Tuesday, September 08, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Thirty-Two

32. Apply the "Line Pass" philosophy to everything (including some government services).

At first, I got upset when I saw Line Passes at amusement parks; those are (if you don't know) passes that let people pay extra and then jump to the front of the line. People like me (cheap) have to wait in line while people like them (rich) get to skip to the head of the line just because they shelled out a little extra.

But then I thought: why not? What's wrong with that? We're talking about luxuries, after all -- skipping to the front of the line at a roller coaster -- and there's nothing inherently fair or unfair about letting people skip ahead if they're willing to pay a little more. After all, I paid, say $40 to get in and get a chance to ride the roller coaster. They paid, say, $60 to get in and get a chance to ride,ahead of me,
and if that seems unfair, then consider this: what about the people who couldn't afford to get in at all? Shouldn't they get to ride, too?

No, I'm not advocating free entry to Great America. I'm saying that fair is a malleable concept, especially when it comes to luxuries. So if people want to pay a little more to skip ahead or get special treatment, why not let them?

Imagine if you had a choice of a premium lane at the grocery store: Pay 10% extra on your groceries to use that lane (or belong to a grocery club that costs $100 a year but which gives you a card to skip ahead.) Not many people would probably opt to go into such a lane, which in turn would make it a very attractive option for people with more money, or less groceries who just want to get in and get out.

Or pay a surcharge to jump to the head of the queue on NetFlix. You already pay more to see movies sooner: If you go opening night, around here, you'll pay $8.50 to see a movie. Go the next morning, you'll pay $6.50. Wait three weeks and see it in a budget theater for $2.50, but who does that? People who place a premium on saving money over seeing early movies. So what would be wrong with NetFlix charging you an extra buck to be first in line? I wouldn't pay it, but if you did, then shouldn't you get to skip?

We already do this in some instances: you can buy tickets ahead of time for movies, if you pay to have the Internet and if you pay extra for your tickets, so if skipping the line at the box office is worth the cost of an internet connection and a surcharge, you can get ahead of me as I wait there behind the lady who never is really sure why she's come there.

This could apply to some, but not all, government services, too: We could designate one lane on any multilane road as the Line Pass lane and let people pay a monthly fee to get a sticker to use that lane. Pay an extra, say, $200 per month, and you get to use the fast lane to and from work. The rest of us could use the regular lane and save some money, while having you speedsters-with-money pay for our roads, too.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

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