Sunday, January 25, 2009


All right, so by the dictionary definition of the term it's not extortion. But it's still stupidly expensive.

Here's the thing. We took the family to the cricket last night. It was the Twenty20 final between NSW and Victoria, which ended up being a thriller, decided on the last ball by the third umpire's decision on a run-out. So in terms of script, it was a bit like the Mighty Ducks. In other words, as good as you could ever ask for, and doubtless a lot of the 17,000 spectators were converts to the newest and rock'n'rollest form of the greatest game in the world.

In the interests of saving even more of the hard-earned, I made sandwiches and went shopping for snacks and a big bottle of drink. However, in our rush to get out the door I forgot the drink. 'Never mind,' said Frou-frou, 'we'll buy drinks there.'

I bit my tongue. But mentally, I was checking my wallet to make sure I had enough. And here's why.

Not counting petrol and tolls, here's what our four hours at the cricket cost us in incidentals alone:
Parking: $20
4 x 600ml bottles of soft drink: $18
2 x 600 ml bottles of water: $7.80
4 x hot chips: $18
Total: $63.80

$63 doesn't sound too bad, except when you look at what we actually got for our money. It's not a meal, it's snacks.

Casual staff have to be paid, yes. Caterers have to rent the space, yes. Spectators can bring their own food and drink, that's true. But what parent wants to refuse their kids an ice cream because Daddy's too tight to spend another $20? 'Come on, Dad, we're at the cricket! It's a special treat!'

While I'm on the topic, let's talk about the movies. Considering that prices are driven to a large extent by what people are prepared to pay, when did we agree that paying $10 for a large box of pre-popped corn and a big paper cup of post-mixed soft drink was good value? Here's a rundown on a typical afternoon at the movies:

Movie tickets (2 adults, 2 kids): $50
2 x 'value' packages of popcorn and drink: $20
2 x small post-mix drinks: $7.60
1 x packet of Maltesers (for the grownups): $4
1 x packet of Starburst (kids): $4
Total: $85.60

It's expensive, but when you compare it with the humiliation your kids claim to feel when you produce a bag of microwave popcorn, it's still a small price to pay. God, I'm never doing that again...

But wouldn't it be really cool if everyone boycotted the candy bar at the movies? If, when the lights went down, the only sound was that of Black and Gold Choc-malt Balls being opened and counted out, value-pack chips and microwave popcorn being distributed, and mothers pouring soft drink into plastic cups held between their knees?

Who am I kidding? You can't go to the movies without having a choc-top. You just can't.


shannonr said...

If you were claiming to be outraged by the price of snacks at a Test Match, or a day of Film Festival attendance, you'd have a point.

But need I remind you that Twenty20 and the blockbuster-take-the-kids movies go for, in almost every case, less than three hours?

If you can't go three hours without stuffing your face, the problem lies not with the extortionate snack vendors at the venue...

So yeah, have your Choc Top, you grumpy old bastard! But don't whinge about the price of the snacky comestibles you don't actually need.

james roy said...

Fair point. But I see your "snacks you don't need" argument and raise you with a "I can't wait to hear your daughter's Tantantrum when you tell her she can't have popcorn and postmix while she watches High School Musical 9, because 'it'll be over in less than three hours'." We'll talk grumpy old bastards then.

(It's only taken 6 months... ;D)

shannonr said...

1 popcorn-and-postmix combo for the Tantanator: $7.00
1 choc-top for Dad: $3.00

(at least, those are the prices where I go to the movies in Sydney)

Total incidentals: $10.00 plus inflation

Now is that maths supporting your argument, or not?!


james roy said...

Your maths works to a point, for a sample group of one little tiny person and one bigger person, (admittedly with better self-control than mine). But little Tantans turn into bigger Tantans, and eventually a $7 'valu-pak' (these marketers seem to be incapable of correct spelling) will not be big enough for the Tantanator, nor will the $7 pack come with a curly straw and a plastic printed 'souvenir' cup. She'll want more. Oh yes she will.

And this is when the parental mind-games kick in. This is where you start wondering if your saying 'No, honey, you don't need those pick'n'mix lollies' will be the moment she remembers when she reaches adulthood. The moment when she identifies as the instant she knew that Daddy was a tight-arse. And then the caving begins.

Guilt is a nasty, nasty emotion, speculative guilt doubly so.

And for the record, I have NEVER bought a souvenir cup with a curly straw. But I do load up the kids' empties when I get home, so I can enjoy the experience.

shannonr said...

>>This is where you start wondering if your saying 'No, honey, you don't need those pick'n'mix lollies' will be the moment she remembers when she reaches adulthood.

Not wondering, hoping!

Messing your kids up is a parental obligation up there with keeping them warm, fed, educated, and safe!

You can't buck the entire history of our species!

"But why can't I have it, Daddy, why?!?"

"Because Daddy is a horrible mean Scrooge who never ever spends any money on you or does fun stuff like taking you to the movies... oh wait..."

james roy said...

It used to make me so wild when we'd go to the movies when the girls were really young, and we'd spend our $60 - $70 on all the snacks etc, and then we'd be driving home, and the big yellow M would appear.

From the back seat: 'Yay! McDonalds!'
Front seat: 'We're not getting McDonalds.'
Back seat: [tantrum]

Happy days.

shannonr said...

I'm sure that's a universal experience that I shall also "enjoy" in the fullness of time.

Except, in my case, the dialogue will continue:

From the back seat: 'Yay! McDonalds!'
Front seat: 'We're not getting McDonalds.'
Back seat: [tantrum]
Front seat: 'Oh, ok.' [slows car, approaches McDonalds]
Back seat: 'Yay!'
Front seat: [drives slowly past McDonalds, doesn't stop, doesn't enter drive-thru lane]
Back seat: [increase in tantrum; followed by slow, inexorable realization on the long, McDonald-less drive home that them that drives the car makes the rules, that life isn't fair, that Daddy is a cold-hearted meanie, etc...]
Front seat: [desperate failure at not chuckling wikidly like a cartoon villain]


james roy said...

I'm glad you weren't MY daddy.

shannonr said...

The job of children is to find those things that _do_ annoy parents into maddened exasperation, and play on them like a crazy, bouzouki playing guy with a one-stringed bouzouki.

The job of parents is to find new ways to quietly (and hopefully with good humor) tolerate exactly those exact same intolerable things.

I may be a new Daddy, but I know that much.

Anonymous said...

Why buy all that shit anyway? It's sad when you have to grumble about not being really able to afford things you consider necessary to buy for your kids.

james roy said...

Dear Anonymous,
1. Not considered necessary.
2. Able to afford, but...
3. Feel that like petroleum companies, catering vendors are taking advantage.
4. Thanks for commenting.

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