i was talking with one of my sons about different types of business organizations. It reminded me of an odd situation I came across many years ago, so I thought I'd ask for opinions here.
PLEASE NOTE: my question is going to be about whether or not it is rude to discuss a neighborhood "hot topic". I don't want to discuss the "hot topic" itself here.
More than twenty-five years ago I worked for a non-profit employer in a very big city. I ended up living near our office in a small, relatively crime-free "safe neighborhood" surrounded by what I was told were high-crime areas. There were very few grocery stores inside that big city back then. (I think most of the inner city grocery stores had closed and moved out to the suburbs.) The grocery store in my "safe neighborhood" was a cooperative, owned by the people who shopped there. To be able to shop there at all, one had to purchase a membership, like a share of stock, and then when one moved away one could sell one's share back to the co-op board.
It sounded good to me. I figured that if it was a co-op, the prices would be low, but when I joined I found that instead, the grocery prices were quite high (compared to the other city I'd lived in before).
I asked at my office and was told by one of my coworkers (an older woman I trusted) that I needed to be very careful what I said in public about the co-op grocery. It was a very hot topic in my new neighborhood, she said, and if I said the wrong thing, I'd risk really angering certain people with strong feelings either way.
She explained that the neighborhood co-op grocery had a policy of having annual raises for each employee, with no upper limit to their salaries. She told me that there were some employees who had started as bag boys as teenagers in the 1950s and were still bag boys thirty years later, and were earning, she said, more than $50,000 (in 1980s dollars - way way more than I earned). She said employees tended to stay on there for many years because of the way their salaries could get so high. She told me this also meant that the co-op's expenses were high, and so the co-op charged high grocery prices to the members. She said there were strong feelings about this issue, and up until then, people who supported high salaries won the elections to the board of directors.
I was a young fellow in a new city. I didn't want to get into arguments, so I pretty much followed my coworker's advice for the year I worked there and did not discuss the co-op's salaries or prices at parties or in the office lunchroom.
Here's my etiquette question: would it have been rude for me to discuss the issue of the co-op's salaries & prices in the neighborhood?
I can see both sides. On the one hand, I think it is usually rude to be discussing other people's salaries - it's usually none of my business. How am I to know if a relative of a co-op employee is right there, liable to be offended if I complain about high salaries causing high prices? On the other hand, since I was an co-owner of the co-op, would that have made it not rude to discuss the employees' salaries?