The Natural Resources Defense Council's New York Urban Program Director Eric Goldstein (that's a mouthful) has gone undercover to see what Manhattan retail stores are blasting their air conditioning with open doors to lure the customer inside. This is illegal, of course, and as Goldstein points out, while "the issue isn't tops on the national environmental agenda... it does serve as something of a symbol of shameless wasting of fossil fuels by some of our fellow citizens."

His non-scientific experiment surveyed around 400 retail store in five Manhattan neighborhoods, and approximately 25% of those doors were breaking the law. The biggest offender was Harlem, followed by Midtown, Chelsea and the UWS (in that order). The UES had the least occurrences (with only 2 of 48 doors opened!).

Goldstein does point out though that "One big caveat to my survey: the city law only applies to merchants with commercial spaces of 4,000 feet or more, unless the store is one of a chain of five or more located within New York City. A significant number of the stores I observed with open doors were probably smaller than 4,000 square feet. I estimate that perhaps 10% to 12% of the larger or chain stores I observed during my survey were in violation of city law." One larger shop's employee told him "it's a corporate thing" to cool the sidewalks.

What about an alternative to letting customers knowing it's cold inside? Goldstein recalls that when he was growing up in Brooklyn, "we used to see shops with a sign in the window depicting a penguin standing on an iceberg and the words: "Come on in—it's COOL inside."