Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New York's latest outrageous rip off. For everyone who's ever been robbed in Times Square

No one takes advantage of people like New York. I was there one 4th of July and went into the city to see the fireworks show. I noticed that parking lots that normally charge $20 charged $100. That’s neighborly.

And this New Years Eve the money grubbers are at it again. Some of the crappy chain restaurants in Times Square are hiking up prices ridiculously to take advantage of the crowds. The Olive Garden – is there a more mediocre Italian restaurant than the fucking Olive Garden? – is charging $400 for dinner tomorrow night.  That's right.  And that doesn't include the Goddamn breadsticks. Yeah, the Olive Garden is “family” – the Corleone family.

Oh, and to see the ball drop from the Olive Garden, you get an obstructed view.  What do you want for only $400?

Meanwhile, the fine folks at Bubba Gump Shrimp (fine dining at amusement parks and boardwalk piers) wants $800 a person. This brings new meaning to the word chutzpah. Even Forrest Gump is not stupid enough to pay $800 for frozen shrimp drenched in ketchup.

Do you have a Ruby Tuesday’s in your town? They’re Applebee-wannabes. They’re where you go when Bennigan’s is shut down by health inspectors. I don’t think the phrase, “Hey, let’s go to Ruby Tuesday’s” has ever been uttered unless it follows, “Everything is closed, where do we go?” Ruby Tuesday’s in Times Square wants a paltry $350 tomorrow night. But wait. You’ll have to sit for this one. Ruby Tuesday’s, right? Wilted salad bars and fish sticks? You can reserve a spot at the “Couples’ VIP Table” for $1699. This is like the Menendez Brothers killing their parents and asking the court for leniency because they’re orphans.

Or…

You could go to the Counter for $450. But that doesn’t include hamburgers. The Counter IS a hamburger joint. The $450 entitles you to mini-burgers and fries. Jon Favreau is a part-owner I understand. If so, shame on you Jon.

The “Couples VIP” deal at Buca di Beppo (which is the Italian equivalent of the Hungry Heifer) wants $500 but does include all the Franco-American-quality pasta you can stand.

This is of course completely OUTRAGEOUS. The French Revolution was started for less. For those prices, Donald Trump should stop by every table and thank his supporters. I wonder how many of these customers will spend an extra $20,000 and buy the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s as if Bernie Madoff recorded a cover of “New York State of Mind.”

I’m just glad Dick Clark doesn’t have to see this.

48 comments:

McAlvie said...

As I've heard people say numerous times in the last week or so, nobody actually has fun on New Year's Eve anyway. When you think about it, NYE is the original overhyped commercialized holiday.

But seriously, do people actually PAY those prices? Why?

Mike Barer said...

Clark was the ultimate capitalist. If anything, he is complicit.
.

thirteen said...

It's gotten very bad. I'd just gotten out of high school in 1970 when I and a few fellow alumni got together at some beer hall on (I think) 47th Street. The name was Ludwig's Tavern or something like that. Our intention was to get plastered just enough so we'd really enjoy the ball drop at midnight. Nobody charged us $500 for beer. We went out into Times Square around 11:30, stood in the midst of a happy crowd, and watched 1971 arrive. No barriers, no strip searches. Nice.

Anonymous said...

"Crappy", "fucking", "Godamn"--all in one paragraph? My, did we not get our Maypo this morning?

I have two thoughts. One, it's free market and nobody is required to go. Two, have you ever actually been to a Ruby Tuesday? (I've actually been in a situation where we went because it was the only restaurant open in town. It wasn't a perfect experience.)

-30-

Herschel said...

"Is it me or is it the world?" Why is it as we get older we start seeing that the world isn't as "good" as it use to be? I use to hate hearing my grand parents say the world is going to hell... But, maybe it is... I recall 20 years ago my first visit to Times Square - not that interesting - a main intersection of a busy city. Last year I took my family to see Times Square and it has changed into a three-ring circus.

Ken, you seem pretty pissed, more so than I've ever read. Why? What's at the core of the anger?

Howard Hoffman said...

Anon...rest assured. Ken did baseball play by play. He's eaten EVERYWHERE.

Bill Avena said...

I like Pissed Ken, now let's see Drunk Ken!

SharoneRosen said...

Geez, the Porter Valley Country Club is only charging $130... and that includes lobster! And you can watch the ball drop on one of their half dozen gargantuan TV screens in the dining room. And the bonus? The excellent aroma of the local gas leak... I'll be staying home, watching movie musicals, and making fabulous hor d'oeuvres for one... thanks anyway.

The fact that Olive Garden and Bucca De Beppo even exist in a town as Italian as NYC is an insult to the Universe!

Peter said...

Regarding chains, as a non-American, will I be laughed at for saying I liked Denny's when I visited Los Angeles? I thought it was good! That, Baja Fresh and Johnny Rockets were my three favourites. El Pollo Loco made me feel sick. Fatburger was average.

"This is like the Menendez Brothers killing their parents and asking the court for leniency because they’re orphans."

Ironically, talking of chain restaurants, when I took one of those LA bus tours, the guide told us as we passed through Rodeo Drive that after the Menendez brothers killed their parents, they went to the Cheesecake Factory in Rodeo Drive.

Stephen Marks said...

I think I'll stay home and watch the original Posiedon Adventure. I love when that wave washes away Leslie Nielson exactly at midnight New Year's Eve, before he has a chance to hit the button on his fart machine. Then I spend the next hour and a half wondering why Stella Stevens married Ernest Borgnine.

blinky said...

When I was in times square they had I(Heart)NY tee shirts 3 for $10 dollars. What are they now? 3 for $100?

MikeN said...

So what? Presumably they have done this before and will get a full house. So there are people who are willing to pay those prices for a New Years Eve party. Every bar does the same. The alternative will be people paying less and lines out the door. Presumably you will not get a seat either way.
Same for parking. Lots will fill up at $20. At $100 people might decide to go further away and take the bus.

You probably think $15 an hour minimum wage won't result in job losses and closures of businesses too.

Jeb said...

Ok, ok, just where will a million plus drunks pee? Hats off to Peter who likes Denny's but thinks the other joints are average! I'll be having the Surf & Turf at the HH. NORM!

Tony K. said...

So? I don't see the reason for the outrage. They do this every year, and they do it because there are people stupid enough to pay those prices. If people chose not to fork over ridiculous sums of money for mediocre food just because it's New Year's Eve, it wouldn't happen. No one's pointing a gun at anyone's head and forcing them to blow hundreds of dollars for a New Year's Eve dinner at the Olive Garden in Times Square. Sure, it's pretty much the definition of greed and of taking advantage of a situation for these merchants to charge what they're charging, but does it make me angry? No, because I don't expect any more from the corporate world. And the people who are ponying up the dough are adults who are capable of making their own decision, even if the result of that decision is to demonstrate what it means to have more money than good sense. None of these people are the starving poor who are going to go to bed hungry tomorrow night if they don't get to eat at Ruby Tuesday.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Never go out for dinner on New Year's Eve. Anywhere.
It's full of Prix Fixe menus, and the help trying to rush you out for the next table.

SharoneRosen, you are right. Why anyone in the NYC metro area would go to an Olive Garden with so many fantastic (and even mediocre) Italian restaurants, I don't know.

It would be like going to BeniHana's in Tokyo.

rick said...

Anybody who would pay those prices tomorrow night at Olive garden,Bubba Gump and Ruby Tuesday are insane. $35 I could see, not $350. I'm sure there will be many insane people paying those outrageous prices tomorrow night. Criminal. Let the stupid buyer beware.

Happy said...

Bill Cosby has been arraigned. He will be paying for what he did. Maybe some people don't like that.

VP81955 said...

I'll celebrate with a chili cheeseburger at the Original Tommy's (Rampart & Beverly), where the prices won't be jacked-up.

-bee said...

To the best of my knowledge, what happens in Times Square on New Years is as people arrive they are penned into not-very-big enclosures made of metal police barricades (with space between them) as a form of crowd control.

To get the best 'areas' to stand some people arrive a day or two before the ball drop, and once they get put into a 'pen', as far as I know they cannot leave (if they do, they cannot permitted back into their original pen) - so, uh, no going to rest rooms or whatnot.

Why Olive Garden can charge so much for a reservation is its a means to get a good view of the ball dropping without having to put up with the indignities the 'masses' endure. So its all about 'location' really. I can't say I blame them.

Donald Benson said...

Always wondered what happens when the Macy's parade comes through. I'm guessing hotels price up rooms on the lower floors overlooking the route, and that the bleachers you see in some shots are "reserved."

Buttermilk Sky said...

This is why serious partiers refer to New Year's Eve as "amateur night."

Really, Ken, why so crabby? You just got back from f...ing HAWAII! Did you get stuck behind a Presidential motorcade or something? I haven't lived in NYC for ten years, but I'm not aware of any four-star restaurants in Times Square. I'm sure all those East Side places are charging a fortune, too, and offering no view except the pastry cart.

Cheers and have a happy New Year. Don't watch Anderson Cooper.

DrBOP said...

One of my pop's favorite sayings : More money than brains.

Chagrin Falls Ohio.....eat popcorn balls watching the giant POPCORN Ball come down.....free.

DBA said...

The first rule of pricing is if you're sold out, you're underpriced. So, assuming these places do still end up packed, what they're doing might be a terrible value (and/or an obscene profit margin), but it's not overpriced. When the jacked up prices leave the restaurants less than 90% full on NYE, then they've hit overpriced. It's just math. Most sane people would say, no way in hell am I paying $400 per person at Buca De Beppo, but as long as some schmucks who are there and willing to pay to get in anywhere that has room, the business is not doing it wrong. They're not denying people life-critical services like healthcare with jacked up prices. We're talking mozzarrella sticks here.

Diane D. said...

"The French Revolution was started for less." It would seem. But after seeing the spectacular movie, THE BIG SHORT today, NOTHING the corporate world and banking industry (in cahoots with the federal government) do will ever surprise me again. One of the men in that movie said, "this is the age of fraud." Fraud upon fraud upon fraud resulted in that debacle in 2008, in which I lost half of my meagre 401K investments, and banks have recently started selling an instrument that is identical to the one that was a major cause of the near collapse of the U.S. (and world) economy in that fateful year (according to the movie).

The kind of price gouging that is going to happen in Times Square tomorrow isn't illegal, but it's wrong, and no one cares. No publication or news program has even mentioned it. Everyone should be outraged.

Anonymous said...

What fraud?
Banks made lots of loans to poor people to buy houses, because people all over were pushing them to do so.
Then the poor people couldn't repay the loans, and now the houses are not really enough collateral.
Meanwhile, the banks resold the debt, partly to the federal government, because they wanted to encourage the banks to make these loans. This made the banks who held this debt 'too big to fail'.

Then the banks and other institutions like Goldman Sachs and AIG got the federal government to bailout their losses.

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that the $182 billion of investments and loan commitments by the Fed and Treasury to AIG resulted in a nearly $23 billion gain for the government when it was all over.

-30-

Honeycutt Powell said...

I like what DBA said.

I remember going to Denny's on the Las Vegas strip years ago, and instead of the nationally priced $3.99 for a Grand Slam, it was $6.99. The manager explained that everyone on the strip has money to blow, so the franchise owner is allowed to adjust his price. And the place was packed.

Something is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. God Bless America.

Bill Jones said...

Wait, it gets worse. Did you know that some hotels actually raise their rates during times of peak demand? Not only that, some stores will raise the retail price of a product if lots of people want it. And I hear that some sports teams will actually charge more for tickets when the team is playing a first-place rival, rather than a cellar-dweller that nobody wants to see!

What an outrage!

Dana said...

Um...welcome back, Hamid...I think. Have you gone off all your medication? Because I really don't think that was a good idea.

Lionheart said...

Ken should watch Bye Bye Birdie:

" Kids, they are just impossible to control
Kids, with their awful clothes and their rock an' roll
Why can't they dance like we did
What's wrong with Sammy Caine?
What's the matter with kids today?"

And, hey, get off my grass!!

Never in history any lack of those telling us things are going to hell in a handbasket

Anonymous said...

Excellent point. A scary movie that's true. Makes new years eve ripoffs look like chump change.

Diane D. said...


To name just one example of fraud (a major one): the rating agencies gave triple A ratings to the Mortgage Backed Securities (MDS) when they should have been rated as JUNK. This allowed pension funds and other funds that needed a high degree of safety to invest in them; their by-laws wouldn't have allowed it if they had been rated as junk (which is what they really were). The high ratings also encouraged the flow of global investor funds, affecting the whole world when the inevitable crash came. It was one of the most egregious and blatant frauds ever committed by the financial industry.

pumpkinhead said...

What are the chances that my wife turns on the Jewish channel to watch Soupy Sales out of curiosity, and then next comes some show we never heard of called Sunda and James, and they are interviewing Ken Levine about his 60s book? Well, I guess the chances are better than I would have thought.

Roger Raines said...

Native New Yorker speaking.
The moral of the story is: Don't go to Times Square on New Year's Eve! Never. Ever.
And if I want to watch a ball drop, I can go to the men's room at The Hebrew Home in Riverdale.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight.
Ken, who works in Hollywood, is upset about New York ripping people off.
Hollywood. The home of creative accounting.

Barry Traylor said...

Something else besides money grubbers that annoys the hell out of me is people named Anonymous. What kind of parent names their kid that?

Gerry said...

Welcome to New York, tourists! Your table is ready!

Charles H. Bryan said...

I don't know why people are so upset with our Mr. Levine. Is it unreasonable to point out that charging anyone that much money to sit in a Ruby Tuesday's takes balls big enough to be covered in Waterford Crystal? I've been to Ruby Tuesday's (more than one, although they're quite alike), and pretty much for the reasons Ken mentioned. The only thing worth $800 is maybe the entire liquor supply.

Ken, thank you for your blog. You write for us for free. I appreciate that.

I wish everyone a safe, reasonably priced Happy New Year.

norm said...

Hmmm.....Do you think Ken's prices would go up on NYE?
To write I mean.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the movie depicts the agencies as blind fools. So if we are to believe the movie it is not fraud, just incompetence. But how much do you really want to believe a movie that decides the best way to get the point across is with Margot Robbie in a bubble bath?

The book is more informative, where Michael Lewis actually tries to understand what happened, rather than this comic book portrayal that could have been written without any knowledge of the situation at all. I'll grant you it is more entertaining to have Margot Robbie in a bubble bath.

Ask yourself, if there was so much fraud, then why did these guys need to be bailed out? Why did Goldman Sachs find themselves losing so much money and needing to be bailed out by Warren Buffett for $5 billion? What type of fraud is it where your plan is to face bankruptcy?

Anonymous said...

"The Big Short" Another example of a Hollywoodized movie of real events to go along with "Argo, "Lincoln", "Bridge of Spy's, etc. Why can't they stick to what really happened, it's usually more compelling than the B.S. they put up on the screen.

CarolMR said...

Liberal politicians forced banks to give mortgages to people who didn't deserve them and could not pay for them. That's what caused the crash.

sanford said...

One or two people blamed the government to encourage the banks to make bad loans. This is not really true. The so called encouragement started with this bill. It was enacted in 1977. designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-incomeneighborhoods.[1][2][3] Congress passed the Act in 1977 to reduce discriminatory credit practices against low-income neighborhoods, a practice known as redlining.[4][5]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Reinvestment_Act

Forbes seems to blame the above act. http://www.forbes.com/2008/07/18/fannie-freddie-regulation-oped-cx_yb_0718brook.html



Cap'n Bob said...

In 1965, a friend and I went to Times Square for New Year's Eve. We lived upstate. It was a fun experience. The crowd was in good spirits and at the stroke of 12 we kissed as many pretty girls as we could find.

What happened next was almost as exciting. We had to grab the last train to Peekskill before it departed at 12:20. We made it.

We were neither tourists nor farmers.

Richard Y said...

I know I am a bit late chiming in on this one but was in NY the weekend before July 4 back in 1986. Went to the Windows on the World restaurant at the WTC where they charged $10.00 for drinks but the view was fabulous. There was a sign in the entrance where reservations were being taken for the evening of July 4 to watch the fireworks. They were charging $1000.00 per person - in 1986.

Andrew said...

Geez. Am I the only person who actually likes the Olive Garden? Good food. F U, haters.

cadavra said...

All the places on 42nd Street are tourist traps. I once popped into the Chevy's for a quick bite before a show. Quesadilla + soda = $30. Before the tip. The one uptown was at least $10 less. Never again.

mike said...

It's a common trope among fact-free right-wingers that the crash of 2008 was caused by poor folks getting home mortgages. This is a lie. The crash was caused by the deregulation of the 1990s and by the corruption of the ratings agencies and by the fact that our legislators are so easily and cheaply bribed and by the fact that many banking executives are dishonest. Still, maybe 'anonymous' has a point. All the people who lost their homes and/or had their retirement savings wiped out---don't worry! 'anonymous' has identified the culprits for you--The Victims Themselves!