Denver Airport. Gate 16. 9:30 am.

“Hello everyone. We’ve got a full flight today. If anyone has flexible plans, please come see me at the podium. If you’re willing to delay your flight, we’ll provide you with a hotel for this evening, a coupon for dinner, and a guaranteed seat on this same flight tomorrow en route to Mexico.”

There was no movement in the waiting area.

I looked around. Mothers fussed over fussy toddlers. Couples snuggled together. No one entertained the United Airlines representative’s offer.

“Denver is a lovely city. This is a great offer – you can spend the day in Denver at United’s expense. If there are any single travelers in the waiting area with flexible travel plans, or even any couples, please come see me at the podium. We’ll also provide each of you with a round-trip ticket to anywhere United flies in the continental United States.”

I thought for a moment. I could use a free round-trip ticket. I could use a day on the beach in Mexico even more.

A few more minutes passed.

Her voice became more desperate. “People, we’re in a recession. This is like free money. This has value. We’re offering a free round-trip ticket anywhere United flies, you can spend the day in Denver, we’ll pay for your hotel and lodging. Come see me at the podium!”

I imagined the thoughts going through people’s minds. Day in Denver, snow on the ground, 27 degrees vs. arriving to Mexico, balmy winds, start of a tropical vacation. So not even a choice.

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