- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

There is no doubt that Salt Lake City is in the Olympic spirit. This town has kicked into high rip-off mode.
As is the norm, hotel rooms are three and four times their normal rates. Then there are the bars the "private" clubs that, in addition to a club membership of about $20, have instituted cover charges, some as high as $10 a person, to get in to listen to a couple of broken-down musicians.
Then, of course, drink prices are double and triple their normal prices $7 for a beer, and it's only 3.2 beer at that.
All this is nothing new. This, after all, is the economic boom that organizers always brag about when they try to sell the local citizenry on playing host to the Olympics. One of the things they don't mention, though, is that local citizens also have to pay the hiked-up prices.
Sometimes, though, it goes too far, and you have to take a stand. We did just that the other night while waiting for a table in an Italian restaurant that, like every eatery in town, is putting an 18 percent tip on the bill but not informing patrons. There were six of us, and we had put our names on a waiting list. So we passed time at the bar and started ordering watered-down drinks.
We waited and waited. Occasionally, we would go and ask how much longer, and a host would say not much longer. So we drank, and drank some more, and noticed that we had been waiting for an hour, ringing up a pretty substantial bar bill, and groups of people that had come in after us who were not waiting at the bar were being seated ahead of us. We figured out that they were trying to soak us for as much as they could in drinks before they gave us a table.
One of my colleagues walked over to the host and told him in terms that I am sure they don't often hear in Salt Lake City that if we didn't get a table in five minutes, something very unpleasant would happen. And he also informed him that we were not buying another drink.
Within two minutes, we had two different hosts offering us two different tables. You gotta know how to talk to these crooks.


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