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Rudy's Rants: Smarte Cartes

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Ever since I made a remark about how expensive airport luggage carts are, I've enjoyed a lively e-mail relationship with an executive named Mike at Smarte Carte. That's the company that charges you $2 to rent a cart in many airports around the country.

Actually, I thought I'd seen rentals as high as $2.50, but Mike tells me the ceiling right now is two bucks, and he ought to know. Anyway, Mike says cart rental is yet another way airports make money; they've turned what used to be a cost into a profit center. And while I've praised overseas airports that provide carts gratis, the trend is apparently not my friend. Mike tells me I'll be seeing many more pay baggage cart systems around the world in the very near future. Darn. And guess what's disappearing? That 25-cent reward for returning the cart to a corral. Why? Because it attracted undesirables who hung around airports trying to snatch carts to get that quarter.

So there you have it, fellow travelers--the up-to-the-minute cart report from the front line. Sorry I can't report any better news. Free carts may be relics of a simpler time as they go the way of propeller planes and paper tickets. Technology's revenge? Luggage with wheels. I haven't yet asked Mike how he and the Smarte Cart guys feel about THAT.



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