Privacy Law

Restaurants May Be Tracking You, But Fear of Lawsuits Inspires Tasteful Limits


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In restaurant lingo, LOL does not stand for “laughing out loud.”

Instead, it is an acronym for “little old lady,” and it is included in some restaurant computers to indicate a diner who may need special seating, the New York Times reports. HWC may mean “handle with care,” SFN may mean “something for nothing,” and, if you are lucky, you may be labeled a PX, a “person extraordinare,” used because VIP is so well known.

“What most customers don’t know,” the Times says, “is that hundreds of restaurants are now carefully tracking their individual tastes, tics, habits and even foibles.” Restaurants may be keeping track of your favorite tables, how much you tipped, your old bills, and whether you are a “wine whale” (known as a WW) who likes expensive bottles of wine.

The information is easier to aggregate as a result of computerized reservation systems such as OpenTable, the story says. The software gives restaurants basic information such as a customer’s email address. The restaurant can then add additional notes to the listing to create a customer profile.

Acronyms abound, but restaurants have mostly eliminated those that are more profane, according to the Times. The reason: a fear of lawsuits.

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

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