Sunday, September 24, 2006

Racial profiling at the California Pizza Kitchen

A recent lunch at the popular California Pizza Kitchen chain in the tony Brentwood section of LA (made famous by OJ & Nicole) has left us with a distinctly unpleasant aftertaste. It wasn't the pizza, but a survey that came with the check.

The survey claims to rate "customer satisfaction." It actually rates the customers.

When the waiter handed us that check, he told us we'd get a free appetizer on our next visit if we took a survey on a website listed on the receipt. We're always up for a free lettuce wrap, so we checked it out when we returned to the Tabloid Baby office. The survey covers a dozen web pages. Most of the items are fairly innocuous, rating things like ambiance, the server’s menu knowledge, accuracy of the order, speed of service and wait time.

But the survey takes bizarre twist on the tenth webpage, where the questions include:

What is your gender?
What category best describes your age group?
What category best describes your annual household income?
What category best describes your ethnicity?
What is your home zip code?

Wait a second: What category best describes your ethnicity?

We’re allowed to select one:
- Caucasian
- African American
- Hispanic or Latino
- Asian/Pacific Islander
- Some Other Ethnicity
- Prefer Not to Answer

So here’s our own survey question: Why does the California Pizza Kitchen need to know our race?

Are the survey answers weighted to take into account that African Americans may complain more, that Hispanics are more choosy because they’re used to working on the other side of the kitchen doors, or that Caucasians should be taken more seriously?

Or are they worried that the selections on their menu might have too much appeal to an undesireable ethnic group, and that if they don’t watch out they’ll turn into a Red Lobster?

Those questions make sense when you add in CPK's questions about annual household incomes and zip codes.

The CPK survey ends with a six-number validation code that must be given in order to get the free appetizer.

That’s another clue. As a test, we took the survey twice, giving different answers both times.

Both times, the validation code was different. Is that a code to the staff when we return for our free appetizer? Do the code numbers tell them whether the customer complained last time? Whether the customer should be white or not?

Paranoid? Put it this way: We don’t trust anyone who puts pineapple on pizzas.


Anonymous said...

i can't tell if this is a joke or if you're really that dim. every company wants as much info about their customers as they can get so they can allocate their advertising dollars appropriately, and also so they can design their marketing strategies accordingly. for example, if they discover their hispanic base is growing - they'll start to consider advertising with spanish speaking media. companies spend a lot of money on these things for one reason and one reason only - they hope to make even more money with the information.

i kinda wonder if your brain has been permanently warped by the career you've chosen. your suspicion in this case makes so little sense that it makes me question all of your "ah ha" conclusions. that's not a good thing. you obviously already think you don't need to be bothered with mainstream journalism standards before you run with a story. at a minimum that means your instincts better be spot on at all times.

in this case - think about your theory. you "suspect" they need a survey to figure out which of their customers are black? so what - the next time a black person (who just happened to have filled out a survey) comes in - the minimum wage server (who may be black themselves) will see a note on their screen "warning - this customer is black. treat them badly"? yeah - you're really on to something here, burt. keep digging.

and btw - i get asked these kind of questions all the time from big corporations. i just don't answer because of privacy and identity theft concerns etc but that's got zero to do with fears of some kind of hidden racist agenda.

Anonymous said...

It nearly always comes down to this. The Bigfoot example. I bring a photo of the creature a chance encouter. The answer usually is 'it's too clear to be a real' or 'it's way to burry to be real'. No matter what is presented, it's not received with an open mind.

Is THIS real? I don't know. I wouldn't be so quick to denounce it.

Anonymous said...

Who ever wrote this is a tit, you sound like you need a good kick in the ass.

Anonymous said...

Get a life you paranoid twat.

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