Now that Spring Break season is upon us, Americans are snapping up vacation packages. (Well, at least the ones who can still afford to are.) Lots of buzz-seeking kids are heading to party destinations such as Cancún and Panama City. But what would you say to a company that offered to sell you a vacation where you wouldn't encounter white trash?

That's what Activities Abroad, a company in northern England, has done. In an e-mail sent to 24,000 prospective customers, it promised what it called "chav-free" vacations."

Chav" is British slang for "trash." So book with it, said the company, and you won't have to deal with trashy fellow vacationers. How did it come up with that label? By running names that British people think are trashy through their customer database and finding that very few people with those names had booked before.
Reaction was swift and mostly angry, as you'd expect. Although Activities Abroad (which sells upscale trips like dog sledding and white water rafting) claimed you could count the number of complaints on your fingers and toes, one rival company was so indignant that it went about openly courting lower-class customers, saying it would give a 10% discount to any with a name typically seen as trashy in Britain. The Chantelles, Britneys, Candices, and Dazzas of England's Essex were given an open invitation to cash in on the class prejudice that the British have perfected.

I'd love to drop my jaw and express shock and disapproval, but I'm afraid that a concept like this would go over pretty well in America, as long as it were amply disguised. After all, when a luxury hotel advertises itself as "exclusive," it's pretty much advertising the same thing. We already accept a class system in air travel. And the credit cards are more likely to drop your credit limit if you shop at stores such as Wal-Mart.

How far are we from companies openly admitting they'd rather not deal with customers with names like Shaniqua or Jim-Bob?

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