before google and their staff perks, came microsoft and its free drinks

Quoted from Gates, by Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews, loc 3012-3032:

Slaving over computers and shouting about them can be thirsty work. Gates eventually instructed Miriam Lubow to keep Microsoft supplied with Coca-Cola. When a six-pack disappeared inside of five minutes, Bill explained that he was thinking more in terms of a case. “I had no idea that a company would give employees free drinks,” Lubow said, but she began ordering directly from Coca-Cola anyway. Thus was instituted Microsoft’s free Coke policy, a cornerstone of corporate culture that evolved over the years to include virtually any soft drink short of labor-intensive espresso. Instead of running out of the office or hunting up change for vending machines, employees with a powerful thirst could hit the fridge with no more than a minor derailment of their train of thought. Soft-drink consumption kept escalating, but ironically, Miriam Lubow herself was unable to take advantage of the policy. After developing a mysterious skin rash, she received medical orders to cease her Coke-a-day habit.

This policy evolved over time, eventually becoming something that resembled the staff perks for which Google are so renowned, but with a harder utilitarian edge. From Gates, loc 7253:

Hard-working adolescents: Although they eventually gained an eclectic collection of artwork, the buildings were sleek, no-nonsense steel and glass with industrial carpeting and subdued lighting. The walls lacked clocks, a disincentive to the timecard mentality. The long narrow hallways were flanked by offices on both sides, with easily accessible copy-and-supply rooms, plus canteens stocked with what had by now become a full range of free soft drinks, from sparkling water to natural fruit juices, one cooler from the Pepsi distributor, the other from Coke. Candy and snacks were available cheap. To discourage unproductive loitering, the canteens had room to stand and read the bulletin board but nowhere to sit.

As buildings were added—by the time of the move into the first four, work was already underway on building five—new cafeterias sprang up dispensing low-cost fare from around the Marriott institutional food globe—Mexican, Thai, Italian, vegetarian, hardcore carnivore. No need to waste valuable time going off campus for lunch: Everything you need is right on campus—except, often, a place to sit. As one former employee pointed out, “I don’t know if this is by design, but the seating areas are real small. So you go in and you buy your food and there’s nowhere to sit. So where do you go? You’re not going to put the food back; you paid for it. You go back to your office.”

About Mark