I’ve lived in New York City for my entire life and I’m noticing an alarming trend. My friend Richie puts it this way: “Take something that works, put a toll booth in it and screw it up so that it no longer works efficiently.” He doesn’t mean that literally. Anyone who drives in the NY area knows that the Bridge and Tunnel Authority has removed all but the last few toll booths in the process of converting to cashless tolls, now requiring either a toll pass or taking a photo of your license plate and sending you a bill. Big brother is indeed watching, but that’s a topic for another time.
My case in point is the manner in which skycaps operate at JFK Airport. For years I have been using the age-old, proven system where a skycap helps me with bags and gear, and I give them a tip. The way I recall it pre-September 11 (I wasn’t tour managing at the time), we could show up at the airport an hour before flight time with 18 or 20 pieces of baggage throw a skycap a hundred bucks and he’d get them on the plane. September 11 gave the airlines an excuse to restructure baggage fees so that they could cut down on the number of bags allowed per person and reduce allowable weight per bag—unless of course you’re willing to pay a fee, which they gladly collect. I can’t tell you how many rookies we’ve seen at the curb trying to repack their underwear from a 53-pound suitcase so that it weighs under 50, to avoid overage fees.
Earlier this year at JFK Terminal 4 a system was implemented using a new “VIP” service from Allways, whereby a concierge summons a skycap, hands me a bill for it and then allows the ‘cap to help me with the bags and gear. Here’s how I see it:
Third person is now involved: Strike one.
That third person thinks they know how to load a baggage cart but couldn’t fit a backpack in the back of an empty Ford Econoline: Strike two.
The Allways rep charges me for the number of bags placed on the cart. I have to pay Allways, and—because this is heavy gear and not hat boxes—the skycap still has to be tipped appropriately. The ‘cap is pissed because he’s not getting the same amount as I would give him prior to Allways getting involved. I’m pissed because I’m spending more money to get the same items to the curb. The Allways agent is pissed because I’m giving lip over what amounts to a shakedown, which is exactly what it is. I’m calling Eyewitness News so their scam busters can look into it. Strike three.
It now takes me longer to find a skycap, costs more money and is less efficient because some knucklehead decided to put a toll booth in the middle of a clear path. Progress? I don’t think so. It’s a disgrace.