Friday, November 30, 2007

Do Women Wait Longer Than Men?

At first I thought it was preposterous. The article from was entitled, "Waiting for Good Joe." Tim Harford's premise is that women are shabbily treated when they go to coffee shops like Starbucks.

I thought to myself, "What in the world is this guy talking about?" I spent all last summer in a Starbucks 6 days a week banging out articles on my laptop while fermenting in Starbucks. I never saw any women being mistreated or handled like a second class customer. In fact, I would go out of my way to give a woman my place or demonstrate any sign of respect and kindness to a woman waiting in line for her java.

Here's what the Slate article puts forth:

American economist Caitlin Knowles Myers, with her students as research assistants, staked out eight coffee shops in the Boston area and watched how long it took men and women to be served. Her conclusion: "Men get their coffee 20 seconds earlier than do women."

Since I am not a woman, I am not sure whether an extra 20 second wait constitutes discrimination or just complaining. If I consistently had to wait an extra 20 seconds because I a man, I might get frustrated. Would I launch a study to figure out why this is taking place? No! I'd complain to the management, call Starbucks corporate and voice my displeasure. Then, to shut me up, they would give me a year's worth of drinks and everyone would be happy.

That's a guy. But for twenty seconds? What's twenty seconds?

One skeptic surmises that women have to wait longer because women order froufrou drinks. The researchers on this study at Middlebury College in the Boston area, report that men order simpler drinks. Since women order more fancy drinks, they are forced to wait longer.

The study debunked this proposition: The delays facing women were larger when the coffee shop staff was all-male and almost vanished when the servers were all-female. Hmmmm! Was it the longer wait due to a male contempt for women or was the all male staff slowing down the pace just for the opportunity to flirt with female customers.

As the study was done in Boston, a Yankee fan's "favorite" town, I looked for the first chance I got to slam Bean Town. I posted a comment on the blog saying, "Guys in California and New York would never treat women like that. Perhaps men in Boston just don't know how to give preference to the fairer sex. That goes for the baristas and customers. But then I concluded I was just being mean and still disgruntled about the Red Sox 3-1 comeback against the Yankees in '04. Darn that Schilling! So I backed off my anti-Boston bias.

I proudly said to myself, "Though I am not a native Californian, I know this would not happen in LA."

So I sauntered into Starbucks at the Glen Center. I was all set for a quick in-and-out. Two women were ahead of me. One ordered a Non-Fat Latte and the other a Carmel Something or Other. I ordered a Grande Green Tea Latte . . . my signature drink. The barista was taking her time prepping the drinks. You will notice I said "Her time."

Perhaps she was new on the job. However . . . the two women and I waited a long time for our orders to filled. It was longer than twenty seconds. The women had a look of exasperation on their faces as they glanced at me. I smiled back knowingly. Their drinks came up on the bar and the two women left. When my Green Tea Soy Latte was up on the bar, the barista apologized to me-not to the women-for taking so long. Then she hands me a card entitling me-a man-to a complimentary Starbucks drink the next time I walk into the store. She didn't offer any complimentary drinks to the women and they waited as long as I did. So maybe there is something to this discrimination in coffee shops against women.

However, the so-called discrimination was aimed at two women by a female barista. So economic students of Middlebury College, you need to come to LA and research the impact of females waiting on other females to determine if females discriminate against each other and favor men.

So now I am on the lookout when I go into a coffee shop. The next time a similar incidents happens when women appear to be mistreated, I will not launch a study but I will open my mouth and draw attention to the fact an extra twenty seconds wait for any gender is intolerable. After all, we all need to get out of this coffee shop and drive to our jobs where we often wait on people all day or cause people to wait on us . . . sometimes even longer than twenty seconds.

Share your comments. I'll be waiting for you . . . but for only so long.

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