At times, you are a captive audience and those holding you captive know it. They have the power. They have the means to suck as much money out of your pockets as they want, and there is little you can do about it.
Gouging is an appropriate term for how travellers are treated, as every little way to exploit their vulnerability and lack of alternatives is milked like a fat cow with an endless supply of milk.
These people are ruthless and merciless in their quest for the almighty dollar.
I learned this on a recent trip to Mexico, where we were legally robbed by a group of banditos with dollar signs spinning in their eyes.
I am, of course, referring to the airline industry.
There are no free rides in life and the airline industry is taking that mantra to a whole new level.
First, you purchase a ticket to be transported on the flying machine, which is an obvious and expected part of the trip.
But when we went to check in, we were informed our ticket would let us fly, but not our luggage.
That would be an extra US$25 per bag – each way.
Why not just include that in the price of the ticket in the first place?
Because then it would make the ticket more expensive and people would not think they are getting such a great deal. And once you are actually at the airport, odds are you are not going to cancel your trip just because these skyway robbers are holding your luggage hostage.
So you mumble under your breath as you kick out even more money for something you thought you already paid for.
Once in the air, the fleecing is far from over.
No problem, for just another US$6-10 you can purchase something resembling food.
The airline equivalent of a TV dinner is not exactly fine dinning, but what can you do? You can either buy the slop they are selling, or go hungry.
Alcoholic beverages can also be purchased at insanely jacked up prices. I did not buy any myself, but the man next to me paid US$6 for a single can of beer.
That’s more than seven loonies for a can of hops and barly the airline purchases for less than a single greenback.
But the airline did offer some personal service in the form of a free tiny cup of water or pop. I have seen communion glasses larger than that.
They also offer a scrumptious bag of flavoured pretzels – totally free of charge. (I guess they had to stop serving peanuts because of people with nut allergies.)
The pretzels were quite tasty, but with a bag that small it was hard to fully appreciate the culinary experience.
Feeling a little personally violated, we did get to our destination in a matter of hours, making flying a much faster and efficient way to cover the great distance from Canada to Mexico.
While in Mexico, we visited a market and were beseiged by vendors selling their wares. You could not walk past a little shop without someone soliciting you to come in and buy something. But unlike the air bandits, I could walk away from this attempt to extract money from my wallet.
And with the vendors, everything was negotiable. What they were asking was merely a starting point, whereas the US$6 beer was not up for haggling.
The vendors were somewhat intense in their aggressive selling tactics, but at least with them when you settled on a price, that was it. There were no hidden fees.
“The sombrero is $10, but the string to hold it on is another three.”
That conversation would only happen if the vendors were taken over by airline executives.
The Mexican vendors tried to get as much money out of us gringos as possible, but at least they were upfront about it.
Copyright 2015 Darren Handschuh