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Bald Ambition

Hell-bent on getting attention? Try a zany marketing stunt.

Bald isn't just beautiful-it's also economic. Restaurateur Gary Arnold, 52, saw to that earlier this year when he began offering balding customers a discount on Wednesdays. People with half their hair receive a 50 percent discount, and for Kojak lookalikes, the whole enchilada is free. Gary's Uptown Restaurant and Bar in Lodi, California, has received a ton of national press, and the customers "have a lot of fun," says co-owner and Arnold's wife, Debra, 39.

But marketing gimmicks can backfire. In 1999, another restaurant, Casa Sanchez in San Francisco, began offering a free burrito a day for life to anybody who would get a tattoo of their restaurant's logo-a boy wearing a sombrero and riding a fiery corncob. But the owners stopped after 40 people because they calculated that if each person took them up on the offer for the next 50 years, it would cost $5.8 million. And this year, the state of New Jersey banned "Ladies Night" in bars because six years ago, a litigious man learned he had to pay $5 to get into a bar, while women paid $1.

"Businesses shouldn't spend much time worrying," says Central Michigan University law professor Theodore Bolema. "But there is a big difference between discriminating based on a protected class, such as ladies night, vs. discrimination based on a nonprotected category"-like bald men.

However, woe to all of us if more nonprotected categories are protected, warns Wayne Schaffel, a New York City PR expert who specializes in the hospitality and food and beverage industries: "Does happy hour discriminate against people who work from 5 to 7 p.m.? This is not a good precedent."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the December 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bald Ambition.

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