The dangerous cost of 'surfing'
- 22 March, 2007 23:00
Fancy a Lime Crush? Sounds lip-smackingly good doesn’t it? Just the thing for sipping on the deck on a warm summer’s evening … then again, maybe not.
Sadly, it’s another one of life’s little experiences that reminds that me that things are not always quite right with the world. Like Al Gore’s power bill, Britney’s haircut, smacking, and mobile termination charges – or, as in this case, something that sounds suspiciously like it should be a cocktail but is, in fact, a new toilet cleaner flavour-cum-fragrance.
And here’s another.
I attended a conference in Rotorua the other week and, not knowing the hotel situation there particularly well, I jumped online to check it all out. Quickly discarding the posher end of the scale overlooking the lake (as I was paying for this jaunt myself!), I found a suitable looking place, a husband-and-wife-owned motel a few minutes’ walk from the centre of activities, spacious units, off-street parking, private spa and mineral pool – it sounded just the ticket.
To save time, I thought I’d book it there and then online, reassured that I was also getting best value for my money with the site boasting: “The rates shown here are available only for bookings made via this web site, and are not available from the hotel directly.” (The bold is their doing not mine.)
All I had to do was tap in a few details and that would be that. Easy.
Easy that is until I saw the price of $121, which seemed a bit steep, even for the high season. I checked the motel’s website and decided to give them a call (on the free phone number, naturally).
“Yes, we have a room and that’ll be … $110.”
Now, I’m no maths whiz, but even I can work out that’s a price hike of 10 per cent by the website … and that’s shocking. (I also noticed in the small print that any booking cancelled within fours days of the reservation date will not be refunded – which doesn’t sound like customer service at its best, either!)
For easy instead read: “That’s $11 for the pleasure of doing business online you smuck”. And that’s a worry. Not simply for my bank balance but for the wider use of the Internet for doing business – a habit we’re all keen on promoting, I’m sure. For all it’s ease and quickness, as soon as it costs more, significantly more (and 10 per cent definitely falls into that category), people’s enthusiasm for e-doing whatever it is they’re doing will undoubtedly wane.
So, summing up my best consumer indignation, I thought I’d ask the website why I’d pay $11 more for the pleasure of using their service.
“Dear Greg,” came the reply. “Thank you for your email. Please note that our website rates are in accordance with the agreement and contract we have with the Hotel. We do not have access or control over the hotel's "adhoc" rates (rates received by booking directly with the hotel) or any specials that may be available by contacting the hotel directly.
“Please be assured that we endeavour to advertise the best possible rates for our customers. However, we recommend to all our clients to ensure that they consider the best possible rates/inclusions, before submitting their payment advice to us.”
Uh-huh. A fee by any other definition. Or in other words, caveat fluctor … surfer beware.