A few weeks ago on a Saturday (the infamous day of the 45-minute lift lines back in Blue Sky), a good friend of mine was dropping off her teenage son to ski in Vail around 8 a.m. As she has witnessed all season, a local lodge had a sign offering parking for $25, but this time it read $35.
“Well,” she snickered to herself, not oblivious to the 3 feet of snowfall over the previous week, “it’s going to be a busy day, they might as well take advantage of the crowds.”
On her way home, she decided since the snow was so incredible that she would grab her equipment and quickly return to town, rationalizing the $35 as worth it to enjoy the amazingly good conditions.
Upon returning in just under an hour to the same parking lot, imagine her surprise to see the same sign now demanding $100 for parking.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The number one with two zeros, only then followed by a decimal point, for a single day of parking in Vail, Colorado.
And it was hand-written no less.
Upon asking the parking attendant if the sign was serious, and if so, were people actually paying such an outrageous price, he responded, “You’d be surprised …”
Indeed she was.
Quick question: What’s the difference between capitalism and price gouging?
One makes a fair profit for goods or services rendered while the other takes extreme advantage over a unique situation to maximize profit regardless of the consequences.
I don’t care that both parking structures were filled by 10 a.m.
I don’t care that over 1,000 vehicles parked along the Frontage Roads that day.
I certainly don’t care if people can afford it.
Nor do I care about the which direction some might attempt to spin this farce — gouging is gouging — and no amount of rationalization will justify this scenario as remotely ethical.
Not to mention the ugly image it paints for the entire valley.
And please spare me the whole “charge whatever the market will bear” nonsense, as that is reserved for real estate sales, art deals and political payoffs.
This is selfish greed for the simple purpose of milking as much as possible from guests.
Those who have known me more than 10 seconds know I am a tried and true capitalist, and I’ve written a number of times about the absurdity of Vail’s little-known slogan found deep in the small print section (“Welcome to Vail — here’s your parking ticket!”), but this is ridiculous.
Believe it or not, Colorado is one of only 15 states where price-gouging during an emergency is perfectly legal, such as last summer’s flood up in the Estes Park area, where water, food, fuel and shelter prices briefly skyrocketed.
But “emergency” will never be a word associated with Vail parking woes.
This is just embarrassing and makes us all look like a pack of parking pimps.
Somebody needs their parking privileges revoked over this one.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a weekly column. He can be reached at email@example.com.