While working on my previous post, my lovely bride was watching an episode of ABC’s What Would You Do?. For those unfamiliar, it is a hidden-camera show where actors portray unusual or uncomfortable situations and see how bystanders react. After a rather heartwarming segment involving bystanders coming to the defense of a homeless man, there followed a segment about kids running a lemonade stand.
The actor-kids set up a sign advertising lemonade for $1, but after unsuspecting customers place their order, the kids nonchalantly offer napkins, straws, and cookies. These “extras” push the final bill for the customers to $5, $15, and up. In response to the customers’ bewilderment, one of the actor-kids (referred to as a “wanna-be one-percenter“) offers such defenses as “I’m an entrepreneur” and “We’re running a business.”
Sure, the segment is tongue-in-cheek, with the kids playing up the greed and shyster image. Call me a sourpuss taking things too seriously, but the dialogue of the narrator and (most likely) for the kids was written by a media scriptwriter. Should I be surprised that it reflects an ideological perspective that sneers at commerce?
Of course, the story has many redeeming points. Despite locating in a swanky neighborhood, many of the “one-percenters” who patronize the stand and get stuck with the unexpectedly high bill actually do pay up. Even after acknowledging the veiled extortion, most abide by the terms of trade. No Ebenezer Scrooges here.
P.S. I couldn’t help seeing this as a precursor of our vaunted universal health care: sold to the public as cheap; shown to be quite the opposite after the fact.