Audit finds most prices at Pittsburgh's Airmall match competitors

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Don't worry, fliers: You're probably not getting bilked if you eat or shop at Pittsburgh International Airport.

Well, maybe if you're buying a bacon cheeseburger.

An audit released Monday by Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner found that retail and food outlets at the airport are largely sticking to their promise to charge the same prices as their competitors in town, a courtesy required by the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Known as "street pricing," the arrangement means Airmall customers don't have to empty their wallets to get a side of fries while they wait for their connection.

That said, 24 of the 133 items surveyed by the controller's office were judged too expensive, a list that includes a Terrible Towel ($7.99), a "Django Unchained" DVD ($24.99) and a 6-inch chicken-and-bacon melt at Subway ($5).

"We have communicated the importance of correcting these price differences to Airmall and are pleased with their willingness to work collaboratively to ensure the street-pricing agreements are in compliance," Ms. Wagner said in a news release.

In his response, Airmall vice president Jay Kruisselbrink said his staff has since lowered the prices on several of the items cited but disagreed with the controller on a few of her choices, saying that she is overlooking a difference in quality.

For instance, the bacon cheeseburger sold by Bar Symon for $10.50 is a cut above the competition, which cooks frozen burgers and buns, he wrote.

A Penguins shot glass is also heavier than comparable glasses and boasts a larger decal. And don't forget the NHL Team Penguins lanyard, which features a detachable key ring.

"Street pricing forms the bedrock of our business model," Mr. Kruisselbrink wrote in his response. "We see it as a covenant between the Airport Authority, Airmall and the traveling passenger."

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Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497. First Published June 10, 2013 12:30 AM


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