UPDATED 28 SEPT 2010
Martin has added a
To the discussion.
The original context of this is below
Originally posted 1st February 2005:
Travel Agents Say MoneySaving is Immoral
Two weeks ago I presented a Tonight With Trevor MacDonald programme showing people techniques to haggle down the cost of a holiday. In essense it stems from the fact the same holidays are available at different prices at different travel agents, so you can knock down those prices.
Accoding to the Travel Agents' trade publication Travel Trades Gazette
there's been uproar, and i've been accused of being immoral.
The technique I described mostly followed the three articles that followBarter for a Bargain Beach HolidayCheapest Way to Spend OverseasCheapest Travel Insurance
Yet the Travel Agents were more than upset about this. The Travel Trades Gazette has kindly allowed me to let you see these PDF filesTTG Main ArticleTTG Letters Page
(note these are big files, so may take more than a minute to download on narrowband)
I absolutely and wholeheatedly disagree. I think this cuts to the route of what MoneySaving and Consumer Revenge is all about. The following is my reply (personally, not representing Tonight with TM) which will be published in the magazine next week.
Please do have your say afterwards and vote in the poll.
________________________________________________________People haggling down their holiday costs? Wonderful news!
My philosophy is we live in an adversarial consumer society. A company’s job is to make money, nowt wrong with that. Yet a consumer’s job should be to maximise their cash too, nowt wrong with that either.
I’m purely, un-apologetically a consumer lobbyist. Billions are spent on marketing and advertising to help businesses profit, while consumers are sub-served, fending for themselves.
Remember the sales training you were given to close a deal. Why shouldn’t consumers have buying training? Let me reiterate, I don’t blame companies for trying to make money and flogging products hard, so why am I immoral for showing consumers how to do the same?
This response wasn’t unexpected. Over the years I’ve had many people support what I do until their industry is mentioned. It happened with mortgage brokers, banks, credit card companies and now travel agents.
I've had many past emails from travel agents complimenting the consumer-revenge bits of my broadcasting or website. I remember one who was so pleased with my “make free cash from credit cards” technique, he ‘emailed it round his agency’. Yet now it’s about travel, I’ve the horns of Beelzebub. So there’s no apology. No travel agent has to sell a holiday at an unprofitable price, it can refuse.
Admittedly normally I explain the full on haggling technique is best used in the ‘direct sales late’ market though, in this programme, we noted doing it with high street early bookings was an ‘experiment’.
Yet high street chains complaining ‘unfair to contrast us with direct sellers, we’ve overheads’ forget many of the same also run direct agencies and websites. If companies charge different prices to consumers depending how they buy, what’s wrong with consumers researching to find the right price?
Like it or not, if you sell big tour operators’ holidays you’re in a commodity market. Other agents may sell exactly the same holiday cheaper. Why shouldn’t consumers shop around, haggle and find best price?
The reason for the reaction is the technique works. If you genuinely provide great service, then don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll keep customers. My focus is price, not everybody’s is. Witness the ‘holiday’ programmes or newspaper travel sections showing beautiful destinations and persuading people to live the vacation dream. Any complaints about that?
In summary, nothing suggested was illegal. As for the morality, empowering consumers’ spending power isn’t immoral. Maybe next time you pay over the odds for a credit card, phone bill or shopping and need impartial pro-consumer activist advice you may think differently.
Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.