by David McElroy
I hate paying the high prices that movie theatres charge for snacks and drinks, but it never crossed my mind to sue anyone about it. One spoiled brat in Michigan is so upset about being deprived of his right to inexpensive popcorn and Coke, though, that he’s filed a class action lawsuit demanding lower prices.
I would simply laugh at his idiocy and childishness, but we live in a culture that caters to these sorts of irrational whims. This lawsuit will probably be dismissed, but I can see the idea behind it succeeding in the future. How long will it be before some congressman introduces legislation to create the National Theatre Snack Food Board, with the power to regulate prices?
If you think that sounds absurd, you’re right. But remember that we live in a country where Congress has passed laws regulating the acceptable volume level of television commercials. Seriously. There’s a law about it. I’m not making this up.
Many people have come to believe that life should be set up to please them. They believe that other people have a responsibilitiy to cater to them. And when reality doesn’t deliver what they want, they expect governments to give it to them.
If gasoline prices are higher than they want to pay, they rail against the evil oil companies (and commodities speculators, if they’re sophisticated enough to have even heard of them). They don’t understand the law of supply and demand — and they don’t really care about reality when they insist on plenty of what they want and prices in line with what they want to pay.
Fortunately, even politicians mostly understand that price controls don’t work, so they’re hesitant to impose them, even though they’ll join in the populist fist-shaking to appease the angry masses. After the experiments of the ’70s wage-and-price controls, some of them realize that if you artificially keep a price down, you’re going to have shortages and lines at gas stations with people angry that there’s no supply.
The guy in Michigan who’s suing for his apparent right to inexpensive popcorn doesn’t understand all of this. He and many of his fellow moviegoers don’t understand economics. They don’t understand the free market. And they don’t understand choices.
If you don’t want to buy expensive popcorn and soft drinks, then don’t buy them. There’s not a “cover charge” at the door demanding that you buy. You can either accept the total price you pay as the cost of attending a movie or you can simply not buy snacks. Of course, you also have the “nuclear option.” Just opt out of going to the theatre. Save your money. If enough others do the same, it might force a change in the economics of running theatres. Maybe.
Either way, it’s your choice. Nobody’s making you go to the theatre and nobody’s forcing you to buy the snacks. You don’t have a constitutional right to reasonably priced Junior Mints. Get over yourself.