Matt Yglesias responds to a passage from “Bad Tip” Tyler Cowen’s* brief of his new book An Economist Gets Lunch. Yglesias gets all wonky in the response so I’ll just cut to the chase in human talk. Cowen writes:
I also start to worry if many women in a restaurant are beautiful in a trendy or stylish way. The point is not that beautiful women have bad taste in food. Instead, the problem is that they will attract a lot of men to the restaurant, whether or not the place serves excellent food. And that allows the restaurant to cut back on the quality of the food.
But the trendiness of the restaurant does have to be supported by some higher level of quality of the food or else these trend-setting women would seemingly move on to another restaurant hotspot, at least by Cowen’s logic. Otherwise he’s merely saying that he hedges the quality of the food in trendy restaurants.
Initially, I rebelled against Cowen’s implication that men have unrefined palates or that they just don’t care about food quality. I don’t want to make some sort of gender issue out of it, but his argument implies that these trend-seeking women’s palates are unrefined as well. If they’re flocking to the restaurant just because of the trend-factor then the change in food quality is not dependent on the fact that the men are there just for the scenery. I think Cowen is getting a little too fancy in his analysis by taking it a degree or two too far.
I’d venture to argue that Twilight isn’t a good movie because it is the type of movie (and book series) that draws teen girls and young women. That doting boyfriends may go along to see the movies too is a mere correlation that has less predictive power than the fact that the material is watered down to the point that it draws in female viewers for superficial reasons.
On another note, I tend to hedge the quality of the food and the service in places where the waitstaff – not the patrons – are made up of beautiful women. Granted, I’m thinking of Hooters and not of some swanky place in a city on the Coasts. Nothing worse than a waitress who thinks she’s hot shit – and knows it. Seinfeld, as usual, addressed this:
ELAINE: (to the waitress) Could we get a little more? (she doesn’t listen and walks away) Aghh… You know ever since this new owner took over, the service here is *really* slow.
JERRY: Yeah. Have you noticed anything else that’s different since the new management?
ELAINE: Mmm. They’re putting a little lemon in the tuna. I love that.
JERRY: Beside that. Look at the waitresses.
ELAINE: Yeah? (we see that all the waitresses have big breasts)
JERRY: What physical characteristic would you say is common to all of them?
JERRY: I mean look at this. Every waitress working here has the same proportions. Wouldn’t you say?
ELAINE: Yes, I would say.
JERRY: What’s going on here. How is that possible?
ELAINE: Do you think it’s a coincidence?
JERRY: No. I haven’t seen four women like this together outside of a Russ Meyer film.
(the waitress finally came with the coffee)
Cowen has replied to Yglesias here.
*Even though I’m a waiter myself, I don’t bristle at Cowen’s suggestion to not tip above 15% per se. Waitstaff are well payed for our work. But I do have to rag on Cowen a little bit because if I didn’t my co-workers would probably murder me. I work with people who think 20% if the baseline for crappy service.