IT Trends :: Thursday, April 20, 2006


Extra Charges for Special People

By Terry Calhoun

There’s a little ditty that I embarrass my wife with sometimes when we’re shopping. I chant it (I can’t really sing very well) as we walk by the special people who park just outside the department store door, along the curb, or in your way. I also use it when we walk past someone abusing a handicapped parking spot.

I sort of think about Barbra Streisand singing it, even though she sounds nothing like me. It g'es: “Special, they’re so special, they can park anywhere that they want. They’re so special, and they didn’t have to pay a lot.” and it g'es on like this for a few puerile stanzas.

I’m a little worried about the income and spending power gaps that keep growing between the richest and poorest Americans. And I am especially worried over the trend for organizations to charge “premium” surcharges for access to fairly mundane, almost necessary things. Being able to use information technology to charge for a monitored use of such “special” services will exacerbate the already growing divide between rich and poor.

Here at the University of Michigan, the current “special or not” debate is over corporate skyboxes in Michigan Stadium. The stadium is undergoing a huge renovation. When I took a SCUP board member, Jim Zavagno of Foothills Community College, in for a look at the “Big House” a few weeks ago, the entire south end was just a pile of dirt. (Among other changes, a little more hip space for burgeoning maize and blue fans.)...

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