Last week I wrote about airport concessions operator OTG charging $28 plus tax and tip for beer at Newark airport. This clearly violates their lease to abide by ‘street pricing’ rules.
OTG, famous for making you order everything via an iPad, quickly claimed the pricing was a mistake, corrected it, but still argued that it really wasn’t such a bad deal after all because it was a big pour.
While there’s no longer $28 beers for sale at Newark, four members of Congress want in on the outrage. The letter comes under the letterhead of Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and is joined by Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ).
Today my colleagues and I are calling for a broad investigation into outrageous price-gouging at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia airports. Visitors to our region shouldn’t be bamboozled $27 for a bottle of beer. pic.twitter.com/wOsJk5ks3h
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) August 12, 2021
The quartet complains not just about $27.95 Sam Adams, but also $10.90 french fries and $4 orange juice. And they’re demanding an investigation “pursuant to Article IV, Section 6 of the PANYNJ interstate compact” which rests responsibility in an inspector general for “investigating, where appropriate” complaints of “fraud, waste and abuse” primarily by the Port Authority itself but also third parties doing business with the port authority.
Under this interpretation ‘abuse’ is more or less anything, and it covers abuse by anyone who does business with the Port Authority, even if the abuse is directed towards others.
There’s already a pricing audit that’s been announced by the Port Authority, so the Inspector General might simply wait for that to be completed in any case. In other words, these four Members of Congress want in on the outrage.
If they wanted to do something that actually made a difference they might call for customers who were overcharged to be… refunded. But no question pertaining to refunds is in their letter. Or if they wanted to do something that made a difference they might address the myriad drivers of expensive poor quality food available in the airport to begin with. Has there ever been anything more depressing than ordering off an OTG iPad at Newark Airport CBGB’s?
- Rent is often far more expensive at the airport than anywhere else nearby. Labor costs are too, whether because of the need to find people who can pass background checks or because local laws often mandate higher minimum wages (New York airports are going to $19 in 2023). Bringing supplies and ingredients into the airport is also costly, because it involves using separate vendors and bringing goods through security. That’s the cost side.
- Meanwhile passengers are a largely captive audience. The government forbids them from bringing liquids through the security checkpoint, “no outside beverages” isn’t just a movie theater rule it’s the law. And in many airports there’s limited competition across vendors, since so many of the businesses that have familiar names – be it Wendy’s or TGI Friday’s – are really the same management company like OTG or Delaware North licensing the brand. Customers, facing long lines and little time during connections, often don’t have much time to comparison shop in any case.
As much as $28 is way too much for a Sam Adams (don’t order one) I have to wonder how this became one of the top 10 things any of these four members of Congress had to do on a given day?