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Small town, U.S.A.; Gouge-the-visitors mentality gives Buffalo a black eye in 'big event'

Parking lot owner Mark Croce cites the free-market system as he passes off his move to soak the fans of the World Junior Hockey Championship. "Buffalo has to start thinking like a big city," Croce says. "This is a big event."

We agree, it is a big event.

Buffalo has to start thinking like a big city that deserves more big events.

Croce and lot managers have been around. They must know that Buffalo isn't Las Vegas or Key West. The nation tends to think of us as down on our luck. Aging. Listless. Then when people visit here they form a different view. There's lots of night life. Awesome architecture. Friendly people. Reasonable prices.

Oops.

Our parking lords, determined to turn the biggest buck, ratcheted up their prices to as much as $60 a day for key days of the hockey tournament. They reasoned that because up to three games were being skated inside HSBC Arena, they could charge for three events. Full lots proved that a spike to $60 wasn't too much, Croce told reporter Mark Sommer, because the market met the price.

Sure the market met the price, but that isn't the point. No one likes to be taken advantage of, and the sticker shock no doubt left a bad taste among many fans who will return home with a poorer impression of Buffalo. They are less likely to be our advocates, more likely to say something snide about a city which, in many other ways, worked overtime to put its best foot forward.

Another lot operator, James Sandoro, offered logic similar to Croce's. A "prudent businessperson" sees the potential in an event like the hockey championship and adjusts prices accordingly, Sandoro said. His argument is just as unpersuasive when weighed against the harm to Buffalo's reputation.

It's not big-city thinking to squeeze the audience for a one-time event like the World Junior Hockey Championship when the games were already giving lot operators a fine boost in business.

In fact, it's very small-town.

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