Saturday, July 23, 2005

Screwing Foreigners and Subsidizing Locals

I went to Gorée today, an island off Dakar. There is but one ferry service. A round trip ticket is:
resident senegalais: 1500 cfa
resident autre pays africain:2500 cfa
autre personnes: 5000 cfa
Or, once the foreign gibberish is removed:
Senegalese: $3
Other Africans: $5
Everyone else: $10
Simple price discrimination (what degree? I forget). Like all price discrimination you understand the impulse: non-Senegalese who go to Gorée are tourists and so can probably pay more than the Senegalese who simply want to go to the island to get some calm after noisy Dakar and take a swim at the very nice beach. You don't want prices to be high enough such that only people with foreign bucks can access it; that is, cut off access from your average Senegalese. You want the locals to have access to their cultural heritage, or whatever (and even $3 is a lot: I can eat decently in restaurants for $3 a day). If you had a uniform price, say $5, then that would reduce the usage of the island by Senegalese and needlessly subsidize the tourists who are probably only going there once and are happy to pay $10, and wouldn't go there more if the price were less since it is just one of their 3 days in Dakar.

Yet, yet, you look at that sign and you can't help but be offended: why, just because I can pay more, should I pay more? Yada yada yada, monopoly power...But it still has that gut-level offensiveness. Similarly, at the Maison des Esclaves a Senegalese pays $0.50 and a non-resident pays $1, which is funny in a place which decries the arbitrary separation of people in order to exploit one group; yes, you heard it hear first folks, price discrimination is equivalent to slavery!

Happily, I was with a Senegalese friend who was paying (damn that hospitality: I'm the rich american, let me pay!), and since he was at the ticket office, he paid $3 for my ticket, so I didn't suffer in any way from the price discrimination. Oh, and about the locals visiting: he's 30, and it was his first time at Gorée.

Clarification (7/25): It should be said that I understand that price discrimination is widespread and a good thing. I recorded my gut-level reaction because it was so opposed to what my intellectual, and moral, instinct tells me is right. Though the question of slack in the economy, and how price discrimination removes it, is the topic for another post.


Anonymous Battlepanda said...

How outrageous! Of course they should just list the price as $10. With a $5 discount for fellow Africans and a $7 discount for Senegalese citizens.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Isaac said...

Hah! Very good.

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well. It's kind of the pricing scheme that colleges like Swarthmore use. We have one price for those who can pay and a scalable discount price for those who can't.

Tim Burke

8:08 AM  

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