For & Against: Puffin Shops - The Reykjavik Grapevine

For & Against: Puffin Shops

For & Against: Puffin Shops

Published May 6, 2016

Photos by
Jóhanna Pétursdóttir

FOR:

It seems there is nothing Iceland’s Marx­-loving dirt-­munching contingent hate more than someone else’s success. This was the case when we put all our eggs in the heavy industry basket; it was the case when we put all our eggs in the banking and finance basket; and it’s the case again as we put all our eggs in the tourism basket. Nothing is good enough for these people.

Here’s the thing: people don’t like choices very much. Sure, you could institute some kind of Stalinist planned economy where no two shops are ever allowed to sell the same thing, but how would that be good for the economy? The invisible hand of the market is gently embracing Iceland once again, and there is nothing tourism’s critics would love more than to snatch the country from its grasp.

Everyone knows that all tourists to Iceland want to buy the same things: sweaters, cute little puffins, rocks made into inexplicable jewelry, and anything with the Icelandic flag stamped on it. This is a scientific fact. That there are hundreds of shops around the country all selling these things isn’t ominous; it’s progress.

Face facts, guys. Puffin shops are good for Iceland, and good for tourists. If puffin shops are so bad, how come there’s so many of them? Check MATE, commies.

AGAINST:

Puffin shops are slowly but surely replacing some special locally run businesses downtown that in some cases have been cultural institutions for decades. One entrepreneur after the other seems ready to sell out our history for quick cash. If this trend continues, we’re looking at not only a burst economic bubble; we could be seeing the end of Iceland as we know it.

As such, I propose we “pull a Bhutan”—start charging astronomical sums of money for a tourist visa to Iceland, no matter where said tourist comes from. You might counter that this will shut out low­-impact tourists in favour of the kind of people who rent helicopters to fly to an active lava field and dance to Duran Duran on Instagram. But hear me out here.

Yes, charging, say, €5,000 for a single tourist visa would slightly limit the ability for some people to visit Iceland. But for every poshie who docks their yacht at Reykjavík harbour, we’ll be preventing hundreds of others who would only come here to buy plastic Viking helmets and take the exact same photo of Hallgrímskirkja that everyone takes. Further, rich people don’t like to mingle with the unwashed masses, so we commoners would likely never even see them. Puffin shops are a scourge, representing the worst impulses of petite bourgeoisie tourism. We can put a stop to it, though—with a hefty cover charge.

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