Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Value of a Dollar: Convenience

I was just about to order two tickets to a concert coming up next month. It was going to be my wife's birthday present. It's a performer that I know she likes, albeit one that I couldn't care less about. But the timing of the show is almost perfect, so I figured I could sit through a few hours in a crowded theater listening to so-so music, because I love her and we do things like that for people we care about.

Then I clicked on the "price details" for the tickets, and my curmudgeon kicked in.

In addition to the $20 price of the show, there is a $1 charge per ticket, a "facility charge." This, I suppose, is the added cost of holding the concert indoors. OK, a buck a ticket, I can live with that. I object to it on principle, but it is just a buck. Each.

Then there's the $5.80 "convenience charge." Don't kid yourself: this isn't the charge for your convenience, buyer. This is the charge the theater imposes for the convenience to it of not having to mess with all that ticket-selling stuff on its own. It's the commission paid to a third-party ticketing company.

I object to that on principle, too. If the theater want to charge $26.80 for the show, that's fine; I will decide based on that price whether I want to pay it ... and I probably would. These days, it's not so much for a show, even one that I don't really want to see.

But knowing that the show is really only worth $20, and the "facility" in which it's held is only worth another dollar, I object to paying $5.80 above the value of the show. Per ticket.

I also object to paying a $2.50 premium for the privilege of printing the tickets on my own printer, when standard mail is free.

So now I'm having a hard time reconciling myself to buying two tickets for $26.80 each, because I know they aren't really worth that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why We Can't Trust Government To Do Things Right

I had jury duty today.  I know a lot of people pull faces at the very thought, but I take the chore seriously. I would actually like to be a juror, but I know that no lawyer is going to want another lawyer on his jury. I'll never get on an actual jury, and that knowledge dims the glow of the experience somewhat. Still, I go, I sit and read for a day, I earn my six bucks, and I go home. 

When I got downtown to the courthouse area, I parked in the county's parking garage. I parked on Level Three and walked down the stairs.  When I left this afternoon, I got in the elevator and pushed the button for Level Three. I stepped out and saw a sign to my right that said "Stairway B, Level 2." I turned around, thinking I'd gotten off on the wrong floor, and there was a sign at the elevator that said, "Remember that you parked on Level Three." 

I was confused. Where was I?  Far off to the left I could see another sign, "Stairway C, Level 2." Then I remembered that, where I'd parked, the floor was only half-covered by the floor above. This clearly was not Level Three. I walked up the stairs and found my car on Level Three.

So: if we can't trust our county government — and by extension, all levels of government — to correctly do something as simple as counting to three, twice, why should we trust them to do anything right?

It's a question I don't have an answer to.