Foreigners, dual pricing and false assertions in Britské listy
Kazi Šťastnová works for the New Presence monthly in Prague. Česká verze tohoto článku je titulním příspěvkem tohoto vydání Britských listů, viz Obsah.
Dear Mr Culik,
I would just like to make a few brief comments regarding some recurring false assertions made by many of the respondents to Andrew Stroehlein's two articles about new foreign residency regulations and the practice of dual pricing.
First, I see a fundamental error being made in setting an equivalency between Social Security Numbers (or, as in Canada, Social Insurance Numbers) and an obcanka.
It is hardly necessary to produce a SSN card (which notably does not contain a photograph) as often as an obcanka is required in the Czech Republic. In fact most of the people I know would be hard pressed to retrieve the actual card and many often improvise a number if necessary. It is not a number assigned at birth and many young people work for years without having one. As Jirovec points out, it usually becomes necessary at the time of one's first tax return, but many university students who remain registered as their parents' dependants postpone even this use of it.
As for having to produce this document when obtaining certain basic services like a bank account, here the important thing to mention is that another form of identification can often be substituted in its place - certainly not the case at Ceska sporitelna.
You definitely do not have to flash it when paying a fine on the subway, getting a library card, renting a video, visiting someone at their place of work etc.
Yes, most of these things do require some form of identification (including picture id), but the stress is on some form, that is on the substitutability, which is something that is utterly lacking here in many respects.
In my opinion, one of the fundamental, telling and dissuading aspects of life in the Czech Republic is the utter incomprehensibility of producing anything but an obcanka, ever.
And, in general, of producing any document; formulating a statement, question or request; attempting to do anything in a way which does not conform to the way that 99.999 % of the local obcane have done it 99.999% of the time.
Secondly, I would like to dispel some common arguments repeatedly used in favour of dual pricing, on the pages of BL (Holba, Paleta, Derian) and elsewhere. One is that dual pricing somehow conforms to the natural machinations of the market and is just a manifestation of the desire to earn a buck in the "civilizovanem liberalnim trznim prostredi" (Holba). These arguments employ the logic of "cenove hladiny" and the "two kinds of customer." Both of which are nonsensical when talking about the differentiation made at many Czech museums, galleries and monuments: ours vs. foreigner. Presumably, the "foreigner" is that second kind of customer, which the higher entrance fee is aiming at. Hence the German, the Ukrainian, the Brazilian, the Yugoslav, the Bulgarian and any other non-Czech citizen all make up one kind of customer and the Czech makes up the other all on his own, brilliant, true market savvy. Moreover, if this is such an honest and common business technique why are such dishonest methods so often employed in applying it, such as writing out Czech prices in long hand and foreigner fees in numerals?
Considering in terms of cenove hladiny is equally invalid, unless one is about to start taking into account the cenove hladiny of the countries of origin of all foreign visitors. The day that the establishments charging dual prices start sorting visitors into groups according to their home country's economic indicators, and upon proof of citizenship charge those coming from countries with comparable, or worse, cenove hladiny to the Czech Republic nasi prices, is the day that I will accept dual pricing as a manifestation of existing economic realities.
Claims of comparable dual pricing in the United States are simply inadequate. Yes perhaps Disney does give 10% discount to residents (Novotny), although I cannot confirm this myself, but this is by far not the rule, as it is in the Czech Republic. Many state museums are, as Stroehlein points out, in fact free of charge (viz. Washington D.C.) and most of the remaining ones charge one price or offer minimal discounts to local taxpayers. They most certainly do not discriminate against an ambiguous group entitled "foreigner" and favour an equally ambiguous group entitled "nasi." The argument that auto club members and employees of specific firms enjoy certain discounts is utterly misplaced since these discounts are a type of reward, for choosing to purchase a membership in the auto club say, or a type of bonus or incentive on the part an employer. Why one should enjoy a similar reward for coincidentally having Czech citizenship, I will never understand.
In effect all of the above deliberations are not only bogus but primarily absurd, since the fact of the matter is that if I am able to speak Czech without a strong accent I get charged the nasi price, if I am not, regardless of my actual citizenship, where I pay my taxes or the cenova hladina of my home country, I do not. Similarly, if I produce an obcanka upon demand I do not get hassled (too much) and may actually receive the necessary service, if I do not I do get hassled and there is a high probability that I will not receive the service or will be granted it only after an unnecessarily prolonged process and a whole lot of wasted time and energy.
Any attempts to place these existing realities in the context of normal economic and legal practices and the deserved rights of Czech taxpayers are nothing but weak, unfounded attempts to justify an unjust and primitive practice.