“Man-Tax” Cafe Goes Out To Business After Just Two Years

There is a long-standing theory that discriminatory practices are eventually squeezed out of a market since they add marginal costs not carried by non-discriminatory firms. Becker’s model predicts that in a competitive setting, discriminating employers ultimately are forced out of the market by forfeiting profits. (See Becker, G. S. (1957) The Economics of Discrimination, Chicago: Chicago University Press). Of course, society should not wait for such a long-term market adjustment and most support anti-discrimination laws to end such practices. Yet, a controversial café in Melbourne Australia might have succumbed to such a marginal cost. Handsome Her, a vegan caf, became an international focus with its imposition of a “man tax” of 18 percent for any men who try to eat at the cafe. It was supposed to reflect the
gender pay gap.” That overt discrimination however appears to have created a customer gap and the cafe is now going out of business after only two years.

The cafe posted three rules:

“House Rules, Rule #1: women have priority seating. Rule #2: men will be charged an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a women’s service. Rule #3 respect goes both ways.”

Co-owner Alexandra O’Brien announced her closing and discussed their “brazen public discussions of structural inequality and oppression.” Many would call it brazen gender discrimination but all would call is a poor business model.

27 thoughts on ““Man-Tax” Cafe Goes Out To Business After Just Two Years”

  1. I’m going to bet they didn’t charge the females the extra 18% if they regularly identified as male; nor did they wave the fee for males that identified as female.

  2. Very odd that a business would close that gives the finger to half their potential customers.

    /sarc off

  3. Allan mentioned Say’s Law in another thread, which I’m trying to understand. Does this businesses model confirm Say’s Law?

  4. I would add that behavior like this is what chases fair minded women who believe in equality away from feminism. It’s just too intolerant, bigoted, and hateful.

  5. It’s blatant gender discrimination. That’s not two-way respect.

    Why in the world would anyone defend this practice?

    I would really like to sit these two women down and explain to them that the wage gap does not compare men and women in the same job; rather, it compares all wages for all jobs. Women choose part time positions more often then men. They choose jobs like elementary school teacher so that they can have more time at home with their own kids. They are not forced into these jobs, but rather do that through choice in a balancing act between work and family. It tips the scales on average pay, which is a reflection on personal freedom balanced against paying the bills.

    That’s the thing about data. The data is what it is, but the interpretation is highly susceptible to personal bias.

    1. Karen,
      You are making the mistake in assuming that women and men want to play these traditional rolls or that these rolls are good for society. You put a value on motherhood, let alone a father figure who supports his family, this is not to be tolerated. I often think back to something my sister told me, after growing up through the 70-80’s and everything she had been told, she had to come to grips that yes, it is ok to be mom.

      1. Jim22 – feminists would be horrified at a woman’s acceptance of motherhood, as you well know. They only accept one view of women – the full time career woman who disdains men. They are quite markedly anti-woman if she ascribes to any other point of view or lifestyle.

  6. Considering the more than half of new restaurants fail within 4 years, I’m not surprised. I like their message but it doesn’t work as a business model unless you are selling clothes where women’s clothes are more expensive than men’s for garments serving a similar purpose.

    1. There is a difference between data and interpretation.

      https://www.gq.com/story/why-mens-clothes-cost-less-than-womens

      “This week The Business of Fashion looked at pricing discrepancies in luxury brands and found that Saint Laurent, Valentino, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and Balmain all sell identical items for different prices depending on gender. A Saint Laurent striped sweater, for example, sells for $240 less in the men’s section than the women’s section. In cases like this, when there’s no significant difference in the craftsmanship and materials used to create the women’s version of the garment, there are really two things that could be happening.

      One, brands could be raising prices in order to offset certain risks and hidden costs associated with selling to women. Buying more sizes or colors for women, for example, might inspire the brand to raise the price on something. Women’s manufactured goods are also subject to higher tariff rates in the US and EU—a controversial issue itself—which may cause retailers to charge more at checkout.

      The other thing that could be happening is that brands could simply be taking advantage of, as BOF puts it, “the fact that women shop more and are willing to pay more for fashion than men”. Men are thought to approach buying clothes with more pragmatism, which prevents retailers from hiking up prices without reason. One major exception to this stigma is the sneaker market, where marketers play all kinds of pricing and availability games with men knowing how emotional the connection is for them.

      So there’s the catch. The more you care about your clothes, the more difficult it’ll become to navigate the market. Our advice: Educate yourself on the markers of quality (we can help with that) and, at least for now, buy your girlfriend’s gifts in the men’s department.”

      First, Fast Fashion is cheap. Fast Fashion is the type that uses overseas sweatshops, and are sold in stores like Walmart, Target, Charlotte Russe, and H&M. Basically, anything inexpensive is made with cheap material, poor workmanship, and the severely underpaid workers may be operating in a building that might, literally, collapse on their heads. (See 2013 Savar Building Collapse.)

      So, it is entirely possible to buy a woman’s fast fashion shirt for less than a man’s. You can get shirts easily for $5.99. When you calculate the markup, material cost, shipping cost from overseas manufacturing, shipping cost from warehouses to retail store, the cost of the building in which it was made…imagine what is left to pay the man or woman who sewed it. Not much.

      Therefore, the difference in men’s and women’s clothing is most marked in higher quality garments.

      There are many proposed reasons for the difference. I personally suspect it is a combination of many of them. A button down shirt must be made in more fabric lots of colors and patterns to appeal to a woman instead of a man. A woman’s shirt is usually more fitted and requires more tailoring. There are larger sizes in men’s clothing, and require more fabric. There are actually higher tariffs on women’s clothing, which was news to me. There is also a very pragmatic reason – women tend to be more willing to spend more for a particular brand than men. More women than men will gush with their friends over lunch about their new find from Dolce and Gabbana or their Christian Louboutin shoes. My God, there is something about that flash of red on a CL shoe that I long for. I would have no place to wear them. I’m a jeans girl usually picking hay out of my hair at the grocery store. I wear my paddock boots into total disrepair. But…one day…I may very well splurge an absurd, horrific amount of money to have that flash of red in my closet. I don’t know. Maybe I’d wear them around the house. See, even I’m not immune.

      Even though there is a strange trend among fashion houses to create unisex patterns now, most men’s and women’s fashion is not the same. You cannot buy a woman’s shirt in the men’s section, unless you are going for boxy and unfeminine. It costs more to put out a button down shirt that is fitted at the waste, and comes in 9 colors, than it does to put out a straight cut button down shirt in 1 color – white. The product run of the same total number of shirts costs more to make when it is broken up into different colors, because the manufacturer is not just running the same bolts of fabric through the cutters.

      If you want men’s and women’s clothing to cost exactly the same, then they would both have to exhibit the same behavior towards clothing. They would both have to be more practical, and care statistically little about their clothing and brand. Most of the fashion houses would fold, there would be no more ateliers, or Fashion Week. That little goal – make women’s and men’s fashion cost the same, would create a ripple effect of unintended consequences.

      I think there is, indeed, a female markup because women will pay more for brand. You can get a very high quality garment that costs less than a major fashion house brand. That brand lends its own style to fashion, but unless you are getting a gown, there’s only so much a designer can do with a button down shirt.

      When women seek quality, avoid high end brand markup, insist on fair and safe working conditions for manufacturing employees, then you may see a change.

    2. https://www.marketplace.org/2017/08/14/your-money/ive-always-wondered/fashion-belts-dry-cleaning-gender-based-pricing

      Most often when men drop off their shirts to be cleaned, they want them folded, according to Phyllis Shapiro, founder and president of Innovating Consulting Solutions and a faculty member at The New School’s Parson School of Design. That means that they are washed in a machine instead of dry cleaned. Women, on the other hand, tend to drop off their shirts to be dry cleaned and hung.

      “It doesn’t matter if it’s a blouse or a man’s or woman’s shirt, if you dry clean it, it’s going to cost more than if you launder something,” explained Peter Blake, executive director of South Eastern Fabricare Association, SEFA. “If you bring men’s cotton, button-down Oxford shirts to the dry cleaner, they are not dry cleaning those. They are washing them. That’s one of the misconceptions. People think just because you bring something to the dry cleaners that it’s being dry cleaned, but cotton shirts — like men’s business shirts — those are all being laundered. So there’s a little bit of a difference.”

      “Blake, who is vehemently opposed to gender-based pricing, also points out that the reason why dry cleaning some items might cost more than others is due to their size and design.

      “Typically men’s shirts are pretty straight forward — they are anywhere from 14.5 inches to 17.5 inches neck size — and button down. They go on automate presses and you can do 50 of them an hour, maybe 70 an hour. You can do two at the same time, it’s a high production item,” he explained. “When you get to the blouses, because of the ornamentation or because of the size difference, they don’t have automated presses to do those, so those have to be done on different presses and it takes a lot more labor. It takes a lot longer to do than the standard typical men’s button-down cotton shirt and that’s the biggest difference.””

  7. Let’s make sure I understand this. Men walk into this place, the the wait staff make a point of having them stand while women are seated (no strain there, I do that anyway for women I dine with), serve them vegan cuisine, and charge them 18% more than women pay for the same food, then have the nerve to say “respect goes both ways” while discriminating against them. The owner’s mistake seems to have been not opening a chain of those places in San Francisco, Greenwich Village, Galveston and our nation’s capital.

  8. This is what happens when you take business courses from professors who have never had to sign the front of a paycheck.

  9. Perfect, like I’ve written before, you can not be free if you are not allowed to discrimination. We (the free market), not the govt. will take care of such matters.

    1. Only some discrimination is legally prohibited. I discriminate every day when I pass up one restaurant to dine at another or prefer one barber over his compatriot at the other chair.

      1. Exactly. And as the restaurant found out, maybe even the legally prohibited discrimination laws are not necessary.

  10. It was a lesbian restaurant even the lesbians didn’t like. The publicity stunt wore out its welcome and it succumbed to the usual business killers. Yawn.

    1. This kind of establishment would appeal to lesbians who did not dine with any male friends or family. It’s rather insulting to bring your brother to a restaurant that penalizes him for being born.

      Between 1 to 4.5%, depending upon the poll, are LGBT. More women than men identify as bisexual. I guess those would be out, as at least part of the time they like men.

      Typically, a capitalist business seeks its niche with customers, and it must appeal to enough customers to be profitable. Their social justice driven model is incompatible with business.

      1. “Typically, a capitalist business seeks its niche with customers, and it must appeal to enough customers to be profitable. Their social justice driven model is incompatible with business.”

        I even question the term “social justice” applied to the business model of “The Handsome Her”. “Intersectional” mis=treatment of men as a class, punihing them all for the misdeeds of some, has nothing to do with justice. It’s careless, unjust collective judgment of men because of a statistical fact which is wrongly punished as a deliberate act..

        The victims of Intersectionality deserve to have intersectionality demolished in court. Equality of outcome is not equality. Taking from the successful for arbitrary reasons is unsupported in the Bill of Rights.

    2. Mespo,
      It didn’t strike me as a good place for guys to go meet women.
      There was a women’s basketball team from Australian in town that played a local college team.
      This was in the 1980s, and I’d forgotten about it until that Australian team showed at a tavern I used to frequent.
      On the way to the bar I asked one of them how the game went. I could tell that was a mistake…..another member of the team ( not the one I asked) snappped “It went OK”.
      If she feared that I had an interest in putting a move on her girlfriend, she was badly mistaken.
      I wasn’t drunk, and it wasn’t near closing time.
      Even if I were drunk and it was near closing time, I could never have been drunk enough to be interested in anything other than the score of the B-Ball game with that group.
      As Jed Clamett once said, “you could throw ’em in a pond and skim ugly for a week”.

    1. I was gonna say . . .
      What kind of “both ways” is it when the establishment doesn’t even do it.

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