Towards a More Honest Neo-Liberalism

I recently had dinner with a close friend at the Strada restaurant in Cheltenham Spa. The dinner was fine, as was the waitress. At the end of the meal, the waitress presented me with the bill and then directed my attention to a survey that with my participation would put her in a competition for an hour’s extra wages. She didn’t say whether that ‘extra hour’s wages’ would simply be for one hour or for an extra hour applied to each day of a week, a month — for the rest of her employment? Suppose we’re talking about the simplest option – which would mean at most an extra 20 pounds? In that case, wouldn’t it be more honest to have the following printed on the bill:

1. If you don’t fill out the indicated survey, the waitress stays at her lowly wages

2. If you fill out this survey, the waitress gets put in a competition to raise her wages.

3. If you don’t want to fill out this survey, and you don’t want waitress to stay at her lowly wages, add X to your tip.

If I were provided with these options, I would probably go for (3) and justify it in my own mind as a form of charity, regarding the waitress as engaged in Strada-vetted begging, which means that my regard for the waitress reflects my regard for the restaurant’s quality control. Others may judge the matter differently, and neo-liberalism invites us to explore these differences, which end up being direct judgements of the waitress and not the restaurant.

As for the restaurant, when speaking to my close friend I have referred to the survey as a ‘quiz’ because the restaurant ‘always already’ knows the right answers – at least from the standpoint of marketing. In any case, I doubt the results will be made publicly available for others to draw their own conclusions. Nevertheless, waiters and waitresses who fail to appear by name in this survey will become eligible for the chopping zone. I thus acted accordingly to keep one waitress employed – however lamely.


Categories: Rethinking The World

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