A long time ago, I made the business decision to be completely transparent in my pricing for my clients. As a traveler, I hated the hidden fees and charges that only added to the cost of my trip. For all of our trips, the price we quote is (to borrow a term from the car sales industry) “on the road and out the door.” All fees, taxes, and any additional items we are capable of adding are included. So when a supplier markets to my same client with a less than transparent offer, I want to strangle them.
Currently, I have a group trip for a long weekend. My “on the road and out the door” price is $750 for a parent and a child for the weekend. We have been taking deposits for a few months and have almost sold out our allotment. Then last week, I received a cancellation by email, and then another, and finally a third. This is unusual. And after looking into it, I found that the property sent a promotion for “$249 per night and kids are free.” Ugh.
After looking at the fine print (which no client ever does), it became clear that we were still the better value. The pricing was based on an inferior room (with 2 available), two adults traveling, a weak definition of “kid” (birth to age 2 qualified for the freebie), and did not include a 15% resort fee, nor did it include the 9% sales tax. So, by the time you added in the single supplement of 150% and the discounted rate for a kid between 3 and 15 (our target) the bargain they promoted was actually more than $250 more than my price.
I contacted my cancellations and sure enough, they canceled and re-booked with the property that glanced over the additions when they confirmed it on the phone. I explained what is happening and asked them to re-contact the property and find out the final, all-inclusive price. And when they did, they canceled and reinstated with me. To stave off any future cancellations, I put together an email broadcast highlighting the trip and our value-add. And then I was very clear explaining the pricing from the property. Crisis averted I believe.
Clients are hard to come by and in these days of no loyalty, sometimes they are hard to keep. The mere thought that you are ripping them off or somehow not providing the lowest price (and I am not sure why we need to in any event) is enough to make them flock to a competitor—online or off. We need all the help we can get and when a supplier muddies the waters, it is frustrating.
I am not sure there is an answer. In short, we do not do enough for the suppliers—if we did, they would have no need to go directly to the client. With traditional marketing, you have a limited time to get the attention of a consumer—and unfortunately, price tends to be the best way. We build relationships and hopefully our clients trust our pricing, judgment, and product selection. For a supplier and a competitor, they will rely on some method to grab attention.
Do you have a solution? Or are we relegated to putting out the fires as they erupt?