People Are Dopes

As the song says, “you can’t get something for nothing”, but that doesn’t keep businesses from trying. Think about the free advertising your local car dealer gets from those plastic license plate brackets they put on before you drive off the lot. Or the self check out at the local grocery store. Or even the increasing trend of replacing actual human customer service with detailed FAQs and AI. In all of these situations businesses are asking (well, requiring) you to do something extra for them without any compensation.

Hotels may be the worst. You’ve no doubt seen the cards in most hotel rooms these days explaining how you can avoid the hassle of housekeeping – fresh towels, new sheets – by putting them in a specific place or whatever. Framed as paeans to the environment, make no mistake – the main motivation is the bottom line. If enough guests forego services, it costs the company less. Voila.

Now they’re being really brazen about it. A recent New York Times article explores how various hotels and resorts are beginning to ask up front if guest want to skip the housekeeping by offering incentives. Piddling small incentives, if you ask me – $5 credits for food and drinks or at the spa or fitness center, rewards points for their loyalty programs, those sorts of things. My favorite, however, is this one:

Starwood launched its initiative at the Sheraton Seattle in 2008. Guests who declined housekeeping service for up to three consecutive days received a choice of either 500 Starpoints (in its Starwood Preferred Guests program) or a $5 food and beverage gift card.

Wow – three whole days without a service built into the room rate and you get five entire bucks for it!

I don’t object to the basic practice here – I’ve cancelled housekeeping services before when I’ve been on the road. But that’s a variance from the norm that I’m requesting as a customer. I’ve got no reason to expect compensation. But if the offer flows the other way, there should be some real compensation involved. Want to offer me a lower level of service? Drop the price of the room.

But people, generally, are dopes when it comes to such things. So programs like this will likely spread through the industry and companies will exploit this new way to help pad the bottom line.

To put it another way, when one of my financial management companies sends me a mailing telling me I could opt for electronic delivery, because “we’re fond of paper . . . in its original form,” I don’t think they’re really talking about the environment. Although, I guess green is the color of healthy trees. See how sneaky they are?

Don’t be a dope!

Kermit Fuck


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