Slime, Crime, Nickel and Dime
By Mariko Gordon
May 18, 2010
May 18, 2010
Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.After 40 years without laying eyes on each other, my BFF when I was eight and I recently had a reunion. Pascale had been living in her native Provence all these years and when the scheduling stars finally aligned, she came to visit me in New York City.
Remarkably, in the essentials we were unchanged - just older versions of our eight-year-old selves - tomboyish, independent and driven. So we had a lovely time those seven days, catching up on four decades' worth of life as we hit most of the tourist spots, including, naturally, the Empire State Building.
Here's where the criminal alert occurs: The way to the ESB observation deck is lousy with pickpockets.
Not the sticky-fingered Dickensian kind - the less skillful, but equally nefarious, feral capitalism kind. There was the virtual reality "sky ride" pre-security screening; the mandatory (yes, mandatory) photo taken while waiting in line; the New York City maps for sale; the coin-operated telescopes; the audio tour; and finally, the gift shop, through which you must exit to regain your freedom.
All in all, there was not a single squandered opportunity to get you to part with a buck. In fact, the only two places where you weren't pressured to open your wallet were at the surly security screening point and in the restrooms (I'm assuming the latter violates some law?).
In terms of dollar-extraction efficiency, there was much to be admired. In addition to the finely-tuned process described above, each of us - along with 3,499,998 million of our fellow visitors each year - forked over $20 in admission ($40 if you were in a hurry and wanted to jump to the front of the line).
There was, however, one HUGE flaw in the whole operation: The interests of the tourists and of building management were just about diametrically opposed. Instead of feeling energized by the glorious view that King Kong made famous, BFF and I left feeling slimed by the incontinent merchandising of ESB management.
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