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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Color of Money

posted by on March 22 at 12:44 PM

Let me get to the point.
Two weeks ago, I went into Gordito’s Healthy Mexican Food with my son. We ordered food. I gave the person at the cash register—a short, young and pretty Mexican woman—my debit card. She ran it, looked at it, looked up at me, and asked for my ID. After matching the information on the ID with the information on the debit card, she cleared my order. I tipped her nothing. Why? Because the man ahead of me in the line was white and she didn’t ask to compare the information on his debit card with the information on his ID card. In short, she asked for my ID because I’m black.

I went to Gordito’s again yesterday with my son. We ordered food. She took my debit card, charged it, looked at it, looked up at me with her pretty brown eyes, and, again, asked for my ID. Dang! Black is just black to her. No person there; just black and that’s that. This time, however, I tipped her two bucks. Why? Because she also carded the Mexican man who was ahead of me in the line. The young Mexican woman sees her kind as no better than black people. (The white woman behind me in the line was not carded.) She was, in short, not really looking down on me, but saw me as one of those people who, like her own people, tend not have the kind of money that white people have. For her, white color means money; brown or black, means no money.

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They always card me (as white as person could possible be) because I don't sign the back of any of the debit or credit cards.

Posted by monkey | March 22, 2007 12:50 PM

And how, pray tell, Mr. Mudede, did you know she was "Mexican"? Or the man in line in front of you? Is every Latino-looking person who works or eats at a Mexican restaurant automatically a Mexican by default? Or Latino, for that matter? Did you ask?

Posted by Yano Mecantes | March 22, 2007 12:54 PM

Did it occur to you that maybe the white guy was a regular there?

Posted by tsm | March 22, 2007 12:55 PM

I hear ya Charles. Our people treat us like crap when we go to our "own" restaurants and they greet gringos with "amigos" though behind their back they call them "pinche gabachos." Thats why I eat at the trucks. Even if they use lard though they tell white folks they dont.

I feel your pain dawg. I wouldnt have tipped. Youre a bigger man than me, though you prolly have more money than me.

Posted by SeMe | March 22, 2007 12:56 PM

They, literally, ask to see my ID everytime I use my debit card there and I am pretty freakin white. I think they just do that if they can't make out your signature on the back.

Posted by Nat | March 22, 2007 12:59 PM


They have trucks in Seattle? AWESOME.
I was skeptical about Philly trucks, until I ate at one that served crepes(?!) as big as your head - for half the price of craptastic Qdoba...

Posted by Yano Mecantes | March 22, 2007 1:01 PM

Oops. I assumed you live in Seattle. There I go assuming.

Posted by Yano Mecantes | March 22, 2007 1:03 PM

Eh, Gordito's is way too salty anyways. Plus they drove the god-like Tacos y Churros out of business.

Didja know the building they're housed in is an old brothel? The second floor is filled with twenty-or-so tiny rooms, while the top floor is a stunning penthouse where the madame resided. Something to do with keeping that kind of business out of the central core during the city's early days.

Posted by Paulus | March 22, 2007 1:06 PM

Seattle is filled with trucks ese. The best ones are on Rainier, White Center and a new one near MLK and Othello which also serves pupusas which arent all that. The one on first near Casa Latina is the worst. guranteed cagadera. I grew up in Camden, glad to hear that my old hometown has trucks now. Back then it was all boricua and Dominican food.

Posted by SeMe | March 22, 2007 1:07 PM

Maybe the white guy was a regular and she's already seen his ID a dozen times. I witnessed something similar at my downtown regular lunch place. They know me 'cuz I'm there like every day. But once they asked to see the ID of a black woman behind me, who vocally complained that they hadn't asked for mine. A white guy next to me, still waiting to pick up his order, informed her that he, too, had been carded. Incidentally, I get asked for my ID almost everywhere I use my debit card, many times even when I punch in my valid PIN, and I'm about as pale and blond as they come.

Posted by What? | March 22, 2007 1:08 PM

There's a new truck for the white man in Wallingford, in the Winchell's parking lot on 45th.

Posted by DOUG. | March 22, 2007 1:11 PM

I've been asked for my ID there, and I'm as Honky as it gets.

You just stiffed her for the tip because she's Mexican.

Posted by racial profilin' for tips | March 22, 2007 1:16 PM

There is? Damn it, I'm in Wallingford and I'm hungry, and I'm on a diet. Grrr. I want tacos. And I want lard, thank you very much.

Posted by Fnarf | March 22, 2007 1:16 PM

I go to a diner next to Gas Works Park and never get carded, even though I look Canadian. And the owner is Mexican-American.

Maybe it depends on the restaurant?

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 22, 2007 1:18 PM

The truck in Wallingford is pretty good; great if you don't want to drive to White Center or Rainier Ave. There's also one next to the McDonalds near Northgate (by the freeway). (Th Stranger's article on taco trucks that came out awhile ago needs to be updated by the way).

I hope I don't get carded because I almost never carry my ID on me, and I just realized a couple weeks ago it expired in 2005.

Posted by elswinger | March 22, 2007 1:20 PM

Im telling u, the trucks are taking over!! Its the dawn of a new era. Though the white man and his trusty companion, the pale woman, have been packing it up at my fave truck on Rainier. Of course the truck on Rainier provides quick and non friendly service to all and they dont accept debit, thus everyone is treated equally and looked down upon. Though when I go on the weekends their annoying kid is always trying to talk to me while I eat my sopes. They also have really good menudo for when youre hungover, though the Menudo at MUY MACHO use to be the best before they turned MUY MACHO into a Oaxacan styled joint, which is pretty good and is now packed with white folks. Not that there is anything wrong with that. =)

Posted by SeMe | March 22, 2007 1:21 PM

What a bitch! It's against the business' user agreement with the debit/credit card company to ask for ID! There is NO LEGAL reason to ever ask for ID unless the customer is writing a check.

Posted by Catman | March 22, 2007 1:40 PM

I wish the Gorditos taco truck was still in Ballard.

Posted by Timebomb | March 22, 2007 1:40 PM

i had dinner with my girlfriends at el gallito last night, where i am a regular and known by the staff. we are white, they are mexican. no story there.

but! here is something that may interest you, charles: as i chatted with elizabeth, our lovely server who is now my friend, i asked how business was. it is a personal goal of mine for people to recognize the best guacamole in town, and the mighty fine chile verde served at 20th & madison.

elizabeth is the daughter of refugio lopez, owner of el gallito. she reports this: the closure of chocolate city, located one block down the street, has resulted in a large spike in business at this family-run restaurant.

the place was, indeed, packed. lots of white people, as per our region's demographics, and more black and brown people than i have ever seen before at el gallito.

i don't know what this all means but i do know this: they have never asked me for my I.D. and their margaritas will knock you on your ass.

Posted by kerri harrop | March 22, 2007 1:43 PM


I had menudo at Muy Macho and it had four kinds of tripe and a foot. That was with the new owners. It was pretty damn tasty IMO. You know a better bowl, tell me where and I am there.


I know how to never get carded. Use cash. What a concept! :-)

Posted by ivan | March 22, 2007 1:54 PM

The back of Charles's debit card probably says "See ID." Everything is NOT racist Charles. Please stop chewing the Khat already

Posted by hunh? | March 22, 2007 2:00 PM

Amen, kerri - those margaritas are amazing, and its the best Mexican food in the hood for sure. Beats anything on Cap Hill too.

Posted by Tom C. | March 22, 2007 2:13 PM

As long as Charles is allowed to speculate wildly about the motives of others, I'll speculate wildly about his:

Charles knows damn well that his conclusions about what went on it that cashier's head don't begin to be justified by the evidence at hand, but he is much more interested in finding an experience that he can use to advertise his meta-narrative than in speaking the truth.

By the way, Catman is completely wrong about there being some provision in the contracts between businesses and credit card companies that forbids the businness to ask for ID. It's perfectly legal for a business to ask for ID -- they could even require ID when you pay in cash if they wanted to. And unless Catman makes his living by credit card fraud, he should be happy when business ID card-users they don't know.

Posted by David Wright | March 22, 2007 3:18 PM

I actually write "CHECK MY ID" next to my signature on the back of my credit card or debit card because I WANT them to check my ID, in case I lose my card or wallet and someone who will likely NOT look like me tries to use my card and get away with it.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | March 22, 2007 3:35 PM

I guess I didnt ask the obvious question: Is that Gorditos place any good?

Also, no offense to the settlers, but the area around el Gallito stopped being the "hood" a loooooooong time ago. Though I gotta say El Gallito held its own in the past,but it was never all that. I have not been there in quite a while.

ivan: I didnt say I didnt like the new Oaxacan Muy Macho, I just thought their Menudo before would hold its own even in LOS. I think their tortas are good, their moles could use some improvement, their Oaxacan tamales are good, and their Oaxacan TLAYUDAS are off the hook!! Though, it sounds like they mos def improved their Menudo. I will head down there Sunday to cure my cruda.

One last thing, My peeps keep telling me that Veracruz in Burien is pretty good, but I have yet to try it.

Posted by SeMe | March 22, 2007 3:44 PM

David Wright @ 23:

So let me get this straight. I pay the cashier for my meal, in cash, and she asks me for my ID. I tell her to go fuck herself. What does she do then? Not take my cash? What law have I broken?

Posted by ivan | March 22, 2007 3:45 PM

Damnit, you guys - stop praising El Gallito! Next thing you know, there'll be lines out the door and a waiting list to boot.

Posted by COMTE | March 22, 2007 4:00 PM

Ivan: This is a side-issue, but I'm happy to clarify. If a business asks you for ID, and you refuse, neither you nor the business have broken any law. You and the business simply couldn't agree on the conditions of the transaction, so no sale occurs. You are under no obligation to show your ID, and the business is under to obligation to sell you anything. The situation is the same as if you and the business couldn't agree on a price.

Obviously, few business choose to require ID for cash purchases. Why would they? But no law prevents them from doing so. No laws prevent them from requiring you to dance a jig, but few make that a condition of sale either.

Posted by David Wright | March 22, 2007 4:20 PM

Gordito's isn't so good, though the portions are freakin' huge. As far as I can tell, the best trucks in town are El Rincon down in White Center, near J & K auto repair, and Tacos El Asadero (the white bus on Rainier.) Tacos Dos Hermanos in the Columbia City Plaza ain't bad, and if you can ever get to Tacos Matamoros when it's open (15th NE up in Wedgewood!) they make a damn fine torta.

Posted by Gurldoggie | March 22, 2007 4:24 PM


What's the cross street for Tacos Matamoros? Part of the reason I moved away from Wedgewood and to Wallingford/Fremont was because there weren't many places to eat in Wedgewood. I would happily jump on a #65 for a good Carne Asada.

I've been to all the other trucks and buses that you mention and they are indeed tasty. But as I have no car, my taco trucks are severely limited.

Posted by elswinger | March 22, 2007 4:49 PM

Charles - Once again you have played the black card with no justification. How hard would it have been to ASK her why she carded you?? But no, you took the chicken shit way out and stiffed her on the tip! OOOH! Big Man! Way to show her who not to fuck with! You're an ass. I hope your son is not learning to carry on your brand of reverse prejudice.

Posted by Mad Doc | March 22, 2007 6:23 PM

So maybe Charles did jump to an unwarranted conclusion, but I'm surprised by folks who immediately assume that this is the case.

As a chronically scruffy and poorly dressed guy (jeans and black tees for any occasion), I'm used to getting attitude. And I'm amazed at how often I get treated better than a well dressed black -- even in ultra fancy highpriced hotels, where the staff really ought to know better. And I'm sure that in most cases the person doing this would adamantly deny any racist intent and be unaware that they even did it.

Among shoplifters downtown a mixed race team is highly touted...the black draws the store security, while the white does the boosting. I'm told this works especially well at Nordstroms.

Oh, and the food at Gorditos blows major leaqgue chunks. Large portions just means more bad salty food to contend with. Their salsa/condiment bar, however, is great.

Posted by gnossos | March 22, 2007 7:16 PM

Interesting. I've been on the whitey side of the coin bartending to virtually all-black hip-hop crowds (the shit-ass kind with the fights and cop cars and such), where I'm also not the hip-hop-whitey guy that's fittin' in. The nothing-to-do-with-this-scene whitey.

Slammed, in the weeds, the only guy at my well. I can work in the weeds, but I feel like some people in the line are trying to ruffle me, single me out, crack my concentration. I had the feeling, I'm guessing something like Charles' feeling that it was me there, but it wasn't about me-me, but it was about me being a certain kind of person. Whitey in a black place.

There was something about it where I was supposed to stop and see that and recognize that.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | March 22, 2007 8:26 PM

I loved this post. Here we have something that finally seemed to fit into the overall conversation on the Slog and that managed to be intelligent and interpretive at the same time. I'm a little surprised though, at how many people objected to it (and how quickly it turned into a restaurant/cart review, too). Yes, who can ever really know the intentions of the cashier? Not even she. However, people internalize racism in the most subtle ways, ways that are often significant but unconscious. I think Charles did a really good job here in pointing that out.

So stop hating

Posted by jimmyeah | March 22, 2007 8:59 PM

The lady at the counter always checks the ID on Charles. Charles always has to comment on old people, and how soon they are going to die.

But in his case, he's being intelectual or ironic or something, but the cashier lady is being racist.

That's the way people with victim complexes are, and there's nothing worse than a pseudo-intelectual with a virtual megaphone and a victim complex.

Posted by If you can't get tenure, hack for the Stranger.... | March 22, 2007 9:56 PM

Charles, you are overly sensitive. Get over it. And stop trying to guess what other people are thinking -- it can't be done.

Posted by Whiner | March 22, 2007 10:06 PM

I like Gordito's. They do have a lot of regulars. Since they started being open on Tuesday nights the place is 1/3 as busy on Tuesdays as any other night. A huge number of the people that go have been going regularly for a long time.

Your story saddens me. I'm not sure what to do with it.

Posted by mirror | March 22, 2007 11:05 PM

Charles, you're an idiot. The staff at Gordito's are awesome. I eat there regularly, and I've always noticed them treating their customers with respect. Also, why do you have to comment twice on the woman behind the counter's looks? What does that have to do with anything in your story, besides the fact that you're always oversexualizing woman in your posts?

To the people saying overly critical things about Gordito's food....don't go there anymore, there's not enough parking for you haters! GORDITO'S RULES!

Posted by Sally Struthers Lawnchair | March 22, 2007 11:14 PM

To the people who said that the woman probably had the guy in front of him as a regular--whatever. The second time he was carded too. And the white woman in back of him must have also been a regular, right?

When shit like that happens to me the white person not being carded, I comment. Like, "Is this just for Black people? White people don't have to show ID, huh?"

Seems like many folks want to believe it is anything but racism.

Posted by Papayas | March 23, 2007 6:53 AM

All Mexican food operators are racists. They have sided with the Caucasian oppressor and are their brown lapdog.

I call for a general strike and a day of solidarity. We will march and rally at the Federal Building.

Posted by Racist Watch | March 23, 2007 7:29 AM

It's always nice to have an excuse (Racism!!!) for being a bad tipper. Makes you feel all morally and shit, instead of cheap.

Now go and post some more boring shit about ugly buildings and death.

Posted by Charles is a Cheapskate | March 23, 2007 7:33 AM

I don't know if conclude that this woman was a racist, but I'm white so what do I know. It seems unfair to me to target this woman, who might very likely read this and be hurt by it... But this also makes me think of something else. Is it expected to tip at a restaurant like Gorditos where there are no waiters? I always tip there, since it seems that if you are eating in a place that is basically cafeteria style. I mean, I might put in a buck or two, but I don't think of it like I'm stiffing someone if I don't. But maybe others feel differently?

Posted by Peter | March 23, 2007 8:44 AM

I don't know if conclude that this woman was a racist, but I'm white so what do I know. It seems unfair to me to target this woman, who might very likely read this and be hurt by it... But this also makes me think of something else. Is it expected to tip at a restaurant like Gorditos where there are no waiters? I always tip there, since it seems that if you are eating in a place that is basically cafeteria style. I mean, I might put in a buck or two, but I don't think of it like I'm stiffing someone if I don't. But maybe others feel differently?

Posted by Peter | March 23, 2007 8:45 AM

Your anecdote was hilarious and telling, Charles.

I haven't been to Gordito's in a while. Is this the one in Greenwood? They closed the one they had opened in Queen Anne, I had heard.

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