Airport buyer beware

Commentator Moira Manion

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Kai Ryssdal: You already bring your own food when you fly. Why not pillows and blankets, too?

JetBlue announced today it's going to start charging $7 for them. That's only flights that last longer than two hours.

The good news is that what the airline calls eco-friendly blankets are made from a fabric that repels stuff like dust mites and mold spores and they come with a five dollar coupon to Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Commentator and retail clerk Moira Manion points out that passengers aren't getting gouged only at ticket counters and on the planes.


Moira Manion: I work at an airport jewelry store, where I convince "clients" to buy expensive jewelry that falls apart.

I don't tell them that it falls apart. I'd like to say, "That will be $375. By the way, the clasp will break in two days. Enjoy." Or maybe, "These pearls are a matrix of European glass bead, then covered with seven layers of crushed Mother of Pearl, which gives them that deep luster, which sounds impressive, except when it chips off a month from now and you see that they're big, honking glass marbles covered with a tissue thin layer of brittle pearl."

Needless to say, I don't get my hourly wage and 3 percent commission for honesty.

It's not easy to look in the mirror with a clear conscience after I've seen a guy happily spend $800 on a necklace as an anniversary gift for his wife and I know it's not worth half that price. But is it any worse than selling cheeseburgers to the obese? People at McDonald's don't say to hefty customers, "Here's your change and a copy of "Super Size Me." I hope I never see you here again." I can try to justify it by thinking, "Let the buyer beware," except how can they be aware if no one tells them?

At prices like ours, people automatically assume they're getting their money's worth. If earrings cost $300, they must be well made, right?

What's worse is when clients return, broken jewelry in hand. They demand to know what I'm going to do about it. But I can't do anything, except smile and say that we can repair it for a $35 fee.

My mother didn't raise me to be a scam artist, so there was only one solution for me: I quit. I now work at a coffee shop in the same airport. I'm paid less, but I earn great satisfaction in seeing cranky, tired customers get a smile from their coffee, like big toddlers with sippy cups.

But now I have a new moral conundrum: I don't think these big, happy toddlers know how much fat and sugar are in those sippy cups. And I'm not allowed to tell them.


Ryssdal: Moira Manion works at the airport in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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