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As We See It

Allegiant Air’s new fee raises the question: What aren’t we paying for?

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Many do not consider whether the toiletries provided in hotel rooms are really free, or just built into the cost of the room.
Danny Hellman

Outrage. In the first world, it’s more hobby than emotion. We fume about political gaffes, fantasy drafts and Snooki. We curse our phones for not downloading novels fast enough. Whenever Facebook changes something, a Facebook page is created in protest. And our indignation is fierce when the free stuff we’re used to is suddenly not.

This week, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air became the second U.S. carrier to start charging for space in overhead bins. You know, the tiny compartments above the seats that have been overrun since airlines began nickel-and-diming us for checked bags. David Swagger, the top commenter on a USA Today story about Allegiant’s announcement, summed up public frustration: “insert debit card here for overhead emergency oxygen.” Zing!

But in the industry’s defense, I was on a recent flight with a guy ramming his bag against the bin over and over, like a baby doing a Sesame Street puzzle and not getting that Ernie’s pants won’t fit in his nose. I understand why an airline might discourage this behavior, though the new fee is more about the cost of fuel. The same thing pushed Allegiant to start charging for soft drinks in 2005. As the saying goes, sh*t rolls downhill.

North Las Vegas can vouch. Faced with a smorgasbord of budget woes, city officials have been forced to consider charging fees ($2 for the skate park, $5 per car) to use the Craig Ranch Regional Park when it opens next year. Planned in rosier times, the 150-acre facility will include green spaces, playgrounds, sports complexes and trails. It will cost more than $2 million a year just to maintain—money North Las Vegas doesn’t have. I’m all for throwing down in the name of community. But I can’t deny that I’d rather spend my $5 on weenies to roast in the city’s “crown jewel” than permission to park next to the grass.

The reality is that I’ve paid to play in lots of parks (that’s how taxes work). And when I go hog-wild hoarding hotel toiletries, I don’t think about whether they’re built into my room rate. The same goes for restaurant condiments and grocery bags. Someone is paying for that stuff, and it’s probably me. Costs get passed on, or services shrink. If hotels hurt and shampoo winds up in the mini bar with the macadamia nuts, will I pony up even though the idea of paying stings?

It puts Allegiant’s $15-$35 fee for a duffle in perspective. A friend said she’d rather pay more for an airline ticket than cough it up for luggage. She knows that money is money. She also values the feeling of getting a little more than she paid for. But she’d have to eat a lot of peanuts to make that true.

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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