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.