Northwest Airlines Will Not Trade A Hot Meal For Pringles

Northwest Airlines must realize their food is crappier than a snack size tin of Pringles because when Stephen Dubner (of the Freakonomics book and blog) tried to swap his 1st/Business class hot meal for a tin of lowly coach Pringles, he was told that it would cost him $2—the coach price.

So I told the flight attendant “no thanks” to the dinner — but instead, I said, I would like a can of the Pringles that, as I’d heard over the P.A., were being offered for sale in coach.

She looked surprised — maybe she didn’t know how delicious Pringles are? — and then replied, “Well, I’ll have to charge you for that. It’ll be two dollars.”

I agreed to pay — I really, really like Pringles when the mood strikes — but I thought it was pretty odd that a company would take a customer who had bought a premium version of its product and then, when said customer wants to substitute a can of potato-ish chips for the hot meal that comes for free with the premium version of the product, require him to pay $2.

Obviously, Dubner’s mistake is to assume that the hot meal was the “premium” product. No, just kidding. It’s weird. They should have offered to trade his uneaten meal with some poor starving person back in coach who had reluctantly paid $2 for Pringles and was just sitting back there staring at them, trying to hold back the tears. —MEGHANN MARCO

No Price Discrimination at Northwest Airlines [Freakonomics]
(Photo: drewski2112)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Falconfire says:

    This one is easy. That meal was paid for with the business class ticket, the pringles where not. They charged you for it because its not a substitution, they dont include the cost of those things with the price of your ticket, which for the business class meal, was included.

    All they would do with that meal is throw it away now, since they wont sell it to a coach flyer.

  2. roche says:

    Zero sympathy from me on this one

  3. bobreck says:

    I’m sorry, I have to side with the airline on this one. That 1st class meal was made for the passenger and it is assumed he will eat it. Yes, the cost is figured into the price of his ticket, but the extra cost of the chips is not. They are right charging him for the chips. And offering the meal to someone in coach is not the right option because then you’ve got one happy coach customer and a lot of unhappy ones.

    Now, if you want to call them out on the cost of a snack-size container of pringles being $2.00, I’m right there with you. I can buy a whole can for $2.00 at the grocery store.

  4. agent2600 says:

    agreeded with sock monkey…

    American Airlines computer system just went down, they have been giving the customers water as consolation for it

  5. Buran says:

    @SockMonkey: I can buy them for a bit over a dollar. You’re still getting ripped off!

  6. banned says:

    I’m with these guys, sorry. Even though the meal itself likely equals the cost of the chips to the airline, its not the point. These people aren’t exactly like the oil companies raking in billions of dollars, most struggle just to break even.

  7. MercuryPDX says:

    “They should have offered to trade his uneaten meal with some poor staving person back in coach who had reluctantly paid $2 for Pringles and was just sitting back there staring at them, trying to hold back the tears.”

    I would have loved to see what kind of mad clamoring this would have caused.

  8. bobreck says:

    @Buran: Actually, I’m not getting ripped off… I don’t eat Pringles.

  9. acambras says:

    I can’t get too worked up about this.

    1) If they’re doing meal service, then the plane is in flight. If they’d been stuck on the tarmac for 10 hours and she’d nickeled-and-dimed him over snacks, then it’d be a lot worse.

    2) He’s in business class. I know he probably paid more. But I’m not shedding a lot of tears over the plight of those in business class.

    3) It’s two damn dollars.

  10. orig_club_soda says:

    This article distorts the situation

    1) He “paid” for the dinner whether he eats it or not. Whats worse, its going in the trash. Wasted.

    2) By asking for the Pringles, he is asking for an additional “meal”. For free!? (Damn socialists)

    3) That can of Pringles is part of an inventory that is monitored. If unpaid (unaccounted for) inventory occurs, the crew are responsible for neglect.

    Why’s he bitching? The Pringles are cheaper than a bottle of water. This guy is completely ungrateful for the privileges and luxuries we have in the industrial world.

  11. Jon Mason says:

    He should have asked for the meal, walked back to coach and said “anyone wanna buy this?” Pocketed the highest bid and bought some pringles.

  12. wobudong says:

    Let’s start a campaign to collect funds to reimburse the Pringle-eater, who has been brought up on junk food. But first let’s demand that he start eating healthy airline meals.

    Never mind.

  13. nequam says:

    He should have yelled “don’t you know who I am,” flashed secret service credentials, and spilled the pringles on the floor.

  14. Godz says:

    Title should be changed to “No Airline Will Trade A Hot Meal For Pringles”

  15. Black Bellamy says:

    They should have given him the Pringles for free because he was a premium customer and bag of Pringles would have generated goodwill well in excess of the thirteen cents that Northwest pays for the chips.

    That’s just good customer service.

  16. CaptainRoin says:

    What I want to know is why is he wasting his time eating? Don’t the guys up front get free drinks? Bloody-Mary’s FTW!

  17. RandomHookup says:

    Seems plenty cheap of NWA. Good way to blow off a customer whose boss (probably) paid full fare. For that, he should have pounded down a couple of extra premium drinks.

  18. Ray Wert says:

    I am sitting here waiting to board a Northwest flight from NYC-LaGuardia to Detroit. I will be flying steerage…err…coach. I will attempt to buy a first-class meal for $2 when I get on the plane and see what happens. Perhaps this exchange just needs to occur the other way around.

  19. jburland says:

    @Black Bellamy:

    The only person with common sense on this thread. Unless, of course, NW won’t back up their service professionals in applying initiative, in which
    case I give up

    Reminds of flying Air India from Delhi to Mumbai. Flight came from Nepal, so we were a mixture of domestic and international passengers.
    International passengers don’t get a meal on the domestic leg (but drinks), domestic passengers get a meal ( but no drinks), despite being plied with booze in the lounge at Delhi.

    So there ensues a wild swapping of meals (that we domestic pax didn’t want) for drinks (that we were dead keen on getting).
    Combine this with the flight attendants trying to prevent this illegal trade and you had something from a Marx Brothers film…

  20. BadCall says:

    If this is the biggest problem Stephen has when flying, he needs to shut the hell up and buy his own damn Pringles.

  21. bnissan97 says:

    I agree with all the posts that they meal was worked into the price of the ticket, the chips were not.

  22. anmlStyl says:

    The lead flight attndt (purser) does have to account for any product sales and at the end of the flight would pass the inventory count and any monies collected to the gate agent at the landing end. I’m sure back when customer service was priority a “freebie” would have been comped, but with razor thin margins and no leeway for customer satisfaction, this flight attdnt couldn’t have used any CSR tools/”empowerment” tookits to comp the Pringles. She was going to be on the hook for the product sale.