My Turn: There’s nothing magical about greed

  • The entrance to Florida's Walt Disney World. Wikimedia Commons

For the Monitor
Thursday, May 18, 2017

The goal of maximizing profit at the expense of consumer satisfaction is endemic in our society. Too often consumers are dealt with as if we were “marks” to be taken advantage of. Corporate bullying has allowed shoddy and unhealthy products to be foisted upon us, and the overbooking of planes and entertainment venues is now accepted as the norm.

Bullying is an issue in our schools and on our streets, so it is no surprise one of the biggest bullies in U.S. history is now sitting in the White House. Perhaps his behavior has even made it more acceptable for security guards to physically drag customers off flights.

The public uproar over the United incident looks like it might lead to much needed changes in airline ticketing. But one wonders why it took so long.

Another glaring example of overbooking occurred during a recent family vacation.

I pledged 35 years ago, after bringing our two young children to Disneyland in California, never to visit again. Though I enjoy Disney films, the park seemed to reflect the fantasy of an America I found distasteful.

But that pledge held no water with my now 5-year-old granddaughter. For her, as for millions of other children, a visit to Disney had been a dream.

Although we arrived at the park in Florida 30 minutes before it opened, buses from the surrounding Disney hotels were already pouring in. The crowds were so large and the lines so long, by the time we entered the park 1½ hours later, we were tense and tired. When we finally reached the rides, shock truly set in. The waits ranged from 45 to 90 minutes! Magical indeed.

I felt ripped off. I felt sorry for my granddaughter, disappointed she only got to go on three rides all day.

I felt sorry for all the other kids, parents and grandparents, especially those who had saved for years to make the trip. We saw very few happy faces that day.

The sense of being treated like cattle was reinforced by the lack of seating in the vast park. There was ample space to provide benches for those who needed a rest, but few could be found. People sat on curbs and on the ground in shady spots, seeking relief from the hot sun.

Things could be different. Disney could cap the number of tickets it sells on a daily basis, permitting everyone who enters the park to wait no more than a few minutes to get on a ride, thus ensuring a satisfying experience. Other entertainment venues do this all the time. There are only so many seats in the ballpark and movie theater.

Airlines could give passengers sufficient legroom and seat room, and guarantee when you buy a ticket you can’t be bumped. Southwest manages to give ample seating space while still making a nice profit.

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner said in March: “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

Those like Kushner and Trump who think of citizens as customers should not be involved in government, the primary function of which is to serve and protect the public and the rights of all citizens.

Here’s hoping citizens choose to spend their dollars, and their votes, on companies and politicians who treat them with respect.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)