PORTLAND, Ore. -- Andre Jehan, founder of the 26-restaurant Pizza Schmizza chain based here, is paying and feeding some local homeless men to advertise his business.
According to an Associated Press report, in trade for holding a sign that read "Pizza Schmizza paid me to hold this sign instead of asking for money," Jehan gave them a few dollars and fed them pizza and soda. The length of their shift was about 40 minutes, the report said.
Peter Schoeff, a 20-year-old homeless man, called the deal "a fair trade. We're career panhandlers, that's the only other way we can get money."
Jehan said the signs were meant to be humorous.
"People don't have to feel guilty, while still appreciating the person is homeless," said Jehan. "It's a gesture of kindness more than anything."
Gary Ruskin, director of Portland-based Commercial Alert, an advertising watchdog group, said using homeless people as billboards should at least yield them minimum wages for their work. Otherwise, he said, they're being exploited.
Jehan said the idea to feed and pay the homeless came from the guilt he felt passing them as they begged for money.
"I got tired of not being able to make eye contact with these people," he said. "I thought, 'What skills could they have?' Holding a sign was an obvious one."