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June 25, 2005

Oh, that liberal New York Times

It's always a mistake to priorize employee comfort:

But many businesses make the mistake of setting the thermostat more for the comfort of employees than for customers.

"You may have a high-end jewelry store where the staff is wearing shirts and ties," he said. "But the shoppers are wearing T-shirts and shorts, and that makes shoppers uncomfortable and decreases the time they stay in the store."

Besides, nothing moves merch like a sweaty salesman.


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Maybe the sales staff should dress more appropriately for the season? Bikinis?

Speedos. Mandatory chest waxing on Tuesdays. In lieu of health insurance, employer co-pays for sweat-gland ablation surgery.

So what's your point? The NYTimes is the new Fox News Channel because they printed some comment that could be vaguely construed as, what... at worst, capitalist, but at best fits the old adage, "the customer is always right"?

I've seen plenty of examples of so-called liberal media gone bad, but I'm not sure what you're trying to prove here.

If I read the comment right, the point is that the NYT reflexively dismisses the needs of the employee. The NYT actively caters to those who would be more likely to buy high-end jewelry than to sell it. Check out the travel section if you don't believe me.

This doesn't make the NYT the printed equivalent of Fox News, of course. Fox deliberately slants its commentary and story selection toward the talking points of the Republican party. It does mean that the NYT is not the liberal institution that the wingnuts make it out to be. After all, if you're going to sell papers to the sort of folks who find it interesting that Hermes sets a thermostat at 68.6 degrees, you can't dwell too long on stuff like poor working conditions, lack of benefits for part-time employees, etc. Instead, you'll get 2 page articles on the impact that temperature has on a person's shopping experience. Not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to find in a grand-scale Partisan Review.

I don't think the article smashes the NYT's liberal image. It suggests that expensive luxury stores are cranking up the AC, while the cheap stores frequented by the less well-off can't afford to do so:

Lower-end stores tend to be more frugal. The 88-cent shoelaces at National Wholesale Liquidators on Broadway near Houston Street were curled up in 76.6-degree air, while half a block away, an $11.95 frosted soap pump at Crate & Barrel sat in a comparatively frosty climate of 70.9. The Energy Department says that each degree setting on a thermostat below 78 degrees increases energy consumption by 8 percent.

Not to mention the obvious implication that the rich are therefore responsbile for using more energy, hence filling our atmosphere with dangerous greenhouse gases.

I had friends who worked at Sears in the 1980s and they would crank up the air conditioning in the dead of winter so the customers would be comfortable shopping in their heavy winter coats.

The clerks, of course, weren't allowed to dress so warmly. And any slowness at the register due to half-frozen fingers was swiftly punished.

Oh, come off it... Anyone who still thinks the NYT is "liberal" in anything other than the smiley-faced imperialist sense is clearly so unhinged that any form of rational political discourse is impossible. Leftist it certainly ain't, and if you think it is you don't know what "left" means.

There's also the climate change aspect of things: the lower you set the thermostat, the more energy you use - which is why in Japan there was an official movement to raise air-conditioning temperatures.

Damn straight! The NYT is anything but liberal.

As one of those people who is perpetually cold, I hate shopping in *most* stores during summer months, and take a sweater if I have to foray to the indoor mall. One other thought about why higher-end stores keep the temperatures lower: preventing customers from sweating on and staining expensive garments when trying them on.

The only reason for the different dress is because of the slowness of entrenched standards and the impractical mentality of most customers, who want to be waited upon by liveried odalisques while half-wearing loose flannels. This slowness in standard updating might be a story in itself, and the way customers act childlike in the belief that they make things easier (when really they just leave themselves open to predatory sales actions) definitely affects sales and consumer culture a hell of a lot more than this typical quirky factoid piece about how people will work harder if you scent the vents with apple fragrance. (apple happens to sicken us, by the way.) Canadian news recently allowed a horrible piece on how the color red was to blame, or even a factor, in the success of the [Neo-]Liberal party, as opposed to say the incompetence of the Quebecois, the fantastic, almost deliberate stupidity of the Conservatives (mirrored near perfectly in the Lib-Con thing in England).

I guess it's a good thing that I consider 19-20 C perfectly alright when wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Here in Singapore it's about 28 C with 90% humidity year-round, so after walking on the street and sweating like a dog, I want whatever place I enter to be cold enough for me to recover from the heat outside.

The sweat-on-clothes thesis is interesting, deja pseu. It definitely sounds reasonable. The best way to test it, in my opinion, is to compare clothes stores with other stores to see whether there's a significant difference in temperature.

The article I've been waiting for the NYT to publish is the one about how the chichi boutiques on 5th Ave crank the AC to the max during the summer months, and then prop their doors wide open so that the blast of cool air onto the sidewalk will entice potential shoppers. I guess there's no law against wasting energy in the most ostentatious manner possible, but a little public shaming might be in order, no?

No. As Lindsay points out, that kind of behavior reflects managerial priorities, and is therefore beyond reproach.

I guess there's no law against wasting energy in the most ostentatious manner possible, but a little public shaming might be in order, no?

Given that they pay for this, I'd say that no, public shaming is not in order.

Given that they pay for this, I'd say that no, public shaming is not in order.

No, no, no, they don't pay for it, not really. The price of energy doesn't reflect its real impact on the environment or society. In a million different ways we subsidize this sort of behavior.

The subsidies are most extreme for oil (war), but it is true for electicity as well. About half the electricity in the northeast comes from old coal-fired plants. If these were regulated in a way the reflected the damage they do...well, no one would blast the A/C and leave the door open.

This idea that the customer is a god, and the employee is a menial who should be as subservient and doglike as possible, is unfortunately a common part of the business culture in the sector. But most of us spend a lot more time on the job as workers than we do shopping, and work is probably a source of a much larger portion of the stress we experience in our waking hours. So what kind of trade-off is it to be treated like King Shit of Turd Mountain every time we go in a store, if we're treated like a dog at work?

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