Privilege Pricing and Equity Charge

When the University of Washington Republicans held a “bake sale” in 2019 to make a political point, it didn’t go well.

The Friday bake sale drew an angry crowd and the presence of University of Washington police to try and keep things calm.

One student was removed by UW police after she knocked over cookies being sold.

The message was that affirmative action resulted in discrimination, and the president of UW condemned the demonstration.

“The so-called ‘affirmative action’ bake sale the UW College Republicans are hosting today has no place in such a debate.”

It wasn’t that the message wasn’t political and protected by the First Amendment, but that it “mocked” marginalized students and offended them. While proclaiming herself a believer in free speech, this, President Ana Mari Cauce stated, crossed the line.

“It is the crudity, offensiveness and sheer outrageousness of the message that creates a megaphone that amplifies it.”

But times change, sometimes with surprising speed these days, and with it the “sheer outrageousness” of the message.

Organizers for a Seattle gay pride event say they’re charging white people a “reparations fee” to attend. They have the support of Seattle City Council president and mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez and the Seattle Human Rights Commission.

TAKING B(L)ACK PRIDE organizers say all are welcome to attend. However, “white allies and accomplices” must pay the reparations fee. It will be charged on a sliding scale of $10 to $50 depending on one’s ability to pay. The event location is Jimi Hendrix Park, owned by the city of Seattle. This raises questions about the legality of a reparations fee.

Of course, Seattle Municipal Code prohibits racial discrimination, such that charging a fee only to white people, “allies and accomplices,” to attend an event at a public park would seem to be about as clear a violation as possible. But this is Seattle.

Seattle Human Rights Commission shared its response on Twitter, claiming that Take B(l)ack Pride ‘does not in fact violate any of your human rights as states in the UN Declaration of Human Rights’. The letter made no mention of local, state and federal laws that the event may have breached.

It continued: ‘Furthermore, we would urge you to examine the very real social dynamics and ramifications of this issue.

Apparently, the Municipal Code has been supplanted by the UN Declaration of Human Rights and possibly the Geneva Convention.

Critics question whether race-based admissions fees are appropriate. Seattle Municipal Code clearly prohibits racial discrimination. But organizers have pushed back, calling criticism of their admissions structure “casual violence.”

The critics here were the organizers of Capital Hill Pride, Charlette LeFevre and Philip Lipson, who took issue with turning Gay Pride into a racially segregated event. What that has to do with “casual violence” remains a mystery to anyone for whom words have any meaning.

Seattle City Council president and mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez also jumped into the fray.

Gonzalez supports a ban on gay police officers at a pride event. But question the reparations fee, and you’ve gone too far. So offended by LeFevre and Lipson, Gonazlez canceled her scheduled appearance at Capitol Hill Pride.

Whether it’s a cookie or attendance, is there any difference when the price is based on one’s race? What if it’s a separate charge, a “reparations tax,” if you will?

Located in southwest Minneapolis, Broders Pasta Bar is a local gem. It has a great outdoor patio and the best Italian cuisine in the Twin Cities. We had not eaten there since the pandemic began.

My wife nodded and started to make a reservation on her phone. Then her jaw dropped.

“You’re not going to like this,” she said.

Did they go vegan with the puttanesca? Not quite.

On its website, Broders’ has a notice to customers notifying them of a new 15 percent “benefits and equity” charge they’ve instituted. They justify the charge, first, by explaining that “many states have allowed reduced minimum wages for service staff in the form of a tip credit.”

The restaurant’s second justification is that many tippers are racist and sexist, according to uncited research.

“Studies have also shown that there is inequity and built-in bias in the way consumers give tips,” the statement reads. “In general, Black or Brown servers receive less tips than Caucasian servers. There is gender bias as well.”

Whether that’s true, and there are studies that show otherwise, there is nothing to prevent the restaurant from paying its servers better. But they chose, instead, to shift the blame to their “racist and sexist” patrons.

“In the wake of racial injustice protests and the closures due to Covid, now is the time for Broders’ to reimagine its economics and provide fair pay across the company,” the statement reads. “Our Benefits & Equity Charge is applied entirely to employee compensation. This supplement helps us to set a $16 minimum hourly wage for customer facing employees, $18 minimum hourly wage for kitchen employees… Altogether this allows everyone in our company to earn a real living wage. The 15% Benefits & Equity Charge is not a gratuity.”

The economics of the “fixed pie” theory aside, the political point made by the UW college Republicans, that was so crude and offensive that the self-proclaimed free speech believer president found it too outrageous to permit, has now manifested on the side of social justice, wrapped up in new rhetoric of equity. And anyone who objects to the woke doing the same thing as the unwoke is engaged in the “casual violence” of disagreement with the new acceptable racism rather than the old evil racism.

Is it wrong to charge differently by race or gender? Is it wrong to impose an “equity fee” in reparations of supposed racist and sexist customers? Apparently, the only distinguishing factor is who is doing the charging and whether the same conduct can be tied up in the correct color bow.

15 thoughts on “Privilege Pricing and Equity Charge

  1. rxc

    This was the same logic that was used in France when they eliminated tipping. Now, you only leave the “small change”, if you want. So, I would think that if I went to this restaurant, I would not leave any tip, unless the service was “exceptional”. No more gratuities. The restaurant has explained its logic, and I would explain mine, as well.

    1. James Holden

      I don’t think you would need to explain yourself. I think that’s how they intended it. I’ve been hearing about restaurants doing this sort of thing for years and they often specifically tell customers that there is no need to tip.

      1. SHG Post author

        You must “hear” about very different restaurants than the ones I go to, where no one has ever specifically told me there’s no need to tip.

    2. SHG Post author

      Building the cost of running a restaurant into the price, and eliminating tipping with it, at least presents an honest approach even if it eliminates the incentive for servers to do their job well. Personally, I like to tip, as I prefer good service and believe in the incentive system.

      1. KP

        It works perfectly well in countries where tipping is not normal. Its up to the owner to make incentives that work, if the service is less than you wish, you don’t go back.

        The menu is taped to the front window so you can window-shop as you walk along. The prices you see are what you pay, they include the sales tax.

        Has anyone studied the tips that different races leave? There’s probably racial bias in that too, maybe the restaurant needs to charge a higher tax on some races for equity’s sake. I figure tipping just makes America more complicated than it needs to be.

        1. Skink

          You don’t now and likely never will know how poorly you process information and come to conclusions.

          1. Hunting Guy

            You may want to look up “ Ethnic Differences in Tipping” by Michael Lynn, a professor at Cornell University. Published in The Journal of Applied Psychology.

            According to the study, “ The results indicate that Asians tip less than do Whites in comparisons across (but not within) restaurants and that Blacks tip less than do Whites in comparisons both across and within restaurants.“

    3. delurking

      You are making the restaurant action more complicated than it is. They raised prices 15%. They put a political statement on their website. The political statement is not internally consistent (the “tippers are racist” justification contradicts “is not a gratuity”), but who cares? How many are?

      I’d be annoyed to have to multiply all the menu prices by 1.15 in my head to figure out what things cost. Beyond that, I won’t be joining the cancel culture bandwagon. I’m sure there are lots of restaurants at which I eat where I don’t agree with the owner on some things (e.g., Chick Fil A).

  2. Guitardave

    Now you can get food poisoning and mind poisoning in one place.
    Definitely worth the extra charge.

  3. Quinn Martindale

    The Seattle Human Rights Commission is an independent advisory entity which is separate form the Seattle Office of Civil Rights which is the city department responsible for enforcing municipal anti-discrimination law, which may hep explain their bizarre response.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s the best excuse you can come up with for what’s happening here? My god, all is lost.

  4. Rengit

    A fine example of “who/whom” in action. If a conservative/libertarian/right-winger, especially one who is a member of a disfavored group, puts forth discriminatory pricing as a criticism of affirmative action, then it’s crude, outrageous, opportunistic, bad faith, etc. “This is not what we mean by equity, and it’s offensive to suggest it is.”

    If someone well left-of center, especially a member of a favored group puts forth discriminatory pricing in earnest, then it is celebrated as a bold and courageous step, but of course only the very beginning, in reparations and following the logic of equity to its appropriate conclusion. It’s also apparently “casual violence” to not celebrate it.

  5. Curtis

    You need to be very careful mocking extremists. As Poe’s laws states, your satire becomes their instruction manual.

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