The Empire State Vixen Index And Other Befuddled Ironies

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter

We’ve all heard about Wall Street employees who lost their jobs and ended up doing something unrelated, chasing after a dream, starting up a software company, working on a crab boat, teaching English to immigrants, run a taco truck, become a pole dancer....

So the other day, as I was flying home from the East Coast, I sat next to a girl of maybe 20. She raved about her newest thing: a course in sustainable agriculture in Vermont. She lived in New York City, but for six months, she’d be on this training farm, do farm work, and learn the ins and outs of sustainable agriculture. Her dream was to become an urban farmer. She’d rent some rooftop at a commercial building in Brooklyn, have someone install the necessary modifications to accommodate soil, etc., and then she’d plant her seeds. Did she have a farming background? She laughed. She had an Ivy-league degree, worked for a hedge fund for nine years, but wanted to do something else. She probably wasn’t 20 anymore.

But it made me think: there should be indices that measure these activities—the number of people undergoing sudden, drastic, and unlikely career changes, voluntary or not—to give us a better gauge of the real economy and the job market. But by the time I got off my last flight at 1 a.m., I’d forgotten about it....

Until, while reading my favorite blogs and websites from around the world, I came across the Vixen Index—Hot Waitress Economic Index is the technical term. During the financial crisis, New York Magazine did a whole story on it. Since it’s apparently a favorite phenomenon in New York, let’s re-baptize it the Empire State Vixen Index.

The theory is that in good times, attractive young women have desk jobs or sales jobs or run marketing departments, or write software. But when layoffs ravage their industries, these women become available for other jobs, and restaurant managers—hard-hit by plunging receipts—fall all over each other to hire the best-looking babes in order to attract more customers. “The hotter the waitresses, the weaker the economy,” the article said.

Ever the thorough blogger, I Googled a bit further. And the first thing I noticed was unabashed irony, not about the index, which Investopedia took seriously somehow, but about internet advertising. The text defined the index by using the politically correct phrase, “good looking servers.” The word servers being a text link, I hovered over it... an IBM ad!



I’d run into this before with an article I’d posted on Zero Hedge about perceived nuclear contamination of Japan. One of the readers found a sushi ad from Google next to the post, took a screenshot of it, and sent it to me:



Come to think of it, that would be another index: ironic, funny, or cynical ad-and-content combinations, perhaps showing rising or falling levels of Google ad-server desperation. Hmmm.

Back to the Empire State Vixen Index. It doesn’t actually exist. Not in the sense that someone like the NY Fed measures the number of hot waitresses and publishes a market-moving graph once a month that the talking heads on CNBC then vivisect. And most people would prefer competent, friendly wait staff with a good idea about the things on the menu. So, if this index measures anything, it might be attitudes by restaurant management, or their efforts to convert their eateries into me-too Hooters.

But what if GDP is a similarly twisted contrivance? It does measure private-sector and government spending and investment but doesn’t take into account where the money is coming from. As it completely ignores debt, it creates the farcical impression that ever more debt is desirable because spending, and thus GDP, goes up—ad infinitum. And it doesn’t take into account, well, happiness, as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suddenly discovered last week—he who’d dumped trillions of dollars on the Fed’s cronies to make them happy.

Yet, GDP is useful. It just doesn’t describe the health of the economy very well. So we follow numerous other indices to fill in the gaps. Some of my favorites are liquid. And I write about them from time to time. The beer market worldwide, for example: Beer, A Reflection Of The World Economy? Or, closer to home: The Beer War On American Soil. The wine indices are also very useful, particularly with regards to China. I suspect they’re leading indicators.... Ouch! The Wine Bubble Blows Up. If nothing else, they’re less dry and more inspiring than, say, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

On the more serious side: in an interview, Jim Puplava, CEO of Financial Sense News Hour, talks about the impact of inflationary or deflationary forces—with some disturbing insights into the dynamics of Japan. “The world is focused on Europe,” he says, “but the next crisis jumps from Europe to Japan, and eventually to the United States.” Read... Could Gold Be Tripped Up By A Coming Deflation?

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Mutatto's picture

Well crap!  2 minutes of my life, gone forever, scanning this ENTIRE article and thread for pictures....for nothing!


Coast Watcher's picture

This summer especially, but for the past couple of years my wife and I have noticed that our usual restaurants seem to have adopted an "appearance standard" for their waitresses. And even the most family friendly of them outfit their waitresses in shorts and tops with a high Lycra content. We stopped at a local ice cream place the other night and noticed that all of the servers were attractive teenage girls in very short shorts and tank tops -- and the ice cream tubs were in freezers that required them to bend waaaay over to scoop out the ice cream.

daxtonbrown's picture

Well all this talk about hot waitresses has me hungy. I'm off to see my girls at Hooters.

sangell's picture

A 'whore index' might be a better gauge of real economic stress and the data is available too from such websites as Craig's List, etc. Just count the number of ads for escorts and massage services and see if it is increasing or decreasing. A increasing number of women working as escorts or offering 'massages' would not only be useful for the Fed to determine the true state of a local economy it would also be more entertaining to compile than the Baltic Dry Index or other data series.

mjk0259's picture

Not where I live. Almost all of them are illegal aliens.

Gully Foyle's picture


I agree with the Whore index, but I think it should look at the spread of prostitution to smaller communities.

In a related story

The Sobering Reality Of What Life Is Like In Reno, Nevada

What do you do when the city where you live is dying?  All over the United States formerly great cities are crumbling, but some are definitely in worse shape than others.  One reader recently wrote to me about what she sees happening all around her in Reno, Nevada.  The unemployment rate in Reno is now up to 11.7 percent, which is well above the national average of 8.3 percent.  But that doesn't tell the whole story.  The recent recession hit Nevada particularly hard and people have been moving out of the state in waves.  In fact, the labor force in Nevada has shrunk by close to 20 percent over the past year as workers have moved elsewhere in search of work.  But even though the labor force is now nearly 20 percent smaller, the unemployment rate is still well above 11 percent.  There simply are not enough jobs in large Nevada cities such as Reno and Las Vegas.  Unfortunately for Reno, it does not have the same kind of big corporate money pouring into it that Las Vegas does.  The good news is that you can buy a house very, very cheaply in Reno because homes were foreclosed on in droves during the housing crash.  Even today, some housing developments that were put up near the end of the boom times look like virtual ghost towns.  The main industry in Reno is "entertainment", but many of Reno's strip clubs and gambling establishments have aged so badly at this point that they just look kind of depressing.  I guess that is kind of fitting, because Nevada has the fifth highest suicide rate in the nation, and Reno has been ranked as one of the top 10 depressed cities in the entire country.  As the city has declined, gangs have moved in and the drug trade is flourishing.  Reno has been called the meth capital of America, and crime is on the rise.  Despite being surrounded by tremendous natural beauty, Reno has become a very unpleasant place in which to live.  But what is happening in Reno is also happening in hundreds of other communities across the United States.  Our economy is collapsing and our cities are crumbling right in front of our eyes, and it is only going to get worse from here.

mjk0259's picture

Oh, come on, there were tons of whores in Reno since the beginning. That's probably one of the primary reasons it was built.  If you find some Amish ones in Lancaster, PA, you will have a point.

Gully Foyle's picture


Dude, the Reno story is only about how bad things are there. It's related because prostitution is legal there, nothing deeper than that.

Makes me wonder how many hookers lost their jobs or had work fro half pay.

shovelhead's picture

A friend Jimmie owns a large saloon. One day I asked why it's freezing by the bar, but roasting in the back by the bathrooms. He sideways glances at the barmaid and the waitresses with obvious high beams full on.

"The bathrooms cost money. The girls get em in and keep em here. I shift the A/C where it does the most work."

A smart businessman knows his market.

Pike Bishop's picture

Uh, sorry. For more decades than I'd like to count, there has always been a saying among restaurant managers.... qualified non-attractive women disserve the job just as much as the attractive ones..  the job down the street, that is.

Actually, if you are serious about your business, hiring a pretty "princess" is paving the way to hell. They often have a very narrow margin of tolerance for the usual shit waitpeople get from customers And they eventually will fuck-up one of your chefs. usually one that is already married.

Pick the one who brushes of things easily, and moves at the job with ease. She already knows the drill and the banter. she's good for business, because she's been sucking the money out of men's pockets for a long time.


Gully Foyle's picture

Pike Bishop

Flo from Mels diner.

Flo: (waiting on a customer) Hi handsome...what'll it be?

Customer: Well, what have you got in mind?

Flo: If it's the same thing you have in mind, you ain't gonna find it on the menu.

SafelyGraze's picture

neglected to mention the yardstick that started this essay: the Urban Farmer Index.

rather, the Urban Vixen Farmer Index

that is, the Educated Urban Vixen Farmer Index

I mean, the Educated Urban Moneyed Vixen Farmer Index

q99x2's picture

'the next crisis jumps from Europe to Japan, and eventually to the United States'

US crisis leads to breakup of the States and sucession from DC.

Not Too Important's picture

The next crisis jumps from Japan to the United States.

Chart showing increase of deaths over average in major US cities since 3/11/11:

The higher death rate increases are in the cities at higher altitude. Closer to the jetstream, where the bulk of the radiation is swirling planet-wide. We get first crack at it.

On the other hand, the rain does a good job of bringing it down to farm level everywhere.

ThisIsBob's picture

If she can grow some decent weed, she might have a chance.  A rooftop loaded with tomatoes and eggplant is not going to get her anywhere.

mjk0259's picture

Yes, farming is not profitable unless you have thousands of acres of land that is naturally watered. She might be able to grow some specialty yuppie vegetables but I think farmers with actual land near NY are already attuned to that market.

onebir's picture

Wanted to go long Vixen. :'(

FinalCollapse's picture

Much better to screw VIXen then to be screwed by VIX.

Uncle Remus's picture

All your perceptions are belong to us.

celticgold's picture

you didnt make that faeces ...........







Freddie's picture

Hey Wolf. There is a good anti-hipster site that talks about the dumb hipsters in Brooklyn trying to growing food on the roofs of Brooklyn apt building.  It is a pretty toxic environment like Japan or Mexifornia where the illegals shit in the fields with all sorts of diseases and things that get into Callie's food supply.

Human feces,especially illegal alien feces, does not make a good fertilizer.

duo's picture

Check out medieval castles in Europe.   Those little alcoves butting out of the upper floors of the castle were toilets.  The crap fell onto the garden plots where the serfs worked (if you were lucky enough to work inside the castle walls).

A 21st century American eating processed/GMO  food and taking antibiotics probably has 5-10% of the gut bacteria species of a human 100 years ago.  This allows "bad" bacteria (which have always been around) to mess up the balance of gut flora.

Gully Foyle's picture


Human waste dipper
Until around 1955, human waste (night soil) was the most important fertilizer source for farmers in Japan. In many parts of Europe, before construction of sewage lines, human waste was simply thrown from the window to the street below, and the plague occurred repeatedly due to bad hygiene conditions. In contrast, in Japan human waste was treated as a valuable resource in those days.

Farmers regularly visited homes with whom they had contracts and paid money or offered vegetables they had grown, in return for night soil to be used as fertilizer. As distribution channels became more established, specialized night soil warehouses and retailers emerged.

Landlords with many tenants made good money from the night soil produced on their premises. There are even stories of friction between landlords and tenants about ownership of the night soil. Some farmers were very particular about their sources of fertilizer. For example, certain areas were regarded as sources of highly-coveted night soil for growing exclusive brands of Japanese tea.

You may be surprised to know that even night soil was recycled in the Edo Period. It could be called the "ultimate recycling," and German chemist Justus von Liebig, often described as the father of modern agricultural chemistry, praised use of night soil as fertilizer, saying that it is an agricultural practice without peer in its ability to keep cropland fertile forever and increase productivity in proportion to population increases. And there is a record that the first Westerner who saw the town of Edo was shocked, having never seen such a clean city.

In those days, producers of agricultural crops used fertilizer, and the producers of the fertilizer were the very consumers who ate those crops. In the modern day, that connection between consumer and producer has been shattered, but during the Edo Period this "ultimate recycling" was possible because of the interdependent relationship between consumers and producers.

Isotope's picture

I have a similar theory about nurses in hospitals. Generally the hours suck, the job is nasty and dirty, but the pay and especially benefits are good. So when times are good and the old man has a job, they tend to migrate to doctors' office jobs where the hours are better and the job is cleaner. Or even do the housewife thing. But in a recession, when the husband loses his job and benefits, many are forced back into the hospitals and crappier but better compensated work.

And no, even at best, there are no nurses out there who look like your porn fantasy. The top tier are usually very average looking.

otto skorzeny's picture

I liked it better(and so did Richard Speck-I'm sure) when they wore the white uniforms instead of these scrubs they wear now that make it hard to see their figures.

bank guy in Brussels's picture

Rumour has it that one of those ex-Wall-Street employees, like the article talks about, started a website that became a global hit ... a site called 'ZeroHedge' ...

But Obama would tell Tyler Durden, 'You didn't make that website ... The American government gave you what you needed to be a success ...'

Indeed, ZeroHedge would not be the success it is now, without all that American government-sponsored corruption to fuel the fire ...

mkkby's picture

Well, the god damned cave men gave us fire... and on and on over the centuries.  So fucking Obama and the US gov didn't enable anything either.  He owes it all to cavemen, and bacteria for that matter.

Fuck you Obama, you Kenyan socialist asshole.

disabledvet's picture

How DARE you call it mere "corruption." This is the Height of Boondoggle! We must first scale the Cliffs of Insanity to even have a CHANCE of...of...of...

Urban Roman's picture


But Obama would tell Tyler Durden, 'You didn't make that website ... The American government gave you what you needed to be a success ...'

Correct. Without Al Gore inventing the internet, the website wouldn't exist.

disabledvet's picture

Does that mean we can arrest Al Gore and blame him then?...

Not Too Important's picture

Actually, the Internet was developed for the military through a select group of universities, as a secure method of communication. Al Gore saw the potential if the techonology was released to the public, and made it happen.

I don't like him anymore than the rest of them - all corrupt bastards - but he did push the Net into the mainstream.

JohnG's picture



"Actually, the Internet was developed for the military through a select group of universities, as a secure method of communication."

Darpa "invented the internet.

It was opened to universities in the late 80's.

Only when Marc Andresson developed HTTP and Netscape circa 1995 did the internet go mainstream.

Gore had NOTHING to do with it.

Not Too Important's picture

"The High Performance Computing Act of 1991 (HPCA) is an Act of Congress promulgated in the 102nd United States Congress as Pub.L. 102-194 on 1991-12-09. Often referred to as the Gore Bill,[1] it was created and introduced by then Senator Albert Gore, Jr., and led to the development of the National Information Infrastructure and the funding of the National Research and Education Network (NREN).[1][2][3]"

"Following a 1999 CNN interview Gore became the subject of some controversy and ridicule when his expression I took the initiative in creating the Internet[13] was widely quoted out of context, indeed often misquoted, by comedians and the popular media who took his expression to be a claim that he personally had invented the Internet.[14] But Gore's actual words were widely reaffirmed by notable Internet pioneers, such as Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who stated, "No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President."

High Performance Computing Act of 1991

I do give credit where credit is due, regardless of my personal opinion. If it wasn't for the planning genius of Hitler and Speer, we wouldn't have the well-planned and highly effective system of FEMA camps in the US today. I don't necesessarily approve, but the Nazi's have given modern governments some of the most useful, and tested, engineering and eugenic programs being implemented today.

disabledvet's picture

Sounds like it might be more than just Al.. We better debrief Bill Gates to find "how deep this sucker goes." (we'll constantly play and replay the original score to the Star Trek TV show just in case we get some 'tude.")

Freddie's picture

Tyler could end up like  Thankfully the NZ Govt is realizing that Obama and his Hollywood buddies used them. New Zealand looked like the goosestapo in going after Kimble.  There are many sites doing what MegaUpload is doing.

mjk0259's picture

So now you are advocating Communism (property belongs to the people)?

Good thing Kim wasn't in a union or he would be lacking your valued support.

Gully Foyle's picture


The FBI Thought Kim Dotcom Had A ‘Doomsday’ Device That Could Wipe All Evidence Of Piracy

Do you know how the FBI justified the insane raid of Kim Dotcom’s mansion? By saying that it suspected that Kim Dotcom had a ‘doomsday’ device that could “wipe out evidence of internet piracy around the world.” No, seriously.

Grant Wormald, the detective inspector who oversaw the operation for the organised and Financial Crime Agency (Ofcanz) said he was told by the FBI that Dotcom “carried a device with him to delete servers around the world”. Apparently, the “Doomsday” delete-all-servers device could have been triggered “in seconds” from any computer or phone on the property. Of course, no device was ever found in the raid but that didn’t stop the feds from sending choppers and a crapton of officers more fit for a drug kingpin than an online pirate. [NZ Herald via BGR]

old naughty's picture

IMHO, the vixen, babe, who was a 6-month farming trainee, wanted to start a sustainable farm atop commercial building, is the winner.