Price Discrimination? Racial Discrimination?

From a reader named Philip Mulder comes this photograph:

Philip says this is a hair-cutting joint in Washington, D.C. As you can see, it offers a 50% discount if your name is — in this case — Amanda, Rachel, Katie, Peter, Andrew, or David. I don’t have my master database of black-white names handy (hey, it’s summer), but I’m pretty sure that at least five out of those six skew pretty white. So, a couple of questions:

+ What names do you think will be featured the following week?

+ Could this price-discriminating advertisement in fact be construed as racial discrimination? If there’s a plausible argument to be made that tipping should be outlawed because blacks systematically earn less than whites, might some legal wizard — armed with black-white names data — see this sign as a discriminatory discount?  

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  1. CarlT says:

    1. It depends what neighborhood the shop is in. It is a great gimmick to get people’s attention and draw them into the shop. Maybe they rotate names of long time customers to give them a break for patronage and to attract those who pass by.

    2. Aren’t naming conventions also based on socioeconomic backgrounds? Are these the names of “wealthy” people?

    2. Couldn’t everything be construed as discrimination? Are toll roads and HOT lanes are discriminatory against people who don’t have expense accounts or own their own business (no deduction for taxes). Is the DC metro discriminatory because it costs more than riding he bus?

    3. This isn’t 1950 America. The only races aren’t black and white. Many Filipinos, Latinos and Jews have the name David, for example. There are plenty of people born in the US with varied ethnic backgrounds that have primarily English names. Have you ever met an Asian named David, Peter, Amanda . . .?

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    • James says:

      And what exactly is an English name, anyway? David & Peter aren’t. David comes from the Hebrew tradition (i.e. King David of the Bible), Peter perhaps from Latin? I’ve yet to meet anyone with good traditional English names like Ælfweard, Æthelred, or Eadwulf.

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  2. RajivV says:

    I think this tactic will backfire. If you’re not one of these selected names (whether you are black, white, or blue), you feel you’re being ripped off. By putting up relatively common names, my guess is that the Jacks and Jennifers walking by will decide to wait until their name comes up instead of getting a hair cut right then.

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  3. CarlT says:

    1. It depends what neighborhood the shop is in. It is a great gimmick to get people’s attention and draw them into the shop. Maybe they rotate names of long time customers to give them a break for patronage and to attract those who pass by.

    2. Aren’t naming conventions also based on socioeconomic backgrounds? Are these the names of “wealthy” people?

    3. Couldn’t everything be construed as discrimination? Are toll roads and HOT lanes are discriminatory against people who don’t have expense accounts or own their own business (no deduction for taxes). Is the DC metro discriminatory because it costs more than riding he bus?

    4. This isn’t 1950 America. The only races aren’t black and white. Many Filipinos, Latinos and Jews have the name David, for example. There are plenty of people born in the US with varied ethnic backgrounds that have primarily English names. Have you ever met an Asian named David, Peter, Amanda . . .?

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  4. Bunny says:

    How is this discriminative?
    They might have intentionally chosen names that are relatively common or might be names of their favorite actors, singers, historical figues, etc.

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  5. @mowords says:

    It could well be discrimination, especially if other names are not used in future weeks.
    The owner of the salon is likely to use names that he knows (unless he’s set up some elaborate randomiser from the phone book). This means some names are highly unlikely to come up if they associated with groups who are culturally different to the owner.

    As a marketing ploy it’s pretty good because people with the stated names will feel compelled to grab the discount while it’s going.

    Certainly not the worst piece of discrimination that non-whites will face though.

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  6. Ben Music says:

    Sometimes I hate that our society has come to this.

    When I was I kid I rarely found my (somewhat common) name among the little plastic license plates kids could get for their bikes. Little did I know that I was being discriminated against!

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  7. Zoe says:

    Not that I am supporting this practice, but a quick google search leads me to believe that this is a tanning salon. That kind of changes things a bit. Again, not saying what the business is doing is right, but the needs of certain clients might factor in.

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  8. mikemenn says:

    Racism will go away when we stop talking about it and looking for it in every little thing.

    Discussing name issues in your book is one thing.

    This kind of “racism” you’re looking for in this sign is the same thing in my mind as “being offended” by some such thing or another…both are a sign of immaturity.

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