The ways in which the intelligence community — er, "hospitality industry" — is keeping tabs on people is sounding more Orwellian by the day. And, more creepy.
The latest stunning admission comes from Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Chicago's acclaimed Alinea restaurant, who dishes to the New York Post about stalking patrons online ("We Google customers every single time") and keeping detailed records on them (some 190,000 people, according to the article).
But, perhaps the most disturbing element of Alinea's extensive surveillance program comes at the end of this matter-of-fact statement from Kokonas: “Before you come in, we will look up your last visit, what you ate, what you liked, what you didn’t like, how many bathroom breaks you took….”
OK, now this is starting to get personal. We can see the customer service benefit to knowing ahead of time what patrons like and dislike. But monitoring a person's trips to the loo is taking the "personalized experience" a bit too far.
No one has a reasonable expectation of privacy when dining in public, but who among us expects to have their every nose-powdering monitored by some shadowy spook with an attendance clicker?
Maybe there are practical purposes for gathering this sort of information, say, for keeping adequate supplies of toiletries on hand, or predicting which tables will require the most napkin refolding over the course of an evening. But, that doesn't do much to alleviate the ick factor.
It recalls that uncomfortably funny Saturday Night Live sketch where Kevin Nealon plays the overbearing restaurant bathroom attendant, standing over a self-consciously squatting Harvey Keitel with a spray can of air freshener.
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