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April 2010


Screw the Customer: Part III

A few months ago I posed a simple question on this blog: Would you pay $5.66 for a can of pop?

That's the price McCormick Place charges exhibitors who want to order and serve Pepsi to convention goers.  For months, McCormick Place honchos have defended that price as being consistent with the pricing offered by convention centers in Las Vegas and Orlando. 

Today the interim board overseeing the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority ("McPier" to friends, admirers and taxpayers) announced plans to save money by dissolving union work groups, canceling catering contracts and refinancing debt. 

The price of pop wasn't on the agenda but as I wandered around the fifth floor offices inhabited by McPier execs I came across their Pepsi machine.  They offer a pleasant variety of Pepsi products packaged in plastic bottles (slightly larger than the cans served across the street to conventioneers at $5.66 a pop).  How much do McPier execs pay to quench their thirst? $1.00/bottle.

An hour later, I watched some union guys dismantleexhibits from the recently departed kitchen and bath show.  Low and behold, I spotted a pop machine. It was strikingly similar in size, offerings and design to the one in the McPier offices.  In fact, the only difference I could detect was the price: $2.00/bottle.

"Yeah, that's the one we gotta use...just another concession!" a union carpenter joked when I told him about the price difference.  "At least you're not buying a can from the catering department," I thought.

Mccormick place


Daley dis

Let me start by admitting defeat.  Mayor Daley beat me to Twitter.  It's embarrassing but true.  Now that we've both been sharing the triviality of our lives with Twitterdom for about a month now I thought it would be a good time to check the score:

Mayor Daley's followers: 1,445

Ben's followers: 81

A more insecure person might point out the Mayor has tens of thousands of city workers under his rule and therefore having a mere 1,445 followers on Twitter is a bit weak, but I digress.  What I find really interesting about the Mayor's Twitter page is who Hizzoner follows.  Just 14 people/organizations including two media outlets. They are the Financial Times (a publication he loves to quote from) and USA Today. That's it. Apparently Daley doesn't find much worth repeating (or re-tweeting) in the local media.


20,000 Lay-Offs: Don't you Care?

If a local company announced it was laying off 20,000 employees, politicians would be up in arms. There would be press conferences, pickets and stories about out-sourcing and corporate greed.  Elected officials would bemoan the heartless CEO who slashed all of those jobs. That's why the recent silence from Springfield is so surprising.  

The Illinois Association of School Administrators now estimates as many as 20,000 teachers, administrators, support staff and other school workers will lose their jobs in the coming months.  Where is the outcry? Where are the demands for accountability? Could it be the politicians are fairly quiet because they are the ones to blame for these layoffs? This state's elected officials (past and present), their bloated budgets and political pandering are the reasons school workers are losing their jobs and class sizes will grow.  Too few have blown the whistle on reckless spending and a pension system that is literally bleeding the state's bank account dry.

In the coming months educators will trade their red pens for blue or black ink to fill out unemployment forms.  Where is the outrage? We keep reporting the stories. It's up to you to hold elected officials accountable.


Medical costs

A few weeks back our 2 year old son had to go the emergency room for what turned out to be a relatively minor problem with his platelet count.  One CAT scan, two nights in the hospital and two infusions later we left Children's Memorial counting our blessings...and our money.

I was struck by a sign half-hazardly taped to a wall in the hospital's billing department.  It said something to the effect of 'an average day of care at Children's costs $10,000."  Sure enough, the bill arrived this week.  Total charges: $18,120.14.

Thankfully, insurance covered all but $1,000 of that bill.  As I sit here writing the check to Children's my thoughts turn to all the kids and their families we met during our brief stay, some of whom are likely still hospitalized, a few of whom I fear took a turn for the worse. 

Amidst all of the debate in Washington about health care costs, there is one question few could answer easily: What is a fair price tag on a child's health?  $18,120.14? $10,000?  $1,000? 

We are fortunate on two fronts: 1) Our son's health condition does not appear to be serious and 2) With a little "creative accounting" in our monthly budget I can write the check for $1,000.  If I didn't have insurance, we would have been ruined.  If I didn't have the funds, we would be begging the hospital for understanding and a creative payment plan.  None are enviable positions yet they are the ones far too many people eencounter.