I remember more than 30 years ago when I first became aware of "price gouging." Motels and hotels in Pigeon Forge, Tn., would raise the rate on their rooms from $29.99 per night from Sunday through Thursday, to $119 per night on Friday and Saturdays. That may not seem like much now, but back then it made a lot of folks swear. (Me included ) However, that is absolutely nothing in comparison to the "price gouging" going on in Melbourne, Fla., this week. We are here for the USSSA Elite 32 World Series and I've already had to drain a lot of money from my savings account.
Our condo on the beach is very reasonable and very nice but that's where reasonable stops.
Tickets for the event are $16 per person, per day. We could be here seven days and at that rate, Shelia and I will spend $224. That's high, but I can still accept it. Here is the clincher. You can't bring in food or snacks in the complex. Keep in mind that the heat index in Florida this week is over 100 degrees and if you need water, you'll pay $4.50 for a bottle of Aquafina. Soft drinks are the same and God forbid you need to eat something. Hot dogs are $6 each. A hot dog and a drink will cost you $10.50. Here's an example of the mark-up for water. A case of Aquafina costs $5.98 with 32 bottles in the case. At the concession stands at the Space Coast complex a case would cost $144. That's 24 times what you would pay at Walmart. Are you startled yet?
We're in the midst of a pandemic for Pete's sake. Unemployment is still 30 percent, so give folks a break. The USSSA says they're not responsible for the concession stands, but when you bring your little ball field wagon into the gate, they search it like they do when they're looking for guns or bombs, while in fact they're looking for a bottle of water. Think about this......they search your belongings bare-handed, spreading all sorts of germs, including possible Covid-19 contaminants. After one of the tournament directors was "lit up" by some of the moms, they stopped touching our stuff. In the pre-tournament rules sheet, people were encouraged to practice social distancing, yet no one has sprayed down a single dugout with disinfectant.
The only good thing about this event is the fact that they will allow players to bring in their own water or Gatorade. There was a rumor that the umpires for the tournament could only bring in four bottles of water per day, but I couldn't substantiate that.
There are 116 teams in this week-long tournament in four different age groups. Our team, the Chattanooga Fury Black, brought 54 people. That's $6,588 for gate admissions. That's $764, 208 just on gate admissions, if every team brought the same number of people. When you add the tournament entry fees, you're looking at close to a million dollars this week in revenue. I know there are a lot of expenses that must be met, such as umpires, scorekeepers and such. But some group or person is making a huge amount of money for one week's work.
I am not against people making good money but the kind of money being spent this week is totally unjustified. The economic impact on the area is really good as most people will use this as their big vacation but whoever is responsible for the "price gouging" at the Space Coast complex needs to rethink things just a bit. They're taking advantage of kids and families to line their pockets and that is simply not right. Not right at all.
Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com