May

3

MasaOne always expects the Japanese to be very honest. It is well known that if you lose your wallet loaded with cash in Japan it will be returned to you a year later intact, and that the only place as safe as Japan is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The idea of even looking at a dinner tab to check its correctness is certainly inappropriate since 95% of the customers are Stuyvesant and Julliard blood brothers. So I was stunned when eating at Masa the other night where the price had recently been reduced from $500 to $400 to find the following item printed on the check as it was handed to me, and had to look at it closely since I am over 40 and don't wear glasses. "There is a service charge of 20% added to the check. But it is not a gratuity. It covers the administrative and operating expenses of the restaurant and is not shared with employees." What a way to end a beautiful dinner. Presumably other restaurants and other businesses have operating expenses also? And presumably when one is told there will be a 20% service charge, one would expect it to be a gratuity? There are all sorts of new ways for companies to survive the recession. Restaurants in New York are taking to adding a surcharge onto the bill if you wish or eat bread or drink water. But most businesspeople know that making a customer feel that he's been gipped is not a long run way to success. On the contrary, the customer should always feel he's getting more than his money's worth. I would be interested in other special shortsighted recession-beating forays that our specs have been exposed to.

Steve Ellison writes:

LuggageAirlines seem to go the extra mile to make customers feel gipped. On a recent trip, U.S. Airways charged me $25 to check one bag. As I was checking in for a redeye from L.A. to Boston, United Airlines offered to upgrade me to a seat with a few more inches of legroom for $25. When planning this trip I used a search engine that showed both the airlines' stated prices and the real prices after adding on surcharges and fees. In some cases the real price was nearly double the stated price.

Craig Mee comments:

Another twist on this is completely the opposite: 'pay what you think it's worth.'

The example I link to is in kiwi land, but I've heard exactly the same happening in London, and with the manager staying most of the time there in front, while their people look after them. If I ran the restaurant, I'd just make sure that the tables were as far away from the exit as possible, so anyone who tossed you five pence had the walk of shame to deal with it (i.e the opportunity for waiting staff to throw them that knowing look of "thanks for nothing").

Vince Fulco writes:

MonitorsMost recently while shopping for multi-monitor video cards from numerous manufacturers, critical cables for the interfaces were not included. They easily added 30% to the overall cost, and I assume the resulting markup is many times greater vs. if everything were included with the device itself.

There seems to be a not too subtle attempt at teaser prices even in more traditional venues. Southwest Airlines is a great example. New to Minneapolis, they're heavily advertising their summer fares to Chicago for $49 among other attractive deals. Not surprisingly, any 'deal' requires traveling at the worst possible times and multiple interim stops; sometimes as many as three or four. Not a way to start a relationship with newer customers and a disconnect from their message of being clear about the total prices vs. the other guys.

Another current example is a regional furniture company advertising all products at 77 cents on the dollar. What marketing psych service advertised the switch from the old N% off sale? It doesn't resonate well.

Marion Dreyfus adds:

TzooTake advantage of the numerous specials in travel now, especially pre-summer. TravelZoo offers a raft of deals that are good, though you are warned about taxes that can make a huge difference in the stated to real price. Also note that some fail to include key variables that change the price. Departure days can be irregular, inconvenient or uncomfortable, double occupancy at a hotel may be expected. You may be expected to rent a car.


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