My Childhood Has been Sullied!

Well, not exactly sullied, really, more like reality has run roughshod over the memories. What I am I talking about? The lovely fall harvest tradition of getting a pumpkin for Halloween.

This past weekend, the husband and I went to close our summer trailer for the season. Gorgeous fall day – clear blue sky, crisp, cool air, leaves turning colors. All the ingredients for the perfect October Saturday.

On the way home, we take the scenic route through the college town where we met, and on the way out of town, came across a Goebberts’ Family Farm. This was a surprise to us, since we didn’t know there was more than the original location (the one we had been planning on driving to). So we stopped here instead, since it was on the way home, and not out of the way. Lots of cars parked in nice orderly rows in the fields, tents set up by the rows of corn, a petting zoo… All the lovely makings of a fun time doing fall harvest/Halloween things, while looking for that perfect pumpkin. 

Judging by the size of the pumpkins we saw some people wheeling out in carts, this was going to be great. Some of those monsters probably weighed more than my golden retriever did, they were that huge!

Of the two barns, one was obviously the last stop before leaving, meaning it was labeled “Exit Only” and the registers were clearly visible. The other one just looked to be providing part of the backdrop for the whole scenario. The owners had even setup a clear entrance, so that people (and pumpkins) weren’t just wandering around randomly. There was even a large sign, listing the times for a weekend magic show (4 times a day) and all the other events the kids could do – corn row maze, haunted pumpkin patch/house, face painting, etc. Right next to the sign was an admissions booth.

There were lots of parents there, with assorted amounts of kids in tow, and many were lining up at the admissions booth to buy tickets. Or so I assumed. Since the husband and I have no children, we of course decided to just head right in. No need to buy tickets for kids games we don’t need, correct? Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that thought this, as some other couples were doing the same thing as us.

Then came a wake up call – “Have you paid yet?”

The couple in front of us to whom this was directed stopped in confusion (so did we when we heard this), and looked around. The entrance attendant explained that you had to pay to go inside, even if all you wanted to do was look for a pumpkin. Not only that, but the admission was $5! While not an excessive amount by any means, it stuck me as ludicrous that we would have to pay just to go look for a pumpkin, with no guarantee that we’d find one we liked (ok, ok, the chances of not finding one were slim, but still…).

Didn’t matter, you had to pay to go past the little fence they had set up. I can understand charging to go into a separate kids section, with all the games and things geared specifically for the kids. And there were plenty of families inside wandering about. But to charge just to enter the grounds and look? That seems rather opportunistic to me.

The sad thing is, if they had been charging that $5 for parking, they still would have made a nice tidy sum of money, and I rather doubt we would have balked so much at going in. But to sock you with a per person entrance fee, just to look, made us (and others) decide to turn right around and go elsewhere.

We ended up somewhere else, that didn’t charge an entrance fee, and had a nice time just walking around looking at all the pumpkins piled up in long rows. This place also had plenty of kids activities, with the added plus of actual kiddie carnival rides! There was a fee for those rides and the other kids-only games, but that was expected. And still very popular with the kids and adults.

We found our pumpkin and got in line to purchase it, and were soon on our way. The dog found the pumpkin fascinating, and I’m sure it’ll be even more so once it gets carved out.

All-in-all, it was a great fall day, despite the incident at the first pumpkin patch. And the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me a bit. This may not be a big deal, but charging for something as simple as looking at pumpkins is ridiculous. It seems to go beyond normal capitalistic practices and verges on gouging, in my opinion. Or maybe it’s just the change of “when” you pay.

Like I’d said, if they’d charged for parking, then we probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it, paid and then gone inside. They still could have charged for the kid specific items and come out even further ahead. Instead, they decided to get you at the door no matter what, contrary to what is “normally” done, and it was a minor annoyance. There is a certain amount of Catch-22 in the whole situation as well, especially for families. How do you tell the kids, once you’ve talked up going to the pumpkin patch, that now you can’t go inside because the owners are charging an admission fee? You don’t, not unless you want lots of crying and whatnot. As I said, Catch-22.

Maybe parents are more forgiving than mine were when I was a child. I do know if my family had gone to pick out a pumpkin and run into that situation, we would have been packed back up into the family car and headed home. The pumpkin would have been procured from the local grocery store, and that would have been that. But that was then, and this is now, and I suppose that things are different.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

Posted in Real Life, Writing and tagged .

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