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Beauty and the Labor Market - Introduction

Just after I graduated college, I worked in this popular sports bar in Ann Arbor. Believe it or not, I was the 'cook'. I made tons of fries, wings, burgers, and my specialty, the Philly chicken cheese-steak. In case you did not know, I am from Philly. Of course, nothing was healthy but we'll leave that discussion for another day. Today I was pondering the topic of discrimination, specifically when it comes to obesity. It got me thinking back to that bar in Ann Arbor. The owner and managers used to have a meeting after interviewing waitresses (we had no waiters) and decide on, what they called, their f@#kability rating. A high rating almost surely got them the job. A low rating and they had no chance. These guys were clearly pigs, and they slept with most of the waitresses (I slept with none, although not for a lack of trying), but that actually had little to do with the rating. You see, the thing is, the waitresses that scored well in the rating brought in lots of business, generated the most tips (of which I got a percent) and helped increase the bottom line for the bar.

Is this good business? Yes. Is it legal? Yes. Is it discrimination? Well, that depends on how one defines the term. For example, it's no accident that the girls from Victoria Secret all happen to have nice figures. Victoria Secret discriminates against people who do not have nice figures. They do it, of course, because more attractive women help them sell more bras and panties. The sports bar did it because more attractive women helped them sell more burgers and fries. Is there a difference? If so, it's more subtle than you might have initially thought?

So, what do you think? Is it ok for restaurants, say Hooters, to use physical features in their hiring practices? How about other worksites? In most states this is perfectly legal. What about weight, should firms use that as a guide for who to hire, or how much to pay them? Let me know what you think. Later this week I'll log on and give you my two cents. I just might surprise you.

2 Responses to “Beauty and the Labor Market - Introduction”

  1. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    As far as I’m concerned they can hire whoever they want and however they want. And as far as I’m concerned, I do not have to patronize their restaurants, their clothing stores, or their bars. Or to work in them. And if I can generate negative publicity, all the better.

    A philly chicken cheesesteak doesn’t sound “unhealthy” in and of itself. What’s wrong with chicken and cheese and bread?

  2. Obesity Says:

    I searched for \’Obesity Rate In America\’ at google and found this your post (\’Beauty and the Labor Market - Introduction\’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read.

The Fattening of America
How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It
by Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman

Copyright © 2008 Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman