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?  


Jack R

I visited a bar in Denver that has a promotion like this. Everyday they have 3 names that drink free for the day (I think just rail drinks at least). However, the names are determined by a drawing. People write their name and submit it and the bar draws three everyday. Perhaps this hair place does the same.

Bch

I am physically sickened by this article. This is race-baiting nonsense. This is NOT a “hair cutting joint”, it is a tanning salon called Fit to be Tan! Not only did the author not check on an easily checkable fact, but the writer intentionally lied just to get people worked up with a meaningless discussion on race. . Obviously a tanning salon is, and should, be allowed to focus their specials on “white” names without being considered racist.

Troy

I am black and I know black people with every name on that list. Grow up.

Matt

Which proves nothing. The wording above was "skew pretty white," not "are exclusively white".

bob

So what's the problem then?

Barman

Even if it's a racial discrimination, I don't feel there is anything wrong with it. I mean 'Freedom from Discrimination' by the state is as important as the 'Freedom of Discrimination' and we will do better to make a distinction between the state and the private actors in the economy. So if a saloon discriminates against whites, so be it.
Regarding the issue of outlawing tips, I don't think I can support that. If whites earn more than black, that will bring more whites to a waiter's job eventually improving blacks' job opportunity in other sectors. Additionally, if the accusation is true, then restaurant owners will be more inclined to hire whites. You can't force equality by legislation, somewhere you have to accept some facts.

Enter your name...

The restaurant doesn't get more money when the tips are higher. Tips go to the employees, not the restaurants.

Geoff

Technically, a restaurant does get more money when the tips are higher. If the value of a waiter's tips don't bring his compensation up to minimum wage then the restaurant has to cover the difference. So the restaurant keeps more profit when tips cover enough of the waiter's salary to protect the restaurant from minimum wage.

Steve

Last time I checked, a name is not a race. Stop racially charging everything. This business did not give people their names. They're trying to promote in a unique way.

Plus, it's not hard to imagine that there are differences in hair texture and styling between white and black people. Who owns the joint? What kind of experience do they have with styling hair? Maybe they're advertising to their strengths and away from their weaknesses.

Alvaro

Even if you could, why would you want to call racism on this? You would just ruin the party to those who would have gotten the discount. (They're not going to halve their prices just like that)

And maybe, I dont know... they have a right to discriminate? Seeing how it's their business and all....

MRB

My name is Manzell. By my math, there are less then 20 of us nationwide. The odds of us getting a eber getting a discount are essentially nil. By that standard - people with "normal" names being assured of EVENTUALLY getting a discount, but people with essentially unique names have no chance of getting a discount, this is a discriminatory practice.

Also, it's probably bad business. If my name is Michael, John, William, Elizabeth, Mary, Sandra, etc - there is no chance I'm booking an appointment here if I walk by the sign when I can wait and get a discount. But next week, will I even remember, or go back to my regular spot?

Nil

Almost all hair-cutting joints tend to specialize by race. Barbershops and salons are possibly even more self segregating than churches.

Whomever wrote this sign is probably also wasting space by advertising 3 female & 3 male names. The majority of hair salons outside of the big chains also tend to specialize by sex nearly as much as race/ethnicity and it would be rare to see a shop with a clientele with anything close to a 50/50 sex ratio.

bob

And that just reflects the real differences in hair between sex/race. I guess biology is racist then?

sam

the color of your skin has no correlation with your hair type/texture. You can be white with naturally course, curly hair (ie. jewfros) and you can be black with naturally straight hair (the Oguejiofo Annu people). Same with gender. Male or female, you can have any type of hair... look, I know this may be hard to believe, but race and gender are societal constructs my friend.

Reggie

It's also a hair place. They likely discriminate racially anyway...

CarlT

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 . . .?

Read more...

James

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.

RajivV

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.

CarlT

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 . . .?

Read more...

Bunny

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.

Riley

The question is not of intent but effect.

@mowords

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.

Ben Music

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!

Zoe

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.

mikemenn

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.

Tracey

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

C

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.

Ingu K

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.

ReparateMe.com

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.