The Mast-Head: The Cost of Everything

Seasonal price-gouging is nothing new

Memo to South Fork businesses that raise prices before the arrival the summer hordes: We live here, too.

Seasonal price-gouging is nothing new. The difference between the cost of gasoline here and points west has long been a source of frustration, and even a few shots at legislation. Even ordinary day-to-day things like a lunchtime sandwich come at a premium here. I’ve noticed, too, that prices even at some no-frills, beach-y eateries have reached tourist clip-joint levels. But, at least for me, the higher cost of everything just kind of blends into the South Fork’s background noise.

I was jolted out of my stupor this week by an anonymous letter to the editor that came in over the transom. In neat handwriting, the unknown sender reported that his or her usual quart of fresh-squeezed orange juice had jumped from $10 to $12.99 seemingly overnight. Since the letter was unsigned, it doesn’t seem fair to name the store, and frankly, that would be almost beside the point.

The letter writer reported asking the cashier if the “drought in California or perhaps the weather in Florida” accounted for the sudden increase. “ ‘Oh, no,’ she said, ‘all the store’s prices were raised last week,’ ” the letter continued. “When I asked why, she replied it was done in anticipation of the tourist season.”

The letter is signed: “A supporter of your outstanding  newspaper and a concerned citizen.”

Thinking for a moment: If gas prices were suddenly inflated here the way juice prices are, we would be paying about $5.35 a gallon by the Fourth of July. Surprise, we’re getting off easy at the pump, relatively.

One can understand the temptation from the business owner’s point of view. The busy months are short, landlords charge blisteringly high rents, and, anyway, the summer people appear to have money to burn. Besides, the proletariat can just drink Tropicana. Only it, too, costs a third more out this way.

Well, there’s always water.