walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Not a Trip Report: Income Inequality Tourism

The New York Times has an article about leisure and income inequality. R. and I both read it separately and then discussed it some in the evening after I brought it up. We had some of the same initial reactions to the article, the first and foremost of which was, W.T.F., and the second of which was, we're pretty sure this is product placement. Here's a link to the article -- it's long.


One of the most striking aspects of the story is how over the top some of the language is.

"the contrast between the level of service reserved for the top tier and the treatment meted out to ordinary passengers, who in some cases occupy rooms with virtual windows instead of real ones"

"meted out"? Okay, just to be clear. If the ship is large, there have always been inside cabins with no windows. That's just how it works. Oh, and those cabins have always been cheaper. "meted out"?

"Last month, Walt Disney World began offering after-hours access to visitors who want to avoid the crowds. In other words, you basically get the Magic Kingdom to yourself."

Disney has been running hard ticket events and private events since ... forever. This particular hard ticket runs about a hundred and fifty, and as near as I can tell, is the equivalent of what it does when a large corporation rents the park after hours -- only you no longer have to be an employee of a large corporation to get the experience. You fork over your $150, and you're good to go (I don't think you need to pay the regular attendance fee on top of the $150 but I could be wrong). Oh, and it's only another 3 hours anyway. If the $150 hard ticket is all you need, and you use it to show up at 7 p.m., it's very, very slightly different from what you would pay for a normal day.

What I don't understand is why the author of the piece chose this aspect of Disney for this article. If _I_ wanted to illuminate how the experience of the park is different for people with money burning a hole in their pockets, I'd point to this:


For the low, low price of $500/hour +/- (and you have to pay for a minimum number
of hours), you get front of the line privileges as many times as you like, anywhere you like, walk into any show you want, someone drives you around, someone _goes and gets your coffee for you_, so you don't have to wait in line, keeps an eye on your kid(s) for you if you want to do something else, etc. Oh, and the gentlemen doing the tours have been working for Disney for decades and are the most meticulously considerate people you are ever likely to meet in your life. That is some income inequality marketing in action right there. (Service does not include entry tickets. Seriously.)

If you can't afford a VIP tour, and you want someone else to shepherd your kids around to rides, you can accomplish that goal for a lot less. I'm not sure, but I think you can get Kids Nite Out to do that, and their rates are really low.

But those aren't the examples appearing in the piece. Instead, there's all this focus on cruise ships and Sea World. Sea World?!? Sea World?!?


The article acts like Crystal Cruises is some sort of new idea.

"Next year, Crystal Cruises will begin an airborne version of one of its luxury ships: a customized Boeing 777 that ferries passengers on 14- or 28-day trips around the world."

Anyone on the right alumni association mailing list has been getting fliers for this kind of trip for years.

And then there is this gem:

"Downscale items like canned meat or tobacco aren’t drawing as many new entrants into the market."

Let's ignore the canned meat thing for a minute. (1) Vaping is a _huge_ new entrant. and (2) We are sort of trying to get rid of tobacco.

A lot of what is going on in the article is an exploration of how technology and the more complex pricing models it supports have enabled the rise of A La Carte Everything. At the same time, the massive cognitive load of A La Carte Everything has resulted in an evolution of Pay One Price We'll Deal With the Hassle. But that's not where the author went with it. Nope. And the author really didn't explore how luxury consumption is incredibly uneven (people pick the luxuries they care about and pinch pennies in places where they don't care).

I kind of look at this article and see a world in which if you have the money, you can try just about anything. The past the author seems to yearn for -- where "“For a long time there was an acceptance that outside the door of your room, you were on an equal footing,” he said." -- had a lot of inequality embedded in it. Things that you couldn't buy no matter how much you had, if you were the Wrong Sort of Person.

I'll take a little crass, if we don't care so much about who you are.
Tags: our future economy today

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