David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Trapped In A Rip-Off
When someone tells me something obvious I tend to think of a “newsflash – water is wet” joke…or more recently the hotels.com spokesman Captain Obvious. But I have to believe that this week contained the ultimate ‘no-shit-Sherlock’ experience: New York’s Port Authority has discovered – to its shock (shock I say) – that airport concession pricing is out of control. Really Einsteins? It took you this long to discover that buying a bottle of water for the price of a case may be overboard?
This week, it was reported that:
“The main concessionaire at New York's three major airports is undergoing an audit of its pricing following social media complaints of exorbitantly priced airport food and drinks -- including a 23-ounce beer advertised for $27.85.
The Port Authority requested the retailer, OTG, to conduct a review of its pricing at the dozens of restaurants it manages within Newark, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports after a report in The City called out the eye-popping pricetags for cheap eats like fries, orange juice and beer.”
When I read the Port Authority spokesperson quote in that story, “We know this market is expensive enough already, so we’re committed to everything we can do to ensure reasonable pricing for our customers,” I nearly spit-out my morning coffee. For decades, the cost of anything purchased at a US airport has been the proverbial poster-child for price gouging.
Now I have realized two very important things about this for a long time. One, the cost of items at an airport reflects not just the value of the items but rather they include the hassle of getting them in there through security, and having to hire people who can make it through security every day to sell them. It’s not just the cost of the water or the beer, it’s that plus the cost of the effort to get it there. The second thing? I realized, what the heck am I going to do about it anyway? The TSA, the airport managers (like that same Port Authority) and the concessionaires intentionally or unintentionally conspire to give you no choice. Do you think the reason you can’t bring your own water from home is only because of that one time someone tried to bring an explosive into an airport, or do you realize those swab / sniff machines they use would actually work, making part of the reason that you can’t BYO the fact that you’ll have to buy their stuff with the gouged price? I’ll let you think about that for a while.
I’ve pointed out many times in past blogs the plain fact that the airports in the US BELONG TO US! They are used by airlines and operated by quasi-governmental agencies, but those entities don’t own them and they shouldn’t be allowed to operate monopoly services at them to make windfall profits. At the New York area airports – JFK, LGA, and EWR (the article explains) – “prices are supposed to be based on the charges for the same products at other shops in the New York region. But reporters at The City found airport newsstands charging anywhere between 70 to 140 percent above the asking prices for the same items in local delis around town -- like chips, sodas or lemonades.” Again, in my mind, if you ask any frequent flyer they’ll tell you that these are long obvious facts, so I‘m not sure what any audit will do about them. That is especially true of what is being described here as a ‘self-audit’ being done by OTG themselves. They’ve already called the $28 beer “a simple pricing mistake” and not something they needed to be shamed on social media to eventually correct. If that’s a “simple mistake” then don’t expect them to find anything nefarious or anything requiring significant correction at all.
If anyone still thinks things are going to improve in this area after the audit, just let me know. I’ll be happy to try to set up a meeting with you and the actor that plays Captain Obvious (Brandon Moynihan) to help set the record straight. I’m not sure what he and his agent would charge for that, but let me assure you, based on my internal audit, my price of 140% above their costs would be in line with what other travel blogs in the area of JoeSentMe.com would charge.
One final note – I received a couple of emails from people regarding my last two blogs on masking and vaccines. I really pride myself on being able to hear all sides of an issue and always questioning if I might be wrong, but I just can’t go there in this case. If you’re medically able to get the COVID vaccine and simply choosing not to because you think it may have long term consequences, I have no tolerance for that. The short-term consequences of not being vaccinated are the mass deaths we continue to experience around the world – which should far out shadow any fears of undiscovered future consequences. If you wish to exercise your “choice” not to be vaccinated then fine, but don’t get upset that society exercises its choice to not permit you into gyms and restaurants, concerts, theaters, sporting events and anywhere else the intelligent public wants to go to again. Just stay home – that’s the consequence of the “choice” you’re making. As I’ve said before, a plague that only kills stupid people wouldn’t be such a bad thing I think, if it weren’t for the fact that our children and some medically compromised individuals actually have to suffer because of stupid people’s choices as well. Just get the shots. The millions of us who have done so are doing just fine.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
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As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree. Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me. Thanks!