Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Sir Charge!

From Wednesday's Washington Post. If we're dressed do we still get charged extra?

Lawyer Jimmy A. Bell goes after Landover nail salon for charging men more than women

Jimmy A. Bell, who is suing a Landover nail salon. (Courtesy of Jimmy A. Bell)

Jimmy A. Bell was taking a lady friend to dinner last fall when they decided to stop off first at a Landover salon for a little pampering: a his-and-her manicure/pedicure. Everything was fine, he said, until it was time to leave.

"I went to pay the bill while she was letting her nails dry -- and they had charged me $2 more than they charged her," recalls the outraged customer. "I said, 'Wait a minute, why am I paying more?' They said, 'Because you're a man.'"

That salon may have messed with the wrong well-groomed guy. Bell is a Bowie-based lawyer with a knack for the headline-making case -- he's represented comedian D.L. Hughley and "Top Chef" contestant Timothy Dean in suits against local businesses, as well as himself in a complaint against Domino's over its refusal to deliver to certain neighborhoods (the Justice Department ultimately got the pizzamakers to agree to a nondiscriminatory policy). This week, Bell filed suit in Prince George's County Circuit Court against the manicure place, Rich's Nail Salon, alleging gender-based price discrimination.

For those extra four bucks -- a $2 surcharge each on manly hands and feet -- Bell is seeking $200,000 from the salon.

"They're making money off of men illegally," Bell told us. "I don't get painted, just the regular buff. They didn't measure my hands or my nails to see if it's more work. They made a distinction based on the fact that I'm a man. ... You'd be outraged if they said blacks pay more or Jews pay more."

Bell said he took the case to court after a complaint he filed with the county Human Relations Commission appeared to stall. The owner of the nail salon did not return our call seeking comment.

John Banzhaf, a GWU law professor and legal activist, says Bell's case is reminiscent of his own successful crusades against dry cleaners that charged more for women's shirts and haircutters that charged more for ladies. Still, damages of $200,000 might be a stretch; he suggested that Bell try to bring a class-action suit instead -- though "I don't think that many guys get their nails done."

Bell, though, says he was directly and personally victimized by the salon's pricing plan. "The last thing that I thought that would happen to me in this county is that someone would discriminate against me," he said. "I couldn't even go to dinner, I was so upset."

1 comment:

  1. I'd certainly like to see this man win on principle. But I agree with the author: $200K is far too unreasonable; and the 'woe is me' could be toned down a bit, too.

    I know I'd have still been able to go out to dinner afterward.


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