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:
4 x 600ml bottles of soft drink: $18
2 x 600 ml bottles of water: $7.80
4 x hot chips: $18
$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
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.