A rich western tourist in America

I was too busy to take photos at the Las Vegas Premium Factory Outlet... so here's a photo of my hotel room instead. (A suite at the Venetian-Palazzo - cool, huh?)

At Columbus Circle the other day (which, like most places in New York, is some kind of world-renowned landmark), a rogue in a juice van charged me seven dollars for a drink that was partly fruit, but mainly water. (Granted, it was bottled water, which presumably increased its value.) The prices weren’t posted, but the previous person was charged five dollars, and the big guy before her was charged even less. If I didn’t have an accent proving that I was from a first-world nation, he probably wouldn’t have ripped me off. As I later found, I could have paid half that much at a nearby juice bar, without the water.

So the US economy really has slumped, to the extent that New York has joined many of those tourist spots in South-East Asia and Central America in charging one price for locals, another price for tourists (though I spend so much time in NYC that it’s practically a second home for me, so I feel especially conned). With our dollar doing so well, the US now has the same attraction as many developing nations: namely, everything’s so darn cheap.

The Aussie dollar has sunk below parity again, but it’s still a far cry from the bad old days. America is still the shoppers’ paradise it always purported to be. When visiting California with some travel writers last year, marveling at the low prices, someone suggested that rather than pack a suitcase for the US, it made more sense to take a day pack, then buy a suitcase and pack it with new clothes. If you bought a wardrobe of clothes in US warehouses, this particular colleague suggested, the money you save would probably be enough to pay for your plane ticket. Well, that depends on what you shove in your suitcase. If you’re filling it with mink coats and designer shoes, you probably would save thousands. Sadly, if you buy mink coats and designer shoes, you wouldn’t deserve to save any money.

We tried to think of something, anything at all, that was cheaper in Australia. Nothing immediately came to mind. Even eucalyptus oil somehow manages to be cheaper in US health-food stores. Of course, there are a few things we didn’t think about at the time. Health care, for example. Terrific. Here is a nation where doughnuts or mobile phone plans are ridiculously cheap, but basic health is exorbitant.

Eager to take advantage of the bargains, my cheap side comes to the fore. I spend more time calculating how many cents I will save than I spend actually shopping. Why buy this shirt for $40 when I can go to that shop two blocks away and get it for $39.95?

A few months ago, looking for dress shoes, I visited a Las Vegas Premium Factory Outlet. (I know, boys aren’t supposed to spend so much time buying shoes, but I couldn’t attend office meetings with tatty old running shoes. Trust me, it never impresses anyone.) Apparently, this factory outlet is one of Vegas’s top tourist attractions, but then, so is everything else in Vegas. The shoes I bought were well-priced, to the best of my knowledge, but considering it was a $20 taxi ride each way, I’m not sure I got much of a bargain. The alternative was a two-hour bus ride (yes, really), but I had a busy schedule. Besides, I didn’t come all the way to Vegas to sit in buses all day. I can do that in Canberra.

My inner miser was appalled by this turn of events, of course. I was also looking for a new pair of running shoes, but they didn’t have the right ones. I started wishing I’d had a different profession, like medicine or law, so I could afford to catch a bus to the discount outlet (without bothering to go, because I’d be too wealthy to need a discount)

Then again, it’s good to visit tourist spots in Vegas. At that time of day, it was either the outlet or a casino, most of which are open 24/7. If you look at it that way, I probably saved a lot more money than I thought.


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This is the posts comments

  1. karen embury 28 May 2012 at 10:34 am #

    I have read this twice now and cannot find the anti-semitism. Help me out here. Am I missing part of the article?

    • Mark Juddery 28 May 2012 at 11:02 am #

      Hi Karen – I’m afraid you’re missing part of it… or I changed something, because – while I didn’t mean anything offensive – I thought it was best to remove it. It read:

      Eager to take advantage of the bargains, I found myself becoming slightly “Jewish”. Now don’t get me wrong, I know some very generous Jewish people. I also know a few stereotypes that you will all understand. If you find that offensive, let’s just say that I start feeling a bit Scottish. Better? I know some generous Scottish people as well, but I’m sure they will forgive me.

      A Jewish friend of mine told me that he thought it was fine, overturning stereotypes (which was the whole idea)… but I didn’t know if everyone would agree.

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