The Local Citrus Scandal

sliced green lime on brown wooden table

I have a vice. Well, I have several but we’re going to focus on one today.

I love soda.

And right now in Utah there’s a fancy soda craze sweeping the region.

These little soda shops are cropping up like black mold in a Louisiana swamp and the idea is that you take perfectly good soda, add a bunch of random trash to it, and then pay $4 for roughly 38 cents worth of product. AND YOU SMILE while doing it. It’s a complete racket and I personally refuse to participate but there’s one part of it that makes a lot of sense to me.

The citrus squeeze.

Whether you’re drinking water, soda, an iced tea, or literally any other beverage that’s intended to refresh, a little squeeze of lemon and/or lime can really brighten it up and bring everything together.

I don’t want to get too political here but it’s important you know I’m a citrus squeeze advocate.

Well, this fancy soda craze has trickled down into the everyman gas station here. The convenience store where I’m most frequently a patron has added a full soda syrup bar and sliced lemons and limes so that one can self-serve this flavor-punch accouterment. And for the most part, it’s a very nice addition.

I see them clean the syrup pumps on a very regular schedule and at least weekly the entire syrup rack is removed for a deeper clean. Whoever is running sanitation over there should be applauded. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t run a black light through there, but by gas station standards they’re setting a high bar and I appreciate it.

But there’s a dark side too. I have photographic proof that Big Citrus has been price-fixing the lemons and limes in a way that Bernie Madoff would find appalling.

First of all, yes, the syrups are all complimentary. I’m glad you asked. It’s an important piece to the puzzle. I’m not sure what kind of socialist regime is at the heart of this operation but as someone who never partakes of the syrups, I still endorse the practice because I’ve seen the joy it puts on the faces of so many other people, including the roommate that I share a bed with.

Second of all, no, the citrus is not complimentary. There’s an upcharge of 5 cents per slice which is the completely wrong way to price the citrus (we’ll get into that more in a moment). The only explanation I can come up with for why the fruit wedge is an additional fee is that Big Citrus is running an independent operation outside of the rest of the convenience store. Because if the gas station is giving away complimentary syrups, why, pray tell, would they be charging for lemons and limes?

I understand that Utah is a food desert and we don’t have any local citrus. I understand that stocking it must have some associated cost, perhaps even a high one. So let’s assume for just a moment that charging more for for this little squeeze of sunshine is a fair practice. It’s in direct contradiction with the economic model of the syrup bar, but we’ll soldier forward.

Even if I’m able to forgive the fruit fee, and I’m still not sure I am (in my heart, where it counts), the only possible explanation of the “per slice” pricing model is corruption.

The pricing model is disgusting and I wouldn’t be surprised for a second to learn that it has organized crime ties.

I present you with exhibit A:

Varying lime wedge lengths from presumably the same lime.

We don’t even need to get out calipers to show how wildly inconsistent the sizing is here. It’s like if Coach charging the same price for a Snakeskin Harmony Hobo and a Pop-Up Messenger Crossbody! CAN YOU IMAGINE??? (I had to google expensive purse companies and browse their catalogs to complete this paragraph).

Even more, there have been many mornings when I’ve squeezed (squoze? squozen? squeezeth?) the limes and instead of their delicious and refreshing juices flowing into my cup, it’s been dust, moth balls, and sadness. If you remember that scene in Christmas Vacation when Kathleen cuts into the turkey you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Charging the same fee for such a wildly variable product is, in fact, criminal. And it can’t stand any longer. The good news is, I know how to fix it.

A scale is the answer here. I’d be totally comfortable weighing each wedge prior to adding it to my beverage and paying accordingly. Of course, all of the citrus would be handled with tongs and a small wax insert would be replaced on the scale between each citrus-weighing. And yes, the weight of the wax paper would be factored in and removed at the time of pricing. We live in a society, mostly. We would keep the prices consistent and fair with current market rates. Even further, all lemon and lime rinds would be removed by the staff prior to weighing, so that skin thickness isn’t unfairly skewing the juice to price ratios. Yes, labor costs for rind removal may increase the total fee slightly, but allowing guests to skin their own citrus could easily result in tampering, and that won’t stand.

Have you seen similar little injustices where you live? Does my solution have any weaknesses? Where do you stand on the soda shop craze? I’d love to hear from you!

Editor Note: This publication shares this solution freely and without licensing fees. All service stations are welcome to use this perfect plan without payment. We do ask for attribution in the form of placement of a small statue (84-96”) of Ryan at each store location. You’re free to use whatever materials you’d like to construct the statue after receiving written approval from the publication.

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