MONEY Airlines

Why the Era of Airfare Price Wars Is Gone, Perhaps Forever

people in airplane seats
iStock

The airlines have little reason to compete on price.

Airline profits have soared to record highs recently, and the overarching reason why the industry has been so successful is that the few big players that still exist have stressed “discipline.”

The New York Times recently noted that “discipline” is the go-to buzzword for airline executives. It’s most often used in conjunction with “capacity,” and the gist is that airlines have been focused on limiting the number of flights and seats. So long as supply of flights is relatively low, airfare prices—and profits—can remain high.

The question now being asked—not merely by travelers annoyed by high prices, but by a Justice Department investigation—is this: Is the airline industry’s much-heralded “discipline” illegal?

This week, the Justice Department sent letters to American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines—the nation’s four largest domestic carriers, accounting for 80% of flights within the U.S.—concerning “the undesirability of your company or any other airline increasing capacity.” The airlines were asked to turn over flight and capacity data accrued since 2010, with the idea that the Justice Department is investigating whether any “unlawful coordination” on capacity, and by extension on pricing, has been taking place.

The investigation comes a couple of weeks after U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) publicly accused the airlines of “potential anti-competitive, anti-consumer behavior and misuse of market power.” In his complaint, which urged the Department of Justice to pursue the matter, Blumenthal quoted a previous DOJ report that summed up how airfares have gone up steadily and largely unchecked by competition in recent years:

“The structure of the airline industry is already conducive to coordinated behavior…the legacy airlines closely watch the pricing moves of their competitors. When one airline ‘leads’ a price increase, other airlines frequently respond by following with price increases of their own.”

This scenario has become all the more common in the post-merger era of oligopoly in the airline industry. With fewer competitors, there are fewer players to worry about having to get on board with each successive fare increase. Considering that unprofitable routes have been cut and flights are fuller than ever, there is little reason for an airline to break ranks and refuse to raise fares, let alone to dare engage in pricing wars.

In lieu of the desperation to fill seats via bargain flight prices like they did regularly in the past, the airlines have focused lately on maximizing the profitability of each route, with higher fares, more add-on fees, and no worries about having to drop fares to match some upstart competitor.

This behavior is undeniably anti-consumer. We’ll have to see if it’s deemed illegally anti-competitive, and what if anything rulings or fines can possibly do to change the (un)competitive atmosphere in the consumer’s favor.

The airlines might point out that the investigation is occurring just as flight prices are, in fact, getting cheaper. Flight search data indicates that, overall, flights this summer are a few percentage points less expensive than they were a year ago. Still, considering that fuel prices have decreased dramatically, it would be reasonable to expect airfare prices to drop significantly further, and for airlines to add capacity to take advantage of lower costs.

But doing so would be exhibiting a lack of “discipline,” and would be seriously frowned upon by many airline executives and airline investors alike. In late May, airline stocks tanked after a move was announced by Southwest Airlines. The airline’s crime? It was bumping up expansion plans slightly. The decision might seem sensible—fuel prices are low, flight capacity is high, so why not add flights and fight for more market share?—but investors punished Southwest, and the entire airline industry, due to concerns that “Domestic capacity discipline has effectively vanished,” as Wolfe Research airline analyst Hunter Keay put it.

On Wednesday of this week, airline stocks took another significant dip. This time, the blame went to the Justice Department’s investigation into “unlawful coordination” among the airlines. It goes to show that there could be something to the concept that when airline stocks take a beating, it’s probably good news for travelers.

The larger, unfortunate truth is that, no matter what the Justice Department finds in its investigation, there’s no getting around that there’s very little legitimate competition left in the domestic airline market. With fewer competitors dominating domestic flights, the age of discipline—and, perhaps, collusion—is here. That’s why the era of flight pricing wars is dead.

MONEY home buying

7 Amazing Celebrity Homes You Can Buy Right Now

Open house on homes owned by J. Lo, Michael Jordan, and Paula Deen.

What’s your fancy: Berry Gordy’s historic “Motown Mansion” or Ted Turner’s private island off the South Carolina coast? Or perhaps the epic estates formerly owned by Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson are more your speed? For the right price—a few million to upwards of $100 million—these homes, and the bragging rights that come along with them, can be yours.

Spring and summer is prime time for sales of all manner of homes, including those owned by the rich and famous. And celebrity homes on the market aren’t limited to southern California, but extend to areas such as Long Island, Chicago, Savannah, and even Detroit. Here are 10 of the hottest celebrity properties on the market right now.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_LopezAnthony1
    Evan Joseph Images The Long Island home where Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony used to live is for sale for $9.495 million.

    No fewer than two mansions formerly owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are currently for sale. In addition to $17 million, nine-bedroom estate in the gated California community of Hidden Hills, the former couple’s home on Long Island’s Gold Coast is also on the market. Listed by Dolly Lenz Real Estate, the asking price is $9.495 million. That’s the price after a recent cut—not long ago, it was listed at $12 million.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_LopezAnthony2
    Evan Joseph Images

    Lopez and Anthony lived in the home until announcing their separation in 2011. The compound, which consists of two homes and a total of 10 bedrooms on eight acres, is now listed under the ownership of Anthony, or rather his birth name, Marco Muniz. The main house is a 16-room red-brick mansion built in 1941. The guest cottage is a five-bedroom, 4,000-square-foot Colonial.

  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_LopezAnthony3
    Evan Joseph Images Home of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, 3 Country Lane, Brookville, NY. Dolly Lenz Real Estate LLC

    Both Anthony and Lopez are world-famous entertainers, and yes, this place is great for entertaining—and performing. There is an oversized pool and pool pavilion, as well as a tennis court and vast manicured grounds. Inside the main house, there’s a movie theater and a professional-quality recording studio.

  • Michael Jordan

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jordan1
    Michael Jordan's Illinois home is currently on the market for $14.855 million.

    Appropriately, basketball legend Michael Jordan named his estate Legend Point. His Airness’s attempts to sell the 56,000-square-foot property in Highland Park, a wealthy suburb north of Chicago, are approaching legendary status as well. It was first listed for sale in 2012 for $29 million, which was reduced to $21 million about a year later. In late 2013, the plan called to put the 7.39-acre compound up for auction with a minimum bid of $13 million, but again it failed to sell. In the most recent listing, the estate’s asking price is $14.855 million, or about half of its initial price.

  • Michael Jordan

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jordan3
    Michael Jordan's compound was designed with all manner of players in mind.

    In the main residence, the living room and family room are both double height—fitting given that Jordan and many of his pals are oversized athletes. For that matter, many of the home’s features were designed with all manner of players in mind. The original doors from the Chicago Playboy Mansion mark the entrance to the “Gentleman’s Retreat” area, where there are card tables, a cigar room, and a wet bar. The home also boasts a wine cellar with space for 500+ bottles, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movie theater, an indoor tennis court, and a golf putting green. Meanwhile, for the ladies, the estate includes a “full-service beauty salon.”

  • Michael Jordan

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jordan2

    What Jordan estate would be complete without a basketball court? The compound comes with an NBA-quality indoor basketball court with a custom sound system. The backboards are motorized, the flooring is cushioned hardwood, and the Jordan “Jumpman” logo is painted in the center of the court.

  • Paula Deen

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Deen2
    Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn Known as "Riverbend," the Georgia home of Paula Deen has an asking price of $12.5 million.

    Poised on the Wilmington River with 300 feet of water frontage, the estate known as Riverbend has been described by listing agent Seabolt Brokers as “the most significant offering in Savannah, Ga.” and “truly its own private resort.” Owned by Paula Deen, the TV chef and restaurateur who came under fire for racist comments in 2013, the 5.5-acre property features a 14,500-square-foot main home, two guest cottages, and a 10,000-square-foot barn with three bedrooms and an eight-car garage. Asking price: $12.5 million.

  • Paula Deen

    Deen/Groover Residence
    Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

    In total, the property has 28,000 square feet of living space, including—of course—a gourmet kitchen with commercial grade appliances in the main home. There is also an outdoor kitchen with a trio of grills, a smoker, and four outdoor refrigerators, plus a pool with an outdoor “dive-in theater” for watching movies under the stars.

  • Berry Gordy

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Gordy1
    Deborah Smith—Keller Williams Realty The "Motown Mansion" in Detroit where Motown Records founder Berry Gordy lived for 35 years.

    Billed as the “Motown Mansion” by realtor Keller Williams, this 2.2-acre estate in Detroit features a 10-bedroom, 10,500-square-foot Italian Renaissance main residence, plus an adjoining 4,400-square-foot pool house. Motown Records founder Berry Gordy owned the property from 1967 until 2002, and the likes of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson 5 have been guests. It is listed at $1.295 million.

  • Berry Gordy

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Gordy2
    G. Greg Wells Photography—Keller Williams Realty

    The property is said to have undergone a significant restoration over the past decade, with much of the original architecture and design preserved intact. The current owner, Detroit lawyer Cynthia Reaves, said that she acquired the property after writing a letter to Gordy pleading with him to sell her the home. “I told him about my love of the city of Detroit, my love of old homes, the fact that I had grown up in this neighborhood. And that I really felt that a home like this deserved to be part of the community,” Reaves told a local news program earlier this year. “I remember growing up across the street as a kid and saw all the wonderful parties that he would host here. The red carpet would go around the block. The stars would come out and walk around on the red carpet to the parties. And I remember seeing the Jackson 5 here trying to play golf in his backyard.”

  • Denise Richards

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Richards1
    courtesy Douglas Elliman and Re/Max Olson & Associates Denise Richards' home in Hidden Hills, Calif., is listed at $7.749 million.

    Let’s cut right to the chase: This place has its own doggie hotel! Owned by Denise Richards, the actress and ex-wife of Charlie Sheen, this six-bedroom, 1.1-acre property in the Hidden Hills gated community in southern California features an onyx fireplace, cathedral ceilings, and two pools, including a grotto, waterfall, and “beach” entryway. But anyone who looks at the home will be talking about the pet hotel—a private kennel custom-made for allowing dogs to feel right at home. It’s being listed by The Altman Brothers for $7.749 million.

  • Denise Richards

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Richards2
    courtesy Douglas Elliman and Re/Max Olson & Associates

    This home is made for dog lovers and foodies alike. In addition to the pet hotel, there is a wine tasting room with temperature-controlled walls for keeping bottles chilled at just the right degree. The kitchen is gourmet and fully state of the art, complete with a pizza oven and large windows overlooking lush manicured lawns and greenery.

  • Michael Jackson

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jackson1
    Jim Bartsch The estate once known as Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is on the market for $100 million.

    Currently dubbed the “Sycamore Valley Ranch,” this epic 2,700-acre estate in Los Olivos, Calif., 40 miles outside Santa Barbara, is world famous as the “Neverland Ranch” long owned by Michael Jackson. The asking price is a cool $100 million, according to Hilton & Hyland and Sotheby’s, which share a joint listing of the property. The main residence is a 12,500-square-foot building in French-Normandy style, and there are a total of 22 buildings on the grounds, including three guest homes and a 5,500-square-foot movie theater with a stage.

  • Michael Jackson

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jackson3
    Jim Bartsch

    Jackson sold the property in 2008, when he was in dire financial circumstances. When he lived there, Neverland boasted amusement park rides and a zoo’s worth of animals, including giraffes, orangutans, baboons, and an elephant. The animals and rides are gone now, though the private railroad tracks and train station that Jackson used to entertain guests remain.

  • Michael Jackson

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Jackson2
    Jim Bartsch

    Jackson purchased the estate in 1987, and over the years it was used for a wide range of events, including Elizabeth Taylor’s 1991 wedding (her seventh), the World’s Children Congress, and numerous fundraising gatherings. And yes, this is where Jackson allegedly abused children: When he was facing child molestation charges in the mid-’00s, prosecutors said Jackson used Neverland as a lure for children.

  • Ted Turner

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Turner1
    courtesy Plantaion Services Inc. The main residence on St. Phillips Island, Ted Turner's private retreat off the coast of South Carolina.

    For a mere $23.777 million, you can be the owner of an entire private island—specifically, St. Phillips Island, a 4,680-acre retreat outside of historic Beaufort, S.C., reached only by boat. The listing from realty company Plantation Services states that media mogul Ted Turner purchased the island—now a Registered Natural Landmark—in 1979. The property comes with two residences, and an agreement with The Nature Conservancy stipulates that the owner may add up to 10 more residences on the island, which has its own water and power supply.

  • Ted Turner

    150629_REA_CelebHomes_Turner2
    courtesy Plantaion Services Inc.

    “The Turner family and their friends have enjoyed sailing, fishing and entertaining here for thirty-five years,” the listing description notes of the island, which is a short sail away from Hilton Head. Among the 4,680 acres that fall into the domain of St. Phillips Island, more than 1,000 acres are categorized as “Upland,” or firm ground, and 70 acres are sandy beaches.

MONEY deals

Summer Price Break! 6 Things That Are Actually Cheaper This Summer

Blessedly, bacon and cheese are on the list.

For the most part, consumers are accustomed to seeing prices for a wide range of goods go in only one direction: up, up, and up. Often, this is simply the result of inflation and regular price increases. There are also freak price spikes like the current situation with eggs, which have risen dramatically of late thanks to the bird flu outbreak. And more costly eggs have in turn begun causing price increases everywhere from diners to bakeries.

Thankfully, from time to time consumers get to benefit from the occasional price decrease on goods and services—including some of their favorite treats. Here are a half-dozen things you’ll actually pay less for this summer.

  • Bacon

    Plate of bacon
    Alamy

    While bacon prices aren’t cheap by historical standards, they are significantly cheaper than in the summer of 2014, when they spiked amid low supplies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price for a pound of bacon as of May 2015 was below $5, compared with $5.50 at the start of 2015 and more than $6 last summer. Overall, bacon prices fell 18% over a 12-month span.

  • Gas

    gas prices
    Elise Amendola—AP

    After surging steadily through much of the spring, gas prices have dipped of late, hitting a national average of $2.77 for a gallon of regular at the start of the week, according to AAA. Drivers in nearly all states are paying at least 75¢ less per gallon compared with a year ago, and AAA estimates that cheap gas prices in 2015 have helped Americans collectively save $65 billion on fuel costs thus far this year.

  • Last-Minute Hotels

    Luxury Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip
    John Kellerman—Alamy The Las Vegas Strip

    Overall, hotel rates in the U.S. are expected to be up 5% to 6% in 2015, and in some cases are up more than 10%. But in certain cities and under specific circumstances, prices can be much cheaper compared with this time last year. Data from the last-minute hotel booking specialist HotelTonight indicates that some Fourth of July weekend rates booked right now are bargains compared with the 2014 holiday. Average rates in Las Vegas are 39% cheaper versus last year, and July 4 hotel prices are also down in destinations such as the Berkshires (down 29%), Tampa (20%), and Williamsburg, Va. (12%).

  • Other Pork Products

    sausages on grill
    Slawomir Purgal—Alamy

    The same rise in the nation’s pork supply that’s caused bacon prices to retreat is lowering prices for pork chops, hot dogs, and the like. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently estimated that the cost of a typical July 4 cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. One of the reasons why this is so is that two of the main dishes—hot dogs and pork spare ribs—are 2% to 4% less expensive than they were in 2014.

  • Airfare

    plane flying over field
    iStock

    At the start of the year, researchers from the likes of Expedia predicted that flight prices would fall in 2015, if for no other reason than airlines would finally have to lower fares in the face of dramatically cheaper fuel prices. And while airfare prices depend on a range of factors—route, timing, demand, etc.—data from the flight search Hopper.com show that overall, domestic flights in the spring and early summer were 8.7% cheaper compared with the same time last year. The site also predicted that the trend will continue through the summer, with the average flight selling for $18 (or about 6%) less than in the summer of 2014.

  • Dairy Products

    Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, Denver, Colorado
    Brennan Linsley—AP

    The USDA reports that national stockpiles of butter, cheese, and milk are all up significantly compared with a year ago, and prices for most dairy products—including yogurt, ice cream, and blocks of cheese—are down as a result. Bear in mind that some of the price decrease is based on how expensive dairy products were for much of last year. Butter consumption, for instance, has been increasing for years, and prices spiked to near record prices last summer through the fall.

MONEY groceries

Why the All-American July 4 Barbecue Is Cheaper This Summer

hot dog on paper plate at July 4 bbq
Lauri Patterson—Getty Images

Costs decrease for a holiday weekend feast.

Feel free to fire up the grill for the Fourth of July weekend. You can afford it.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the cost of a typical summer cookout that feeds 10 people is 3% cheaper than it was a year ago. The total cost of a barbecue feast, including eight burgers, eight hot dogs, pork spare ribs, potato salad, baked beans, corn chips, watermelon, plus drinks, condiments, and buns, comes to $55.84, or a little over $5.50 per person. The estimate is based on price checks at supermarkets in 30 states, and the total cost is lower than it was in 2014, when the same barbecue cost an average of $57.57.

This year’s lower cost comes as a result of decreased prices for many items on the shopping list. The price of ribs, hot dogs, baked beans, watermelon, hot dog and hamburger buns, and American cheese all inched lower this year, collectively shaving a couple bucks off the total.

Rising production of pork and dairy products is the main reason that hot dogs, spare ribs, milk, and cheese prices are all on the decline. Bloomberg News noted that wholesale pork prices have dropped 28% over the past year, while milk production in the U.S. hit a record high in May 2015—causing the retail price of American cheese to fall by over 8%.

The same group that does the July 4 cookout estimate also puts together an annual price roundup on the cost of a standard Thanksgiving dinner that’ll feed 10. Interestingly enough, Thanksgiving is cheaper than the barbecue—about $50 versus $55.

While pork and dairy products have gotten cheaper this summer, not all items on the cookout shopping list are less expensive. Ground beef prices are up 2% compared to last year.

Still, thanks to falling pork prices, you might be more willing to splurge with some bacon on your burger. As of May 2015, bacon prices were down 18% year over year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The average price of a pound of bacon was over $6 last summer. It dropped to about $5.50 at the start of 2015, and now it’s down under $5.

MONEY Travel

5 Things American Travelers Should Know If They’re Visiting Greece

Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greek pensioners swarmed closed bank branches and long lines snaked outside ATMs as Greeks endured the first day of serious controls on their daily economic lives ahead of a July 5 referendum that could determine whether the country has to ditch the euro currency and return to the drachma.
Petros Karadjias—AP Supporters of the NO vote in the upcoming referendum, gather during a rally at Syntagma square in Athens on Monday, June 29, 2015.

Greece-bound tourists could be in for some hassles—or worse.

The crisis in Greece has caused the closure of local banks and brought about the worst day of the year in the U.S. stock market. Concerns are also being raised that the situation could ruin the vacations of tourists dreaming of exploring the culture, history, and warmth of Greece during the height of the summer season.

Here’s what travelers should keep in mind if they’re heading for Greece anytime soon.

Arrive with ample cash. Starting on Monday, banks in Greece were closed, and ATM withdrawals were being limited to €60 (around $67) for cards issued by Greek banks. Withdrawal restrictions don’t apply to foreign cards, but many ATMs have reportedly already been emptied and have no cash to dispense.

“Automated-teller machines are running dry and many businesses are no longer accepting credit cards,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

The bottom line is that the situation is fairly chaotic and very much in flux. Greece-bound tourists from Germany, the UK, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere have officially been given some variation of the warning to arrive with “sufficient euros in cash to cover the duration of your stay, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, and any unexpected delays.” Ideally, bring cash in lots of smaller denominations, as it may be difficult for taxi drivers, restaurants, and other local businesses to provide change for big bills.

The advice of the U.S. Embassy in Greece is that Americans should have plenty of cash, and should certainly not rely on any single form of payment: “U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards), and make sure to have enough cash on hand to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.”

Be extra vigilant. “The State Department recommends you maintain a high level of security awareness and avoid political rallies and demonstrations as instances of unrest can occur,” the U.S. Embassy states. “Exercise caution and common sense: Avoid the areas of demonstrations, and if you find yourself too close to a demonstration, move in the opposite direction and seek shelter.”

What’s more, pickpockets and thieves will surely be aware that tourists have been advised of the necessity of having plentiful cash on hand. So there will be extra reason for tourists to be targeted for theft. It goes without saying you shouldn’t stroll around casually with all of your cash in your purse or back pocket. Stash the bulk of it in the hotel safe, and divide walking-around cash among your party—ideally, safely kept in a money belt or neck wallet—perhaps with some emergency bills in the sole of your shoe. Don’t make it easy for pickpockets to rip you off.

Expect long lines and possible delays. There have already been huge lines at ATMs and supermarkets, with worried shoppers stocking up on essentials in the same way that Americans hoard milk and bread when a big snowstorm is in the forecast. There has also been plenty of speculation that strikes, demonstrations, and a squeeze on fuel could cause travel disruptions within Greece. So far, this has only amounted to speculation, and ferries, gas stations, and such have not been affected.

Tour operators are reporting (mostly) business as usual. “We were in touch with our hotel and our tour director earlier today, and both report that daily life is going on normally,” Tim Armstrong, a spokesman for the Tauck tour company, which had a group on a cruise just finishing up a three-night stay in Athens, said on Monday, according to the (Canada) Globe and Mail.

Likewise, Greek tourism officials maintain that the current events will have no impact on foreign visitors. “The tourists who are already here and those who are planning to come, will not be affected in any way by the events and will continue to enjoy their holiday in Greece with absolutely no problem,” said Elena Kountoura, Greece’s minister for tourism, according to the Independent. “It should be also noted that there is ample availability of both fuel and all products and services that ensure a smooth and fun stay for the visitors in every city, region and the islands.”

At least some of this seems like overstatement, considering that tourists and locals alike have already been affected by long lines. Credit and debit cards are still being accepted by most hotels and other businesses, but the fact that some are only accepting cash as payment is obviously another way that travelers are being affected.

Travel insurance probably won’t cover you if you cancel. If you’ve booked a vacation to Greece and purchased travel insurance for the trip, it may be time to look at the fine print. Most policies will reimburse a cancelled trip if there’s been a death in the immediate family, or if there’s been a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or large-scale civil unrest. But nothing that’s happening in Greece right now qualifies as a standard reimbursable situation.

“If you do cancel your trip it will be subject to the terms of the deal, and you stand to lose money,” one UK travel agent explained to the Guardian. Unless you’ve paid extra for a “cancel for any reason” upgrade to the insurance policy, in all likelihood your travel insurance would not cover you if you decide to cancel a trip to Greece right now.

Read next: What the Turmoil in Greece Means for Your Money

MONEY Autos

The Case for Buying an Electric Car Is About to Get a Whole Lot Better

2015 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Luke Ray—Fuel Press Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept all electric vehicle with more than 200 miles of range and a price tag around $30,000.

Drive 200+ miles on a single charge, without paying Tesla prices.

Electric car sales have stagnated through the first half of 2015. Sales have slumped for several reasons, including cheap gas prices and increased fuel efficiency among gas-powered automobiles.

In May, dramatic price cuts helped boost sales of models such as the Chevy Volt, and the month saw the most EV sales of 2015, according to InsideEVs. Still, the May 2015 EV sales total of 11,540 was 7% lower than May 2014. The Nissan Leaf, the overall electric-car category leader, has been struggling in particular. After failing to cross 2,000 unit sales in any month in 2015, the Leaf finally hit the mark in May. But through the first five months of the year, only 7,742 Nissan Leafs have been purchased, a decrease of more than 25% off last year’s pace.

Over the next few years, however, advances in electric car technology could very well turn skeptics into plug-in adopters.

While purchase prices have decreased, EVs remain impractical for many households for the time being. Presumably, a large portion of drivers is reluctant to go electric because of limited driving range. Unless you’re willing to pay $70,000 or more for the likes of a Tesla, you’ll be limited to driving 70 or 80 miles per charge with the Leaf and nearly every other reasonably priced purely battery-powered vehicle. That’s just not enough for drivers who want a car that’ll be worry-free on road trips, longer commutes, and long days full of running errands.

Soon, though, the so-called “range anxiety” factor could be reduced significantly. Earlier this year, GM introduced a concept called the Chevy Bolt, an all-electric vehicle that should appeal to the masses seeing as it’s expected to be both affordable (around $30,000) and practical (200 miles per charge).

Chevy hasn’t said when, exactly, the Bolt will be available for purchase, but it’s been widely reported that the likely date is sometime in 2017—probably late 2017. According to industry analysts cited by Automotive News, buyers could be behind the wheel of Bolts sooner than that. Production of the Bolt is expected to begin in October 2016, and sales would commence shortly thereafter.

By then, there could be even more compelling reasons to wait a little longer for what Nissan has in the works for the Leaf. Another Automotive News post notes that Nissan is working on a next-generation battery that would allow the Leaf a driving range of roughly 310 miles per charge. Such an impressive range won’t be available in the forthcoming 2017 Nissan Leaf, which should hit the market next year with an expected range of 105 to 120 miles.

What’s more, next year Tesla, which thus far has focused on the high-end market, is expected to introduce the Model 3, a mass-market vehicle rumored to have an impressive driving range and starting price ($35,000) that could come to dominate the field.

Overall, one or more of these new vehicles could be real game changers, with affordable prices and vastly improved driving ranges that’ll make the best arguments yet for switching to an EV.

Read next: Cheap Gas Helps Pull the Plug on Electric Cars

MONEY freebies

Oregon Is Celebrating Marijuana Legalization With Free Weed

crowd of people smoking marijuana
Jim West—Alamy

Not only are people free to smoke weed—the weed is free.

As of July 1, new Oregon laws go into effect making it legal for adults ages 21 and up to possess and use recreational marijuana. It’s legal to grow marijuana in the state—up to four plants per residence, out of public view—and share it with other of-age adults too.

Applications for large-scale growers and retailers aren’t being accepted until early 2016, and no Oregon stores are expected to have marijuana for sale until the fall of 2016. For the time being, then, while recreational marijuana use is legal, people aren’t allowed to buy or sell it.

The odd situation—weed is legal, but there’s nowhere to buy it—has caused marijuana proponents and entrepreneurs to take the very welcomed step of simply giving samples away. The Oregonian reports that the Portland chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) will celebrate the momentous event by gathering on the west side of the Burnside Bridge at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30. At midnight (therefore July 1), all 21+ adults with ID will be given free marijuana and cannabis seeds, courtesy of medical marijuana providers and activists.

“While it becomes legal to possess and cultivate cannabis, there is no legal place in Oregon to buy marijuana itself or cannabis seeds and starts,” a statement from the group explains. “Portland NORML will educate the public and our partners will give away thousands of seeds and hundreds of pounds of marijuana this year so Washington State and the black market do not benefit from our new marijuana legality.”

Later in the week, on Friday, July 3, an event called Weed the People is being held at the MCF Craft Brewing Systems facility in North Portland. Admission to the event isn’t free—advance tickets cost $40—but once visitors are inside, marijuana is indeed free to use on the premises or bring home for later enjoyment. Each attendee is welcomed to take as much as 7 grams, cultivated by a range of Oregon growers that have been producing the state’s supply of medicinal marijuana.

“This is more than free weed,” organizers say on the event site. “This is more than vendors, food and vapes. This is history in the making!”

Read next: What This 20-Year Study on Marijuana Use Means for the Pot Market

MONEY Food & Drink

Chicken Fight! Fast Food Competitors Cook Up a Golden Age for Chicken

Winner winner chicken dinner.

In the competition for fast food customer dollars, an epic game of chicken is being played, and no one dares chickening out. The steaks—er, stakes—are just too high. (Sorry, had to get those bad puns out of the way pronto.)

The battles are being waged with high-profile marketing campaigns—see the big health push by Boston Market to promote its classic rotisserie chicken, and the return of Colonel Sanders for KFC. And the chicken wars are being waged with a dizzying number of new chicken items hitting restaurant menus. Chicken isn’t being limited to lunch and dinner, but it’s been added to breakfast menus as well, what with Taco Bell’s chicken-biscuit taco and nearly half of what’s featured at Chick-fil-A during the morning hours.

So many new chicken sandwiches have flooded the market that we decided to have an office taste-a-thon, featuring low-cost options from two stalwart fast-food players (Wendy’s crispy dill chicken sandwich, White Castle Sriracha chicken slider) alongside a casual dining chain’s tweak on a favorite item (Olive Garden’s chicken parm breadsticks sandwich), plus a celebrity chef’s much-hyped quick-serve fried chicken offering (David Chang’s Fuku in Manhattan). We would have loved to have also included the forthcoming chicken offshoot from Shake Shack, the fast-casual favorite created by Danny Meyer, but nothing’s available for tasting yet. In any event, watch the video above to check out the rather surprising results of the tastings for yourself.

Why has chicken become such a hot menu item? Part of the explanation is that chicken is so pliable. It takes on almost any flavor, from orange to lemon, garlic chile to tangy barbecue. It resonates with different demographics based not only on taste, but on how it can be sliced, chopped, and molded into shapes—nuggets, popcorn, dinosaurs, strips, fingers, fries, and beyond.

While the bird flu outbreak of 2015 has caused egg prices to soar, the impact on the chicken supply for restaurants has been mild. The result is that chicken prices today are cheap compared with beef, as they have been for years.

Chicken is a household staple because it’s affordable—exhibit A is the immensely popular $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco—and also because it’s perceived to be healthier than most other meats. That often goes even for chicken when it’s fried.

“Fried chicken is really a great base to work with,” Elizabeth Friend, senior analyst with the market research firm Euromonitor International, told QSR Magazine. “It’s salty, crunchy, indulgent, but still a protein that, while not exactly healthful, people feel is a better way to go than beef.”

All of the above explains why restaurants are so hot on chicken, and why chicken could one day push the burger aside for fast food supremacy. It sure looks like that’s where things are headed. Data cited by CNBC shows that America’s top 500 restaurant chains added 55 chicken items in January and February 2015, compared with just 33 new burgers, and that chicken purchases at fast food restaurants were up 3% for the 12-month period ending in March, compared with a rise of 1% for burger sales.

The shift to chicken over beef is even more pronounced when we incorporate cooking and dining at home, and when the numbers are viewed over the course of decades. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans are projected to eat 90 pounds of chicken per capita in 2015, up from 35 to 40 pounds in the late 1960s and 50 pounds in the mid-’80s. Beef has been on the opposite course, meanwhile, with per capita consumption projected at 54 pounds this year, down from 70 to 80 pounds through most of the ’70s and ’80s.

Read next: The Demise of ‘Satisfries’ and the Sad History of Healthy Fast Food

MONEY deals

How to Book an Entire Private Jet Charter Flight for Just $4

JetSuite
Jessica Ambats—Copyright: Jessica Ambats JetSuite

Travel like a CEO on a minimum-wage budget.

For the second year in a row, JetSuite, a private jet charter company that’s been called the “Southwest Airlines of charter flying,” is running a special promotion offering last-minute flights for just $4. That’s for the entire jet that’ll accommodate four to six people, mind you, so at most each person in your party will have to pony up $1.

For that princely sum, you’ll get the full private jet experience—small planes, no lines getting on and off the plane, big plush leather seats with fold-out desks and free wi-fi.

Of course, there’s a catch. The details of the promotion, as spelled out by the Robb Report and the New York Times, specify that the $4 charters will only be available for takeoff on a single day—Saturday, July 4—and that the exact routes will not be posted until the day before, Friday, July 3.

Snagging one of these bargain private flights won’t be easy: You’ll have to be lucky, in that one of the mystery itineraries must work for your location, and your timing must be perfect in order to beat the masses of other travelers who are surely eager to scoop up the same deal. At most, a few dozen travelers will be able to take advantage of one of these July 4 steals. Bear in mind too that these are one-way flights, and you’re on your own figuring out a way to get back home.

JetSuite will list its $4 routes on July 3 at its website. Travelers also have the option of signing up for a destination “WishList” to be notified via text or email if JetSuite deals are ever offered for your preferred airports.

JetSuite, which was created and is run by former JetBlue executives, and has attracted big investments from the likes of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, has a business model that sells discounted flights on otherwise empty private planes that are en route to more standard charter bookings. Normally, JetSuite’s daily “SuiteDeals” start at $536 for short-haul routes such as Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers in Florida, or Hyannis, Mass., to White Plains, N.Y.

That’s for the entire plane, and that’s dirt cheap for a private jet booking. But still, it’s not anywhere near as cheap as $4.

MONEY

Grateful Dead Fans Gouged in More Ways Than One for Reunion Shows

The Grateful Dead perform during a reunion concert Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002, in East Troy, Wis. From left are Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.
Morry Gash—Associated Press The Grateful Dead perform during a reunion concert Saturday, Aug. 3, 2002, in East Troy, Wis. From left are Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.

Maybe a friend of the devil isn't a friend of mine.

“Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey.”

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia sang these words in one of the band’s extremely rare hit singles back in 1987. The Dead was considered mostly past its prime even then. Of the 20 essential Grateful Dead shows as named by Rolling Stone, only five took place after 1977, and none of TIME’s picks for the best Dead shows were after 1975. Still, some of the revived interest in the 1980s and ’90s came from the children of the band’s original fans, and the Dead’s fan base has grown and grown and now ranges in age from roughly 8 to 80.

For the most diehard fans, the early 2015 announcement that surviving band members would reunite to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead—and 20 years since Garcia passed away—with a few “Fare Thee Well” concert shows was a dream come true. But the “touch of grey,” in this instance, is that the short-lived tour would be accompanied by some extremely unseemly business that has generated loads of aggravation (and loads of money) from the Dead’s mellow, peace-loving fans.

Almost immediately, ticket prices for the Dead’s shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field over July 4 weekend went bonkers. Before tickets had even gone on sale, ticket aggregators like TiqIQ reported that prices on the secondary market were averaging $876. The speculation and expected resale of Dead concert seats drew comparisons to the 2015 Super Bowl, when some seriously shady price gouging took place.

Some 500,000 people tried to buy tickets at face value ($59.50 to $199.50) when they actually did go on sale, and the extraordinary demand pushed scalper prices skyward. For a while, Chicago resale tickets were averaging $1,400 to $2,000, and the cheapest get-in price (for the worst seat available) was over $350. Greedy online sellers were asking over $100,000 apiece, and some fans forked over $10,000 or more per ticket.

The Dead shows had a similar effect on the Chicago hotel scene. Rates at some downtown properties during the shows were three, four, even five times more expensive than the same period in 2014, Bloomberg reported.

After the concert dates drew near, and after the band added additional tour dates at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, however, the bottom dropped out of the market. Earlier this week, tickets for the Santa Clara shows were available for as little as $19, and Chicago seats could be had for under $200.

As of Friday, the resale site StubHub was listing tickets in Santa Clara starting at $48 for this Saturday, and $36 for Sunday. Get-in prices for next weekend’s shows in Chicago ranged from $175 to $198. StubHub data indicates that average resale ticket prices remain quite high—$222 for Santa Clara, $862 for Chicago—and some of the asking prices on the secondary market are still absurd, at $5,000+ for prime seats.

According to the research of Beyond Pricing, a software development firm focused on dynamic pricing for Airbnb and other vacation rentals, the July 4 weekend lodging market in Chicago went on a rollercoaster ride similar to that of Grateful Dead concert tickets. Here’s what happened, and here’s why many Deadheads have a right to feel like they’ve been ripped off, per Beyond Pricing’s Ian McHenry:

Speculators snatched up hotel rooms as well as tickets in hope of turning a handsome profit. And some of these speculators succeeded. As soon as all the rooms and tickets were gone, people who missed out started to get desperate. The smart speculators slowly unleashed their inventory of rooms and tickets to these people, often at highly inflated rates. Scarcity and lack of supply collided with huge demand to equal astronomic prices.

More recently, however, ticket scalpers have been dumping seats at lower and lower prices because they don’t want to be stuck with them at show time. And hotels that were once listed as sold out, or that were attempting to gouge guests with insane markups are posting available rooms at rates that are a more reasonable 70% or so above the norm. Airbnb rates in Chicago have taken a nosedive as well, partly thanks to the dramatic increase in supply, “from 2,500 before the concert was announced to over 4,300 the week before the event,” Beyond Pricing notes. Like hotel rates, Airbnb rental rates next weekend in Chicago are about 70% higher than normal.

The speculators, scalpers, hotels, and Airbnb hosts still stand to cash in big time on the backs of diehard Deadheads over the next two weekends. But it appears that fans aren’t getting ripped off quite as badly as they were in the recent past.

In what’s been a long, strange, likely unpleasant and distasteful trip for legions of Grateful Dead fans, perhaps a few more words from Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia’s “Touch of Grey” will provide some comfort and allow them to enjoy the shows:

“It’s even worse than it appears / but it’s all right.”

Read next: Grateful Dead Tickets Once Priced in the Thousands Now Sell for $19

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