Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Buying and selling Travel on the internet

I have been extremely remiss in failing to add to my blog for the past month.

Consider it a month’s vacation, or even a month’s block, but here I am again. It has been a very interesting period; I have been based at our rather peculiar house in Esperaza in the South of France,  first warding off the excesses of the local wine festival, then brief trips to London for family and philatelic reasons and then to Georgia to finalise our new company “Are Mare” .

It is the Yellow shop with the blue shutters!

 I have been working here, compiling a substantial proposal for a consultancy to work on tourism product development in the three northern Territories, designing some new tour programs for The Great Canadian Travel Company, (curiously) putting together a “supply chain” to deliver 5,000 metric tons of chicken-feed every month to Azerbaijan (some really odd opportunities come my way), and simply enjoying the burst of spring in the Pyrenean foothills.

The view from the office 

However, I have had time to get riled, and it is for you, my dear readers, that I am annoyed.

I have written much about the double-edged nature of the internet; it is an environment that has made so many completely suspend credulity and hurl themselves into this unregulated market with the most surprising gusto. It is a fine place; “things” of all manner are available, and because the common credo of “cut out the middle man and save money” is so simple, folks buy stuff by the ton.

It is also interesting to note how many folks hit the “buy” button at nine o’ clock in the evening, quite conceivably with a bottle of wine inside them, and at a time when their protective middlemen are presumably hitting their own “buy” buttons.

And now we find that the principals who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars/lari/euros or whatever designing their websites have done so for self-serving reasons. Shock! Horror! Their sole interests in designing their sites, and it is likened to a web for a very good reason, is to maximise their revenues, and lure you in.

It is not designed to minimise your expenditures.

Have you noticed how, during the purchasing process, the price or “availability” of the items, seats, beds or cabins that you are trying to buy changes? Sometimes discreetly with “Only two left at this price” appearing from nowhere, subtly telling you that you are on the right track, and should finalise, or more forcefully with a $10 increase in price?

Yesterday, a hotel I was looking at that initially offered four options only showed two (highest/lowest) ten minutes later; by resubmitting on a different search engine, I got the middle two quotes back and booked.

Well, "they" follow you; each key-stroke is measured, and with the new generation of phones, "they" listen to your calls, and will translate your level of excitement for an upcoming trip into another few dollars onto the room. It is quite extraordinary how much privacy we all give up by ticking the “I accept” boxes; a paradox considering how those self-same companies will give up no informations at all, citing “privacy issues”.

There is a weapon.

Each browser offers an “incognito” or “private browsing” option. These covers, usually used by folks trying to cover the tracks of their various fetishes that are so diligently pursued at work, are your friends. By going “underground” as you search the web for prices, these windows will (to a great extent) muddy your tracks and make you less likely to be followed.

And remember too that Google reads all G Mail, and then promptly sells the information thus gleaned of your upcoming trips, ideas or whatever else you may unwisely communicate in this electronic fashion to a wide range of suppliers who are eager to pay for such “qualified” customers.


And finally, should you wonder why it makes a difference to an airline or hotel where you live before you get a quote, it is simple. Certain markets are perceived to be more lucrative and North Americans seem to be the cherries on the cake.

If I were you, I would fib; tell them you live in Cameroon, and see what happens then.

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