Opinion: Recession brings hotter waitresses, emptier hotels and cheaper tacos


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If there’s any doubt that the economy is in a slump, just take a look at the hot waitress at the corner restaurant. C’mon, you know you would have anyway.

An article in New York Magazine this week argues that as the economy worsens, waiters and waitresses start to look better. The author offers an explanation: a decreased demand for pretty people to promote luxury products or provide high-priced services.


The article also points out other everyday economic indicators -- for example, ‘the Overeducated Cabbie Index’ or ‘the Squeegee Man Apparition Index.’

We have plenty of unique indicators of our own here in Los Angeles. With virtually no rainwater to give our cars a periodic cleansing, L.A. practically lives and dies by the car wash. When you start to see frequently-advertised sales and plunging prices at car washes, you know something is wrong.

Taco trucks, too -- heaven knows we love ‘em. When Mexican food on wheels can be found cheaper than usual, it means our city is hurting.

Cheaper travel in prime spots for Angelenos means, you guessed it, a weaker economy.

‘Hotels and attractions do have lower rates and are catering to visitors who are seeking wallet-friendly vacations,’ wrote Hillary Angel, the spokeswoman for the Palm Springs Bureau of ...

... Tourism, in an e-mail. ‘Many of the lodging partners are offering one night, get the second night free specials.’

If you actually do scrounge up the coins to vacation in, say, Santa Barbara, take a look around the hotel lobby. Hotel occupancy in the city is down 7.5% over last year despite the daily rate being 10.8% lower.


‘The economy has certainly affected travel patterns,’ wrote Shannon Brooks, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara Visitors Bureau, in an e-mail. ‘For example, people might stay just one night in a hotel when in years past they would have stayed two. Or, rather than staying the night, they might just make it a day trip to save money.’

These sort of S.A.T. analogies make up the best-selling book ‘Freakonomics.’ The authors now maintain a blog at the New York Times that continues those observations and connect them with the bigger picture. It talks about things like ugly people using wealth and personality as an alternative dating currency or better health insurance correlating with fatter people.

-- Mark Milian