Squeezing Us Dry: Fenway Park water more pricey than Disney

The Red Sox can learn from Disney about how to take care of its thirsty fans. (Boston Herald graphic)

THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
The Boston Herald
September 29, 2010


Five Fenway Park employees asked me to take an on-line survey the other night. Lured by the chance to win free Sox tickets, I answered a series of dreary questions about my commute time, my attitudes about the MBTA and my candid assessment of the quality of area sidewalks.

It’s almost as if my remote control were broken and the channel went to C-SPAN every time I wanted NESN.

Hey marketing people, you know what really matters besides Jonathan Papelbon not choking in the ninth inning?  Me not gagging in the third on your bottled water prices.

I’m not suggesting that President Obama nationalize concession stands and subsidize our snacks with stimulus money, but $3.75 for H2O?  That’s $15 for a family of four and $30 if your greedy kin want a refill.

After that, you get to pay for the stuff with calories.

Go ahead and charge whatever you want for the soft serve goo in the mini Red Sox helmet. Whenever we walk into a sports stadium, movie theater or hotel room, we accept that getting ripped off is the norm. We know that the $3 pack of M & M’s is reassuring proof that capitalism is alive and healthy.

But water is different. Even though other countries wage wars over it, around here it’s supposed to be free. I’ll shell out $4 for a “fresh” lemonade that is 75 percent ice, complain about it and then buy it again.  However, I resent paying for bottled water even at bargain superstore prices.

Costco charges $6.89 for a case of 24 bottles of Dasani  – that’s cheaper than two Poland Spring bottles at Fenway. Those are the kind of numbers that make you wish you didn’t know math.

It could be worse. My friend reports he got suckered into paying $6 for bottled water at the U2 concert at Gillette Stadium. Maybe Bono was expecting his fans to singlehandedly erase Third World debt.

Water enjoys an especially high profile at Fenway. The Poland Spring Green Team, a group of college kids who pick up trash in return for standing room access to the game, educates fans about recycling and living “a sustainable lifestyle.”

What would make my life more sustainable is a $2 bottle of water. I would drink twice as many bottles and eagerly surrender them all to the Green Team. A $2 bottle would still leave about $1.75 in pure profit, enough to cover vendor salaries, refrigeration costs and more importantly, it would defuse customer outrage about being screwed.

In an environment where hand-sanitizing stations are every 15 feet, expecting fans to suck on flu-coated water fountains just won’t cut it. Front office fears about losing revenue would vanish after looking at Disney World concessions, which charge a mere $2.50 for water. They make up for it in many other ways, which I can attest as the remorseful buyer of an $8 customized candy apple.

When fans save a buck or two on water, they will inevitable spend it on something else. Now is the time for the Red Sox to exercise some hydration leadership. When the Yankees come to town this weekend, introducing the $2 water bottle could make a splash across New England.

I know that overdosing on water may cause hallucinations, but maybe every tourist, sports and concert venue will follow suit and feign concern for our wallets. Although the Red Sox won’t win another World Series trophy next month, it’s not too late to make this season truly historic.
Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the Boston Herald. Check out the Stiff blog at http://www.BostonHerald.com/blogs

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