Friday, June 1, 2012

Pricing Games

A fabulous river cruise!  And at half price!  Call for details!   But when you call, you are given the hard sell to buy a different cruise.   Nothing in life is free, and when someone offers something for half-price, chances are, no one ever pays full price.

Although we are not enamored of cruise ships in general, we thought a river cruise on the Danube would be fun.    Rather than riding in rough ocean (which makes boats rock, despite stabilization systems, which turn gentle rolling into a series of rough jerks) you glide down smooth rivers.  And instead of looking out at the ocean, you see beautiful scenery.  And every evening, you glide into a beautiful town or city to explore by bicycle or by tour.  Sounds like fun.

And we certainly enjoyed renting a canal boat in the UK - it was an inexpensive holiday to be sure.  Maybe this would be more like that, without having to steer.

But it ain't cheap.  The basic fare is about $5000 per person, plus airfare.  This does include drinks with meals, of course, but still is not a cheap trip.   The competing line, AMA waterways, has lower fares, of course.

But we get catalogs and e-mails from the Viking people saying their $5000 fare is cut in half and they are offering free airfare - if we call now!   You can't book online, so you have to call in.

So you call, and guess what?   It is the old call for price gag.  The fare you have chosen is sold out, of course, but they can sell you another fare, a year from now, for the same price, but without airfare.  Um, maybe not.

AMA Waterways advertises slightly higher prices - higher than the "half price" gambits that Viking uses.  But those are their regular fares.    Viking plays price games, like GM used to do, putting joke prices on the cars - prices that no one pays - and then "discounting" them so you feel that you are "lucky" to be getting the "deal".

It is a game as old as the hills.

And while we are on the phone, the operator wants to sell us "vacation insurance" which is like an extended warranty.

And, oh by the way, even though you are booking a year in advance, they want payment in full, in three days.

Thanks, but no thanks.  Not with the euro declining the way it is.  Better off to book next year, I think.

Maybe we can rent one of those canal boats over there and steer it ourselves, like in the UK?  Sort of a Hertz rent-a-boat.   That would be a lot more fun than riding around in a barge with a bunch of other people.

We'll keep looking.  But Viking is crossed off the list, for sure.