Monday, January 23, 2023

white-glove manipulation

During the pandemic, I read "Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels". The author went undercover and worked at two luxury hotels for a year, to assess how workers felt about customers spending $500 or $800 per night on a room. This book is from the mid 90s, so it would be equivalent to something like $1000 per night nowadays.

The workers were earning around $20 per hour. They used mental techniques to deal with witnessing the wealth differential up-close every day. Some workers looked down on the customers for being uncouth or being unable to endure any hardship due to lifelong pampering. They passive aggressively left rude customers on hold for 15 minutes, and then apologized profusely when taking them off hold. This made the customers frustrated and helpless. Other workers identified with the wealthiest customers and saw them as buddies. 

The customers wanted approval from the workers. These 5-star hotels cultivated an extremely complex and undocumented set of etiquette, to create insecurity in their rich customers. If you don't tip your bellhop, you're a jerk. If you try to tip the receptionist, you're also a jerk. If you tip too little, you're a jerk. How much is the right amount to tip? That depends on many variables and is not posted anywhere, but if you get it wrong, you're a jerk.

The customers end up in a state of insecurity, hoping they don't breach etiquette. They probably also sense that some workers may look down on them secretly. The hotels serve as a finishing school for the rich, teaching them the arbitrary rules. Customers sent flowers to the workers, brought them gifts, and remembered their names. The workers served as judges of who is exuding upper-class behavior and who is an impostor.

I like reading about manipulative systems, to give myself some defenses against manipulative tactics. 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Earning dough vs unlimited breadsticks

Me: "So many work leaders like to say 'We're not just a work team, we're a family.' That's just a way to manipulate employees into working free overtime. I prefer if we just stick to setting clear professional expectations. What are the deliverables? When are they due? What will employees be paid? I don't pay my actual family. I don't assign titles and promote my family members."

Rebecca: "Maybe some people don't take the idea of family as seriously. It's like Olive Garden. When you're here, you're family."

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

History of Sugar

I listened to an audiobook "The History of Sugar". I had no idea that sugar plantations were even crueler than cotton and tobacco plantations. The average life span of a slave on a sugar plantation was 10 years. It was so hard on the women's bodies that it made them infertile. 

Sugar led to the creation of sugar bowls, for rich Europeans to show off. They whitewashed the ways in which the sugar was produced.

This audiobook actually led me to have less desire to eat sugary foods.

Also, these old-timey sugar advertisements are evil.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Wizard of Earthsea

I am having a good day. 

I'm 66% through "A Wizard of Earthsea", which I'm reading for a book club. I first read it in 2008 and didn't understand the ending. I could tell that it was about a journey toward maturity and wisdom, and I figured I would appreciate it better one day when I myself reached greater maturity. 

Fourteen years have passed. I have forgotten most of the plot, so this read still provides all the pleasure of discovery. I am listening to it on audiobook.

It is such a delight to experience a masterful work, to witness so much competence and skill. 

Perhaps this time I will understand the ending. If not, in 2037 I will try again. 

Update: I did understand the ending this time. But I'll probably understand it even better in 2037.