Last week a woman posted to her Instagram story that she had been charged 55c for a drop of milk on the side of her Americano in the airport. Which itself cost three thirty. And while it might seem like a small thing, the principle of the matter is important.
It’s a familiar story for any aeroported person: held captive with few purchasing options; we’re made to shell out way more than the going rate for a nibble, caffeine or what passes for a pint. Heaven forbid you need earplugs or some painkillers. You’d wanna be the second coming of Bezos to afford those luxuries.
But the humble Americano? For those of us who rely on a caffeine boost to make it through a six am takes off, the airport cup of coffee is a divisive one. No matter which spot you choose, your coffee will be a perpetually mediocre, poor representation of Ireland’s coffee culture. But up till yesterday, your Americano always came with the option of a drop of milk on the side. Now– apparently– that is classed as an extra, akin to having a whole latte made from oat milk. (which is a whole separate outrage)
Now, before you say, “It’s only a few cent,” let’s take a moment to consider the bigger picture. Since the dawn of the age of austerity, the cost of coffee has been creeping towards the fiver mark. While we can debate the merits of adding sugar to coffee, the fact remains that adding a dash of milk is a common practice and one that is now being penalized. Usually, the cheaper the food, the more likely you’ll have to pay for extras. So if this coffee was a euro, I might not be so outraged – but this coffee was €3.30.
Rather than offer free condiments and pass on the cost to all customers, the airport has opted to penalise drop of milk-ers. And that line of thinking can take you to dangerous places. What’s next? A charge for sugar? Will napkins be extra? A charge to use the jacks? There are a few bits that you just need to factor into your running expenses or your product pricing. One of them should be the drop of milk.
Charging for a drop of milk is a hateful tax levied upon unsuspecting passengers already paying too much for literally everything. According to this American Study, we spend about a fiver (seven dollars) for every hour we’re in the airport. And that study is before ‘cozzy living’ pushed up the prices of everything. We all know things cost more in the airport, but not for any good reason, usually. Most of the time, things are expensive in the airport because they know people need to sit in anxious anticipation of their flight after hedging their bets on going through security early.
If I’m playing devil’s advocate, I should note that the more money most concessions at airports make, the more they have to pay in rent. This is because rent in airports is typically a cut of the gross. So when costs go up for them, they have to heighten the prices more than other cafés because as more money is technically coming in, the profit is less. In this way, I could understand the price jumping if any of the businesses in the airport were independent. But nearly all airport businesses are multinational conglomerates in one guise or another. So they should be able to absorb these mounting expenses more. But they are often less inclined to, because those conglomerates chase perpetual growth, even in times of inflation.
We have to ask; is nothing sacred? Some things, the drop of milk included, are so intrinsically quotidian that to take them away seems needlessly cruel. In the end, it’s a reminder that the small things do matter. Even though the drop of milk might seem like a minor thing, the fact that corporations are encroaching on our cultural basic niceties is an indication of a kind of value shift towards a more dystopian world.
Elsewhere on CHAR: Are You a Little Treat Girlie?