The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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The ridiculous economy of airports

I recently traveled from Newark, NJ to Key West, FL for a wedding in my family. As far as traveling goes, there were no issues – flights were on time, getting luggage was smooth and so on. However, because it all went smoothly, it allowed me time to think about something that I have noticed in the past – the several stores in airports that are always selling random items. I thought to myself, after seeing a store selling vinyls, What is the point of this? Buying vinyl and then going on a small plane where it could easily get crushed is a stupid idea. So, what is the point of these stores? Why do they exist? How do they still make money (especially since they don’t sell souvenirs)? 

The first step to understanding these stores is to understand how airports work. For most of us, we know how they work – you arrive at the section near where your gate is, check in with the airline (if you haven’t done so digitally), pass through the mile-long security line and hope you or any of your stuff doesn’t get flagged by TSA. Then, you take a trek (sometimes miles depending on the airport) to your gate. All this process takes at least 30 minutes, and that’s if you are lucky. Sometimes it can take hours, like if you have stuff taken from you at TSA (they flagged me for a QUARTER in my wallet this time), but TSA is a problem for another time. 

After going through TSA, you reach the mecca of airport shops. These are stationed in close proximity to one another, and most of them sell some type of food. This makes sense – they sell unpackaged foods you are not allowed to take through security, and if you have connecting flights, you aren’t going to leave the airport to get food. So these, although there are multiple of the same restaurants, it makes sense. Some stores sell traveling accessories, like neck pillows, books and headphones. The prices are insane, but the need for some of these things makes sense (I mean, I would have gotten them before getting to the airport, but that’s just me). 

But now we get to the simply crazy section: regular, everyday items. Now some of the places say that they are bookstores on Google Maps or the airport maps themselves; however, they seem to sell a lot more than books. The one I am thinking of specifically is called “Ink by Hudson”. It is located in Terminal A of the redesigned Newark Airport. I can’t seem to find any pictures of it, but I distinctly remember seeing vinyls for sale in the front of the store. Vinyls are known for being a bit fragile, so of course buying one and then taking it on a plane is a great idea. So it comes down to why? There are several other better places to make this type of purchase, so what drives someone to get it at an airport? To me, it just makes no sense. 

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However, this is not the only ridiculous store in the airport. I did more research on airport maps once I got home, and I’m glad I didn’t see this store because it would have driven me mad. There is a LEGO store IN THE AIRPORT. Don’t get me wrong, I love Legos just as much as the next person, but why would they dedicate an entire store to Legos in the airport? Legos are notorious for having small pieces and being fragile, so why would someone get something at the airport like this? I was discussing this with my roommate and he said “What if they got stuck in the airport for a layover?” This is a legit proposition, but you have one of two things as a result: more stuff to carry on the plane, or an assembled, very fragile Lego set to carry with you on the plane. To me, that seems like a lose-lose situation. I can understand how it might be for tourists to be able to stop by and check out some gifts, but even then, why buy it from the airport itself? 

Both of these two stores, the Ink by Hudson and the Lego store highlight how crazy airport stores have gotten. I’ve talked to some relatives who knew airports before 9/11, and the amount of time spent at the airport now is insane. I suppose this extra time, it creates this environment that allows stores to sell these things, but to me, it seems quite absurd and unnecessary. Next time you go to the airport, take a second to look at some of the stores and see just how crazy they are. 

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