If your waiter seems to have disappeared…and a response from Momofuku

…maybe it’s because he’s busy watching someone kanoodling in the wine cellar. On the restaurant’s video surveillance camera.

Is it just me who thinks this is creepy? According to this disturbing article in the NYPost, video monitors are becoming more and more common in restaurants today. Even my beloved Momofuku Noodle Bar? Say it ain’t so David!

Of course the restaurant PR folks claim it’s simply for chefs to monitor service flow and for checking the veracity of slip and fall claims. At the same time they claim the films are not kept or archived, they also claim the film is for these purposes. Doesn’t add up.

You have to think it’s just a matter of time before someone grabs a clip of something a little naughty and sells it to the Post for their Page Six gossip column.

Even if we’re not doing something illegal, immoral or just embarrassing, we should have the right not to be monitored all the time, everywhere. When they put cameras all around Boston before the last presidential election campaign stops, we were promised it was only for the additional security needed for those events. They’ve not come down.

Here’s a link to the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts site – their report “Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains” shows the fallacies offered to justify the erosion of our privacy rights.

Next time you’re eating somewhere and there’s surveillance…think of something to say or do when you smile for the camera. Maybe I’ll flip a bird and show a sign that says “love your food, hate your politics.” What do you think?

[ed. note: Momfuku responded to my email asking them about this policy]

Here’s what the restaurant’s response was:

We installed the cameras because it gives us a discount on our insurance. I
suppose it's like if you have airbags in your car or a security system in
your house, the more safety and security measures you can put in place the
less it costs to insure whatever you're trying to insure.

Also, the police department recommends all bars and restaurants have
camera's in place again for security and theft protection. I suppose it's
the same thing as cameras in cabs, delis, or department stores.

Frankly the idea of our waiters or busboys watching the cameras during
service is ridiculous. First off we're way too busy for that and secondly
the camera stuff is in the office which is always locked and can only be
accessed by managers.

# # #

What this response ignores:

1. I don’t have a car or a home security system.

2. Customers were not to my knowledge asked whether they’d give up privacy for lower costs. and those lowered costs were not obvious in my bill.

3. The original article (here) did not indicate that the, um, security, of the security surveillance was being monitored as securely as he suggests (sorry couldn’t resist)

4. and finally, to suggest that the manager’s office or any part of the back of the house in a restaurant is so secure flies in the face of most restaurants I’ve ever seen. Plenty of stuff goes on beyond the view of the diners…has he not seen the spate of books lately or read any of the sites by servers like Waiterrant?

My point here, and I do have one…

…is not that I have a bone to pick with Momofuku per se. I love the food there and had great service, too. My point is that surveillance-as-ubiquitous-fact-of-life should not be allowed to creep into our daily existence this way. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous, and if we are really going to let insurance companies or big brother dictate our civil liberties we are in for a fucking world of misery. (Sorry, your medical records indicate you are statistically more expensive to care for – no coverage for you….have a long term chronic condition? later dude…all of this might happen before you’ve had symptom #1. It’s happening already. This is a rant for another day.)

~ by jacqueline1230 on April 2, 2008.

One Response to “If your waiter seems to have disappeared…and a response from Momofuku”

  1. I’ve noticed them recently too. There’s one that’s visible in our favorite sushi place. At first I thought it was supposed to keep an eye on the cash register, but then I noticed it was showing clientele. Unsettling…

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