Plank, the bowling alley, beer garden and arcade in Jack London Square in Oakland, and asked for a free game card worth $10. Chen showed the cashier his “I Voted” sticker.

Plank was one of a handful of Oakland businesses offering special election day discounts and deals in exchange for proof that customers voted. Among the others were First Impression Hair Design in downtown Oakland, which offered $10 haircuts, and KronnerBurger on Piedmont Avenue, which offered discounts on beer.

Chen, who works downtown, said he claimed his prize at Plank mostly because it was available. “It was a quick bus ride. I wanted to take advantage of a freebie that was offered if you voted,” he said. “It wasn’t my purpose for today though. It was a lunch break, I wanted to get out a little bit.”

He added that he would have voted regardless of the Plank’s deal, but “if it encourages people to vote, why not?”

Plank’s marketing coordinator, Pamela Escobar, said that its deal was meant more to reward those who voted, rather than to incentivize people who hadn’t planned on voting.

“We really want to be able to get them to come out here and know that we are acknowledging their efforts to take time out of their day—their workday or their school day—to come out and vote,” Escobar said.

She added that it was especially important to encourage fun at the end of what she called an “extremely difficult” voting season. “You’re battling with a lot of ethics back and forth, so let’s put a little fun spin to it, at the end of it,” she said. “Because I think we’re all on pins and needles as to what’s going to happen.”

In addition to Chen, two other customers had taken advantage of the deal as of 1:00 p.m. Escobar said she hoped more would join in later, as Plank tends to get more crowded in the evenings.

KronnerBurger on Piedmont Avenue decided to offer $1.50 off of Craftsman Brewing’s Pre-Prohibition American Lager with an “I Voted” Sticker because it wanted to work with the company. “They’re friends of ours,” manager Vincent Wheeler said. “We just decided we should do it today and have fun with it.”

In addition to the deal on beer, KronnerBurger was serving food from Tacos Oscar as part of its election day special menu.

Wheeler said that the deal was meant both to encourage people to vote and to bring in more customers. “We sort of think it should be a holiday anyway. So if you’re out, and you voted, and you want to come have a burger, we encourage you to come here.”

Just after KronnerBurger opened around 11:30am on election day, there were roughly half a dozen customers, some wearing “I Voted” stickers. Some ordered the special menu items, but no one had taken advantage of the beer either because they hadn’t heard about the deal or because they said it was too early to start drinking.

At First Impression Hair Design, owner Patricia Davis had a slightly different take on promoting voting in this election. She was offering haircuts for $10—instead of her usual $33 rate—only to millennials.

As a baby boomer and as a person of color, Davis said it was important for her to encourage younger generations to vote. “My ancestors before me had to go through a lot to be able to vote. And I don’t think anybody of any race should take that for granted, especially people of color.”

Davis started her deal two weeks ago and has seen about six people take advantage of it, fewer than she had hoped. But regardless, she said she still believes it can motivate young people to get out and vote. “I hope that, even if they didn’t come, they would say, ‘You know what, wow. She’s willing to give a $10 haircut, maybe it is that important.’”


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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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