Sunday, June 13, 2004

The $6 Beer

Airports. Stadiums. County Fairs. Theme Parks. Movie Theaters.

Welcome to the land of the $4 medium coke and the $6 beer. And by beer I mean draft Coors Light or something similar. Six bucks.

Like Starbucks calling coffees "grande" and movie theaters showing endless ads before the movie, the blame for this gigantic travesty falls on one indivudal: you. Well, all of us. We permit this. If we refused to stand for it, it would go away. If nobody bought a $6 ballgame beer, there wouldn't be anymore $6 ballgame beers.

The six dollar ballgame beer, more than anything else, is the reason I don't go to more ballgames. It's not just the beer - I'm not some kind of hopeless drunk - it's all the concessions. Look at it this way. I live in San Diego. To go to a Padres game, I'm paying $25 for the seat, $7 for parking, $4 for one hotdog, and $12 for two draft beers. That's nearly $50 to go to a game. And that's just one person. God help you if you're taking the wife and kids.

What's the result? Going to a baseball game is now a luxury. It's something I do once, maybe twice a year. Ideally, I could see myself going to a ballgame once every week or so. If the total cost of a game was $25 instead of $50, I might make it a point to get out to the stadium more. And you know what happens when you see more games? You become more invested in the team, you start following the season more closely... suddenly before you know it - you're a fan. And once a team hooks you, you're hooked.

But no, to make ends meet, they have to charge $6 for a beer. Well congratulations. The one time per year I decide to go to the game, you get to rape my wallet all evening. But you don't get a regular customer. And you don't get a fan. Stadiums are where new fans are minted. It's where the non-initiated discover what the game is all about. Why discourage game attendance with Sea-World style prices? If the stadiums would offer a little more incentive to get out to the game, they'd have more fans, and they'd sell more beer.

As far as the airports go, and the theme parks and movie theaters - they'll all tell you a sad story about how times are tough and the $6 beer is the only thing saving them from bankrupcy. Bullshit. These places have you trapped. They know you need a beer. They're holding all the cards. And they'll keep raising prices as long as we keep paying them.

Take airports. If it's true that the only way to keep our airports and airlines running efficiently is to add a premium to the airport beer, then frankly I think it should be ticket prices that are bumped up a few bucks. Why punish the thirsty traveler? People already associate airports with hassles and frustration and annoyance. Why add to this impression with gouging at the bar counter? Just because they can I guess.

Here's what I'm pledging. I'm going to draw up a few quick guidelines. I'm going to write down the maximum I want to pay for a beer or a soda or a hotdog or pretzel, or ice cream cone, or whatever. And then you know what? I'm just not ever going to pay more than that dollar amount. I refuse to be held hostage by the carnie with the keg.

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