Greed: Two Sales—Two Tales

It seems that when one thinks of “Greed” one is caused to think of the profiteering carried about by huge boundary-less corporations that produce necessary commodities such as food, energy and medicines. Multinationals get a bad rap. Time and time again, though, you are reminded that the grand acts of greed were caused by the decisions of individuals; people for whom “The Self” is everything; those for whom there is no “Other.”

Consider the not-so-vital things we purchase, though. For all its marketing efforts—promises of laughter and fun—the entertainment industry seems, more than most, to be subject to the kind of cutthroat business practices that organized efforts have eradicated, one by one, from other industries. As you dig you find that, like just about everything else, it all boils down to basic economics. The patrons pay and someone makes a profit. The more the patrons pay, the more profit. This leads to some pretty questionable practices on behalf of organizations and individuals. Let’s consider two cases.

CASE ONE: KISS recently played Mile One, the multipurpose rec arena in my city. It was an amazing concert! Despite the smaller venue—the arena can only hold around 7000-8000 patrons, depending on the stage setup—the band brought the full concert rig; the same one they would use to play, say, the much larger Air Canada Centre. I paid $82 each for two decent tickets and judged the event to be a bargain. My wife and I were treated to the over-the-top spectacle that is KISS. What’s more it was evident that the band was there to entertain us all and was enjoying the event too. They have a strong connection to here; it’s not their first time. Gene Simmons’ wife, Shannon Tweed, is a Newfoundlander. Besides Gene playing the two gigs here last week, Shannon played her usual role in the locally-produced TV show “Republic of Doyle.” By all accounts the annual KISS visit is one that both fans and band look forward to.

But greed was also afoot. While waiting for the concert to start, enjoying a beer downtown with friends I noticed that several tickets to the night’s show were for sale on-line. One set, not as good seats as we had, were available for $425! That was approximately triple the face-value, none of which would be going to the stadium or the promoter, just to the individual who saw an opportunity to make some easy money.

Case Two: At the recent Salmon Fest concert in Grand Falls-Windsor some mistakes were made around the sale of VIP tickets. A section of the area that was designed to hold around 2000 people wound up holding between two to three times that number. That situation revealed two separate problems, both related to lack of drinking water. On a day in which the temperatures soared to beyond 30 C (90 F) they ran out.

Problem One: (BAD) Patrons were prevented from getting their own water. Rock concerts are very greedy places. You pay $220 per person for the privilege of getting locked into a VIP corral to hear music. You then become part of a captive audience (literally) that has to pay for everything it eats and drinks. Water costs $4 for 500 ml bottle. This is the free stuff that comes out of the pipes paid for by taxpayers. By contrast, note that a litre of heavily processed gasoline costs around $1. The promoter swears that they have to do this because the cheapskate patrons who don’t want to pay inside for booze will otherwise put it in their water bottles and drag it in. Give me a $#@&$# break! They just want to pad their profits. The retail cost per bottle of water, when you buy a case, is around $0.30, including the recycling deposit—most of which the vendor will get back anyway. Standard restaurant markup for stuff like that is accepted to be 100% so around $0.60 to $0.80 would be considered industry standard. They could even be a bit greedy and push it to $1.00: Fine. But $4.00? There are no words.

Problem Two: (IT GETS WORSE) A friend of mine who attended the concert was seated nearby another concert goer who, early in the day, went and bought four cases of water (48 bottles) at that obscene $4 per bottle price. He literally sat on the cases throughout the day. Once the water ran out, what did that “Good Samaritan” do but sell the stuff for between $10 and $15 per bottle. Again, there are no words.

So, there you have them. Two cases, both of which nicely illustrate some not-so-nice aspects of human nature. I can live with Case One since, after all, the decision to buy the tickets is one based purely on personal taste. Case Two, though, is a different matter since it nullifies that which, in my country at least, is a thing—access to drinking water—that we have fought hard to achieve.

Lest you think this is all about the uglier side of human nature, let’s relate one more short story. My friend and his wife attended the Salmon Fest concert and paid extra to get in the VIP section. Like me, he’s in his mid-fifties and really does not need the aggravation of being jostled around in a tightly-packed group of around 20,000 much younger partiers. More importantly his wife has a medical condition that makes it difficult for her to attend these shows, even under the best of conditions. As already mentioned, the VIP section was oversold and was just as tightly packed as was the regular section. Once the water ran out, she had to make plans to leave as it would have been impossible for to stay.  A  stranger came to the rescue and simply gave her one of his bottles of water. There’s hope.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
This entry was posted in Newfoundland and Labrador, Society and Culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Greed: Two Sales—Two Tales

  1. These are good bad examples of everyday greed, profiting from others’ situation, need, want or predicament. We have these individuals among us and they get more “creative” by time. When I think of greed, however, my thought first goes to the rich corporations whose profits have soared in recent years while salaries of their workers have completely stagnated – at least here in the US. I always become sad reading these statistics – such greed affects so many people and the whole make-up of the society as the resource gap continues to get wider and wider. You almost got me going here…

    • But I don’t want to stop you 🙂 Get going! As I see it corporate greed is a larger manifestation of individual greed but with a group think, confirmation bias and position polarization also layered in. Corporations are not necessarily moral but, fortunately they may not be exactly amoral either. If enough people continue to get angry and speak out about the effects of corporate greed then maybe those structures will learn some norms that are more in-line with the everyday morality we all seek.

  2. Tracy says:

    Another thought-provoking post Maurice. This kind of thing goes on here in the UK too. It’s very common to find concert tickets being resold for many times the face value. In London, there’s the despicable habit of the hotels who all hike their prices whenever there’s a big event in town. I bought tickets for my son and I to see one of his favourite groups a couple of years ago. It just so happened that the concert also coincided with a major football international. We couldn’t get a hotel cheaper than £250 when the same room in the same place would normally be £120 or less. At any major event here – sport, music, theatre – every item that an attendee might want or need – food, drink, accommodation – is ridiculously priced. It’s disappointing, it highlights a profiteering and unnecessary aspect of human nature and it makes certain events impossible for ‘normal’ people and their families.

    • I have heard similar stories from friends of mine who have visited and has roughly similar experiences. London, in particular, is a terrifically expensive city for entertainment. If I go to see a Montreal Canadiens game a beer is $10 per 16 oz cup (and, hey, I’d gladly pay any price for beer–as I see it, beer can never reach its true value). That’s kind of steep when you realize a similar-sized can of the stuff is around $3.50 retail. Quite a markup!

  3. A couple years ago my then very perceptive nine year old said, “why do we even have money? Why don’t we just all take care of each other?” Of course, she was ridiculed for being a socialist.

    • I hope she never loses that vision. Granted, socialism does not work terribly well economically–we’ve seen that in other countries who went whole-hog at it–but we have learned to do it all on a 2D (cartesian) grid. Look at the economy and social programs separately on the xy plane. A country can work if you lean a little to the right on the economic scale and a little to the left on the social scale. Yes, it’s messy and difficult but we are resourceful and determined and if we decide to work together and not spend all out time jostling got power and prestige it is quite doable.

  4. seeker says:

    They are taking advantage of the situation. I call this highway robbery.

    • I first really started to notice this after hearing similar stories in the wake of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. There were quite a few horrific stories of people gauging for basic necessities. In time the people, the government and the courts started drawing lines between what is and what is not acceptable in a market-driven economy. Unfortunately those in the entertainment industry haven’t quite heard the message.

  5. jennypellett says:

    It’s the same here in the UK with theatre tickets. It is almost impossible to buy direct from the establishment (National Theatre aside), so tickets must be purchased through a comparison website. Prices vary hugely and, to add insult to an already injured wallet, they whack a ridiculous online booking fee on top of the seat price – sometimes per seat!
    Sadly, it all comes down to supply and demand which, rightly or wrongly, seems to makes the world go round.

    • Aye, and people seem to be just taking it lying down. I think it has something to do with the ‘guilt’ we all feel when we try to enjoy ourselves. Vendors seem to know this and put predatory pricing in place to squeeze every last guilt-ridden penny from us.
      Frig it–I’m no longer guilty! I work hard and don’t mind enjoying a bit of time off from time to time. Vendors beware: I’m on to you and if you don’t be nice to me I’ll play elsewhere 🙂

  6. You point out something of the nature of our species which we would prefer to ignore. This IS human nature for 99% of the time. Our saving grace is that precious 1%. You should see if you can get hold of Stephen Jay Gould’s volume entitled Eight Little Piggies, and take a look at the essay Ten Thousand Acts of Kindness … it’s a good read on this particular topic. D

    • Thanks! I will look that up. On a somewhat related note, my first introduction to S. J. G was through his book, “Wonderful Life” which I bought back in ’89 or ’90. For a physicist who’d only done high school biology (two years) it was a fascinating/challenging re-introduction! I was a fan from that point forward. Too Bad, he left us too early 😦
      And, sadly, I suppose you are more-or-less right about the assertion. The challenge, for all of us, is to bring that figure down.

  7. elkement says:

    My favorite example is: Access to the internet in – expensive – hotels (in Europe). I know, not as essential as water… but I was always baffled by the anti-correlation of the prices of rooms and the prices of internet access. In small hotels (“mom and pop businesses”) you get free internet access, but in your typical business traveller’s hotels you pay about a monthly broadband access fee for 24 hours of internet access. And sometimes the quality is not that business-y though.

    Same for printing: In small hotels the owner lets you print your airplane ticket (or whatever you absolutely, positively need to print right now) on his personal printer; in large hotels you need to pay astronomical fees per page.

    Yes, in a sense this is “just supply and demand”. But on the other it would have never occurred to me – as a consultant and service provider – to increase my fees in case customers really, really need something right now. I feel that strategy does not pay off in the long run – as a business traveler I have avoided those typical business hotels whenever possible.

    • That’s an excellent example. When I think about it it’s the same here. I couldn’t believe the first time I was expected to pay. It was at a larger hotel in a different province. They expected the equivalent if around 13 euros for a day. I declined and was able to find an unsecured access point from my room. It served the purpose for the time 🙂 since then I’ve taken two measures so I don’t get gouged. By internet provider (Bell Aliant in the name) hosts a lot of hotspots in coffee shops and such. I can access them nation wide without limits or costs. Also I upped the data plan on the mobiles. My wife and have a combined limit if 12 gigabytes per month and both phones are able to serve as hotspots if need be. It costs but in the end I figure it’s worth it.

  8. It’s always nice when we can see the glimmer of hope amongst the throngs.

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