Sure, to get a sense of how the economy is faring, you could look at home sale prices, or unemployment stats, or what products are actually selling well at the time. Instead, a New York magazine story explores the symbiotic relationship between the attractiveness of restaurant waitstaff and the economic climate: Basically, if your waitress is smoking hot, the economy is likely to be experiencing some ugly times.
Here’s the gist of the argument:
In New York, we have our own economic indicators, often based on the degree to which people are being thwarted by the lack of opportunity. An old standby is the Overeducated Cabbie Index. The Squeegee Man Apparition Index is another good one. There’s also the Speed at Which Contractors Return Calls Index: within 24 hours, you’re in a recession; if they call you without prompting, that’s a depression.
The indicator I prefer is the Hot Waitress Index: The hotter the waitresses, the weaker the economy. In flush times, there is a robust market for hotness. Selling everything from condos to premium vodka is enhanced by proximity to pretty young people (of both sexes) who get paid for providing this service. That leaves more-punishing work, like waiting tables, to those with less striking genetic gifts. But not anymore.
A waitress at one Lower East Side club described to me what happened there: “They slowly let the boys go, then the less attractive girls, and then these hot girls appeared out of nowhere. All in the hope of bringing in more business. The managers even admitted it. These hot girls that once thrived on the generosity of their friends in the scene for hookups—hosting events, marketing brands, modeling—are now hunting for work.” A Soho restaurateur I know recently received applications from “a couple of classic Eastern European fembots. Once upon a time, these ladies must’ve made $1,500 a night lap dancing. At my place, they’re not going to make that in a week.”
Side note: Sex in general is thriving during the recession, when everyone seems to need to relieve stress.