Friday, September 15, 2017

Home Again, Home Again ...

Post-hurricane update ...

We're back in the house. Power has been restored, there's a tarp over the damaged roof, contractors will be in tomorrow to start fixing stuff. We don't have water at the moment because something caused a controller/pressure unit to burn up, but we do have electricity. The landlord's property manager is acting with alacrity to get things done, for which I am grateful.

Last week, I mentioned that I hadn't seen any "price-gouging" going on around Gainesville in the run-up to the hurricane. This morning, I ran up against a bit of what I would call "price-gouging." It was, unsurprisingly, driven by government. Specifically, the University of Florida's athletics program. Here's the rundown:

After several days of sheltering at our church, we were able to find a hotel room for two nights at a reasonable price (less than $100 per night -- there are cheaper places in Gainesville, but they were full up; a lot of people wanted to vacate them, but until Wednesday couldn't find gas to get out of town).

As of last night, we weren't certain whether we would need, or be able to get, a room for tonight. We had a text message from a neighbor letting us know that the power was back on, but we weren't certain if OUR wiring had been damaged (doesn't seem to have been -- or at least the trailer hasn't burned down around me since turning things back on).

So anyway, this morning, Tamara went down to the desk to see if a room would be available tonight. The answer: Maybe, maybe not, but if so it would be about $250 per night rather than less than $100 per night. Because ...

... the University of Florida Gators have a football game tomorrow.

Whenever that happens, every hotel in town sells out at inflated prices because the whole city is full of fans, alumni, etc. The campus is filled with alumni RVs, and the people without RVs rent hotel rooms.

I can't blame the hoteliers for pricing accordingly. And fortunately we were able to get back into our home. But I know there were people staying in the same hotel as us from Miami, Naples, Tampa, etc. -- people whose homes may be inaccessible or even destroyed and who will be either unable to find a room or be charged twice as much for tonight as they were for last night.

UF is not taking cognizance of a continuing situation which is an emergency for at least some people. And they are actually hurting those hoteliers, who could be sold out at regular rates to hurricane-displaced people right now and sell out at the higher rates for a re-scheduled football game.

Here's the letter I just sent to the editor of the Gainesville Sun (conforming to their length limit of 150 words):

It's awe-inspiring to see how people can come together to help each other in the wake of a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma.

It's less awe-inspiring to watch the University of Florida insist on an immediate return to its high financial ritual of having students toss a piece of pigskin around a pasture.

I saw no storm-related "price-gouging" in Gainesville's private sector, but in the public sector, UF's actions encourage local hotels to jack up their rates and evict non-recreational guests for the express purpose of parting alumni and other fans from their money.

The University could have exercised some simple civic virtue and common sense. Waiting a week would have made a big difference to storm survivors who are on the road back south or whose homes in this area are damaged/uninhabitable. But with UF, the almighty dollar apparently comes first.

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