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No Price Discrimination at Northwest Airlines

I recently flew business class on Northwest Airlines. When it came time for dinner to be served, I decided I would decline dinner for three reasons:

1. I had eaten just a few hours earlier.

2. I was busy working and I didn’t want to put away all the papers I had spread out on my tray.

3. I caught a glimpse of the dinner being served to the row ahead of me, and the food looked worth missing.

So I told the flight attendant “no thanks” to the dinner — but instead, I said, I would like a can of the Pringles that, as I’d heard over the P.A., were being offered for sale in coach.

She looked surprised — maybe she didn’t know how delicious Pringles are? — and then replied, “Well, I’ll have to charge you for that. It’ll be two dollars.”

I agreed to pay — I really, really like Pringles when the mood strikes — but I thought it was pretty odd that a company would take a customer who had bought a premium version of its product and then, when said customer wants to substitute a can of potato-ish chips for the hot meal that comes for free with the premium version of the product, require him to pay $2.

I assume that all the hot meals were already bought and paid for, and are thrown out if they’re not consumed. The Pringles inventory, meanwhile, is recyclable and non-perishable. But still: was this a good customer move? Does Northwest really want my $2 that badly?

It should be said that my Pringles didn’t arrive for about 45 minutes, and only after I asked for them again. The flight attendant looked surprised that I still wanted them after all that time. I guess Northwest didn’t want my $2 that badly after all.