Espresso and Sexism

We pay more for dry cleaning and haircuts, still earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men—and now, outrage of outrages, it turns out women get bilked on the service end when it comes to coffee, too.

According to a piece in Slate, a study by economist Caitlin Knowles Myers found that men ordering coffee get their java 20 seconds earlier than women, at least in Boston-area coffee shops. This delay didn’t seem to have anything to do with how complicated the drink order was: Men ordering Venti half-caf gingerbread lattes with soy and sugar-free syrup and whipped cream stirred in still got their drinks faster than women ordering the same.

The gap in service time was larger when the staff was all male, and “almost vanished when the servers were all-female.” Not only that, but women deemed unattractive were served more slowly than the beautiful people.

The Slate columnist, Tim Harford, is baffled by the study results because they seem to go against an economic imperative: that a “business that deliberately offers shoddy service or uncompetitive prices to some customers, or that turns down smart minority applicants in favor of less-qualified white male applicants, is throwing money away,” and thus is bound to go under eventually. In other words, the market should correct discrimination. But in this case, it doesn’t.

Economic correctives or no, my theory as to why men get their coffee faster when served by other men is that males are competitive about everything. Some bizarre mind game no doubt occurs here, wherein the man ordering thinks, “I wonder how fast I’ll get my coffee,” while the man making the drink thinks, “I’ll show him just how fast I can make this coffee.”

Well, we women can play our own games, buddy. Next time my coffee takes too long, Mr. Barista can kiss 23 cents of his tip goodbye. Take that, free market!

But, wait: Am I then just playing into the stereotype that women don’t tip well?

I need more coffee before I can think this through.

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