07 August 2014

discrimination abounds

I have two thoughts here
1) I'm not sure this is something that "should" require legal sanction and action to prevent someone from doing it. I can see an argument against it, but price discrimination doesn't necessarily raise a moral issue in a competitive business like a restaurant. If some place I feel is overcharging me because I'm not of their faith (or any faith in my case), I would stop going there as I would not feel welcomed and suitably entertained in my choice of dining to keep going. They must have great pie or BBQ pork or something if I felt compelled to complain.
I might have the same objection if they're offering a senior or military discount and the place is mostly frequented by seniors or active military personnel. Which is to say, it's not that likely to encourage a legal reaction versus a market response to abandon it in search of other options.
2) It's a terrible business practice anyway. Which is why I don't know that it should require legal sanctions.
People may complain if they aren't seen praying or could lie and claim they were to get a discount, it isn't really something the employees is necessarily trained to recognize (what routine counts here: out loud, bowed heads, clasped hands, etc, how do they tell the difference between someone who is "faking", or someone taking a nap in front of their soup or salad, and someone "actively" praying), and I'm not entirely sure it's a strong element of religious faiths to pray ostentatiously and "publicly" anyway (in a religious setting yes, a meal seems more like a maybe with different rules when at a restaurant versus at a home). So it may counter various social conventions of other Christians, much less other faiths or the lack thereof to suggest this as a method of providing a discount.
Plus, people may wonder, if you are able to give a 15% discount on what many local Christians may assume is virtually every meal, then that leaves the question of why the prices were that high that the diner can afford to surrender a 15% revenue reduction. Or whether that's now built into the prices charged, in the same way that the "free" chips or "free drink refills" at a Mexican place are built in the price of the burrito.

The economic reaction I have is to wonder how long this diner could stay open while using this practice, or how much they were ripping off their customers before instituting it. Meanwhile, the discrimination reaction I have is pretty minimal. Okay it's a form of price discrimination. Are they refusing to hire atheists? Are they refusing to serve atheists as customers? What of the other faiths besides Christianity? Did Buddhists get a discount for meditating in front of the salad? These are the mechanical questions that occur to me well before arriving at some idea that this is awful and should be legally stopped. It is dumb. People do dumb things all the time. I don't worry about people doing dumb things that aren't necessarily exclusionary. I worry about people doing dumb things that are necessarily exclusionary (like refusing to vote for atheist candidates, or not hiring job candidates, or refusing service entirely, refusing to allow children to date or marry atheists and so on). Yes this is a form of discrimination, but we have a long way to go yet before this is one of those front line battles. This is like bunting when a team is down to one of the last outs and needs a 3 run home run to win anyway. We're so far behind the eight-ball here that this is something barely visible on the radar as a fix.

More to the point, it seems like the reactions could be one of the following scenarios that this is ultimately counterproductive
1) Christians are annoyed by the threat of a lawsuit and reverse boycott, encouraging the practice to continue elsewhere
2) The business was aware of #1 and did it on purpose to attract local attention on the theory that any news is good news
3) Atheists portrayed themselves as aggrieved and petty (whether or not the grievance was legitimate, the visibility of the situation did them/us little favor in public perception). This was a pretty small form of discriminatory behavior. 
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