Let He Who Reveals his True Final Cost Cast the First Stone
In Jan. 2012, the DoT adopted a “full-fare advertising” rule. The short version of the rule says that when airlines and travel sites advertise an airfare, they have to say what it actually costs the consumer — including all those taxes and fees.
I like this. It is annoying to have to click through to find a flight’s ultimate cost. As a customer, I don’t really care how much of my money goes to what entity.
Even if I were interested in this information, the numbers we were getting before were lies. A good chunk of an airfare goes to things like payroll taxes. I would guess that no one is capable of a true accounting of how much of your airfare ultimately makes its way to various levels of government.
The airlines want to change this policy back. Their tool is the “Transparent Airfares Act” [sic], which the airline’s
thugs legislators seek to make law. The condemnation has been universal.
I don’t want to be a condemnation spoil sport (especially when it is in the name of transparent pricing), but I think we ought to first acknowledge how unique the treatment we are applying to airlines is. Hotel prices still don’t include taxes even though they are displayed by the same companies. If Travelocity were to use the exact same method to display airline prices as they do right now for hotel prices, that would be considered deceptive, but they continue omitting taxes and fees on hotel rooms until it’s time to enter in your credit card information.
Outside of the travel industry, car manufacturer web sites often advertise low starting prices that exclude fees and taxes for vehicles configurations that you can’t find on most dealer lots. Why isn’t that considered unfair or deceptive?
Don’t get me started on the variegated delivery and handling surcharges for flowers on, before, and near Mother’s Day. (I ended up going with Calyx Flowers.)
And we haven’t even gotten to sales tax yet. Many foreigners are initially puzzled when they encounter U.S. sales taxes.
Try to see the sales tax situation with virgin eyes. You walk into a store and see the word “soda’ with “0.95” next to it. You order it, they prepare it, and you receive it, but the clerk then demands $1.02 from you.
If you were not acclimated to the practice, you would no trouble identifying this as unfair and deceptive. You would strongly suspect that anyone who disagreed must be a stooge of the company. They don’t even write “Tax not included” or “Prices not final” in a microscopic font anywhere.
At stores in the U.S., many but not all items incur sales tax. You don’t find out which are taxed until you check out. A calculator can’t solve this problem. You find out your total when there already is an impatient line of customers waiting behind you. If you weren’t already conditioned to accept this, you’d see it as absurd because that is what it is.
Yes, I know this doesn’t necessarily bother you, but it has its victims. If you shop in a certain caliber of grocery store, you will more than once find yourself shifting uncomfortably behind people for whom that 7% determines which items they need to put back.
Transparency on Orbitz isn’t just a first-world problem. It’s quite literally a jet-setting yuppie problem. Don’t demonize the airlines for wanting to be treated like other industries. Instead, get other industries to be treated like airlines.