The unwisdom of food crowds.

Long lines. Worrisome waits. Sub-par service.

Felix Salmon explicates an instance where there is little wisdom in the crowds: restaurants. It’s a great column in NYMag about how eateries have mastered the art of the Veblen good – one whose demand goes up as price does.

In this rarefied world, high prices are a feature, not a bug; they’re status symbols that alert others to the fact that the patrons can pay $26 for something as basic as a spinach salad. They also serve to keep out the riff-raff.

We love the idea of saying we ate at the popular place. We want to say we got a shake from the Shake Shack. It boosts our ego (we did something culturally en vogue) and it generally signals to us that it’s worth going somewhere that everyone seemingly wants to go to. We are deceived that there is quality because we see long lines as a proxy for it. What really happens is our egos get hurt by stingy, stubborn chefs and poor service, and stuck with a bill that is too large because the good is overpriced and the foregone cost of our wait is too high.

One final note: a couple of culprits Salmon calls out.
– Taïm Mobile: a falafel food truck in Mahattan that sets you back 9 bucks.
– Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Maybe a takeaway is to generally beware of titles with umlauts. Prove me wrong, though. I’ll even help you out with a shameless plug. If you want to read what promises to be a great new blog about new media, (which Felix Salmon has mastered with his own blogging and Twitter commentaries) check out Electrïc Armada.


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