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Transparency in Pricing

January 3, 2012

By Bill Duggan, Group EVP, ANA

The sign read for the parking garage read, "Weekend Special, $10.14, Plus Tax." That's just twelve bucks!

I was in NYC for a recent holiday weekend outing with my family - the tree at Rockefeller Center, St. Pat's, a little shopping. We drove into the garage, got out of the car, and the attendant said, "That will be $22." I referenced the sign that drew us into the garage and was told that since we had a van, there would be an "oversize vehicle surcharge." Yes, the van is taller than the average car and a bit longer than most - but a parking space is a parking space and the van filled that space, just as an average car would fill the space. So why was I charged this extra price?

Of course I was annoyed. And at another point in my life I would have argued vehemently and perhaps used some salty language. Instead, I pointed out how the sign was misleading and gently noted how I felt a bit ripped off. After all, I had to set a good example for my family. And I immediately decided that this experience gave me great material for a blog. I now have a negative feeling about this particular garage and will likely not park there again.

We're in an age of transparency in pricing. The internet and social networks allow consumers to easily compare prices - and crow about a deal and complain about a rip off. So I am amazed when I still see a pricing "catch." A personal pet peeve of mine is travel pricing - a fare will be advertised as $199 and then there will be small print that says, "Each way based on a round trip purchase." Consumers are not stupid and will figure that out. In this case, pricing should be clear and transparent and simply be $398 round trip.

Marketers can charge whatever they want but are strongly advised to be transparent with their pricing ... or risk the wrath of consumer backlash, across their extensive social networks, as a result.

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