Friday, June 12, 2009

Going by the Book


Emily and I recently had a picnic at Sandy Point State Park, on Chesapeake Bay.

We were unpleasantly surprised to find a substantial increase in the entry fee over last summer's. Emily also noticed that this summer, we got no discount even though we arrived just a couple of hours before closing.

I responded that the sign showing the fees did not show a late-entry discount either last year or this one. She pointed out that we had in fact received a discount, to which I mentioned that the guard must have broken the rules.

(The following is a rough approximation of the rest of our conversation. And no, we didn't say anything NSFW anyway.)

Emily: "But isn't it unfair that we pay the same amount even though we're only going to be able to be there for maybe two hours?"

Jeff: "Sure it is. Tell that to the Maryland General Assembly."

Emily: "If you were the guard, would you give the discount if someone came within a few hours of closing?"

Jeff: "I would consider it unfair that the price would be the same. But as a guard, I'd have no authority to give personal discounts. So I couldn't do it."

Emily: "You wouldn't treat them fairly?"

Jeff: "I would abide by the ideas of fairness held by the people in charge, who answer to the taxpayers. If they don't think it's unfair to charge everyone the same rate no matter when they come in, I can't circumvent their judgment."

(Guess which one of us is a lawyer.)

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

The problem is you'd probably get into trouble for doing so.

Besides, ultimately the owners are trying to run a business, even if it is state run? People could (if they were so inclined) enter late every day until they'd seen the whole site...

Jeff Deutsch said...

Good morning Chapati,

You may well be right about getting into trouble. Emily and I were implicitly assuming, for the sake of argument, that the guard would never be caught.

It's not so much a matter of seeing the whole site as it is getting to picnic, sunbathe and boat there. It could be plausibly argued that since the park closes every day at dusk, people who come very late in the afternoon should get a discounted rate to reflect the little time they'll have to enjoy the place that day.

IMHO, that is a decision for our elected officials, and the senior officials they appoint to take charge of our state parks, to make - not each individual gate guard.

Nice to see you here again!

Jeff Deutsch

StatMama said...

I find this trend to be increasingly common in this poor economic climate. Prices of things like this are being hiked up, hurting the consumer. It seems counterintuitive to me.

That said, as the guard, I would have done as he did, too. I have to. It's not within me to go against clearly defined policies or rules. I would certainly write a letter to the person(s) in charge of park fees, stating how much I typically enjoyed the park, but how I felt the new fee structure was unfair and might discourage park use.

In any event, I hope you two still enjoyed your visit :)

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hi StatMom,

Yep, we need to get used to prices going up all around. Including in the government sector.

Your suggestion sounds like a good one. Given how the economy is these days (and I stringly suspect will continue for a while) I suspect that any plea I might make for a "late bird discount" would fall on deaf ears.

Yes, Emily and I did enjoy our visit. However, we're unlikely to make another one this summer.

Incidentally, you mean you would do what the guard did this year, not last year, right?


Jeff Deutsch