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. Tracey says:

    Good Lord, why does everything have to be about race… can spin race on anything. If a coffee shop offers only Dark Roast….is that racial? I hate Americans…so ignorant! Grow up HUMANS!!!!

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  2. C says:

    Hard to call it racial discrimination — you won’t be seeing ethnically white names like Dragomir, Declan, Marian, Sergei, Carmine, or Sven up there either.

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  3. Ingu K says:

    I think everybody’s concentrating more on the black or white aspect and are forgetting out the other people. I mean this could be one of the reasons why other cultures from the anglophone culture conform their names to feel like they are accepted. Why not Juan? Why not Francois? Why not Min? But just with this single photo, I’d say that it’s kinda harsh to call racism since the owner doesn’t seem to have written Xiao, Chan, Ruihan, Xinwei, Cui and Zhe instead of the names above.

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  4. says:

    The most popular first name in the world is Mohammad.
    The most popular last name in the world is Chang.

    If they offer free drinks to anyone named “Mohammad Chang” they’d be out of business.

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  5. Farah says:

    This is interesting. I would label it price discrimination, because who knows what their actual motivation is behind it. Obviously, this is a very small sample, so maybe I’m wrong, but if I was going to make conjecture about their pattern, I’d say they’re actually discriminating based on names unique to American culture. Like someone else said before, you don’t see Declan, Sven, Magnus, or whatever on here and those are all “white” names. Its sort of like when I would go on vacation as a kid and want one of those tacky keychains with my name on it, but no one makes one that says “Farah” on it. Ultimately I’m better off because I don’t have a collection of lame keychains. But at the time it did make me quite aware that I was not in the mainstream.

    I also wonder in what neighborhood is this salon located? If its in a predominantly Yuppie or WASP area, maybe this makes sense for them as DC remains highly segregated in most areas. OR maybe the opposite is true – maybe they’re located in an area in which most of the potential clientele wouldn’t be able to utilize this, so they can look like they’re providing a discount when they’re actually not losing much revenue from it.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    If you took a draw from the distribution of names in the U.S., wouldn’t they most likely be relatively unassociated with African Americans?

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  7. LD says:

    Of course, should they list only “black” names you can bet the NAACP would be all over them like white on rice (ahem) for racism

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    • James says:

      I wonder, though. If the NAACP or whoever sued them because of a lack of “black” names, couldn’t they counter-sue on the grounds that choosing to give your kids “black” names is blatant racism?

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  8. Joules says:

    So… I live in Houston, not sure if that changes anything.

    All the Amandas I’ve ever met are black. Half the Davids are and, in fact, I haven’t met a white David in over five years. I don’t know any Peters or Andrews of any race and if Katie is used as a nickname, it’s about half and half in my book.

    Names are regional, get used to it.

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