01 August, 2012


Olympic gouging

No, not a particularly nasty form of freestyle combat newly added to the Olympic canon, but the opportunistic overcharging of visitors to "London 2012".

Greenwich is an Olympic venue, tha knows, with posh people riding horses round a temporary stadium in Greenwich Park. (Hey, if I tweet @ZaraPhillips and tell her "You really let your gran down there, girl!", d'ya think the police will knock my door down and arrest me? Coo!)

It's all very surreal. I suppose it's because I tend to travel about during the "off-peak" part of the day when those alleged huge crowds of visitors are safely ensconced in the stadium, but the trains — lengthened from 4 cars to 10 for the duration — rattle around empty, and the barricaded, temporarily pedestrianized streets of beautiful downtown Greenwich are more crowded than usual only in as much as they are full of mobs of stewards and spectator advisers (or whatever the fancy title is) milling around looking bored. I haven't been into central London so far this week, but I understand that tumbleweed has been spotted rolling along Oxford Street.

On my visits to Greenwich, I sometimes pop into the Mitre. Calling by on Monday, I found that my usual tipple had increased in price by 11%, from £3.60 to £4.00, for the duration of the Olympics. Apparently one or two other venues have hiked their prices, though I know that the Spanish Galleon (Shepherd Neame) and the Gate Clock (Wetherspoon) continue to apply normal prices.

To appease its regulars, the Mitre is quietly charging "recognized regulars" normal prices, reserving the rip-off prices, sorry, the temporarily-enhanced prices due to the additional costs incurred during the games period, for tourists.

I seem to drop between two stools here. I am not a regular in the sense of making the place my second home, but I do use the place often enough, say once a week on average, that I am recognized by the established staff and customers. (I wonder if there is a name in the trade for intermittent customers of my stripe.) If I were to continue visiting during the overcharging period, I expect that my "categorization" and the price I paid would depend which member of staff was serving.

Being charged the grockle price doesn't, in itself, bother me, either the price or the apparent "status" implications. But there is something distastefully underhand about it all. You might call it just the operation of the free market but I find something unacceptable, vaguely unBritish, lurking here. Putting up the prices to rip off unsuspecting tourists is bad enough, but trying to craftily square the circle with under-the-counter discounts for the suspecting locals is downright sneaky.

I shan't be visiting the Mitre again for the duration of the games. Whether I resume my visits after things "return to normal" remains to be seen. For what little it's worth, that's not an empty threat.

'I shan't be visiting the Mitre again for the duration of the games.'

I'd give it a miss for a bit longer Edwin. The 2 other joints you mention are both entirely acceptable, and there are 2 more pleasing hostelries up Royal Hill (The Tolly & the Meantime pub).

The main attraction for me of the Mitre is its proximity to the Picture House over the road (on the rare occasions I go to the flicks these days).


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