Friday, July 11, 2008

As the summer heats up, a cautionary tale....

It is officially summer...the kids are out of school, the smell of BBQ's being fired up can be found on practically every block, the Seattle Mariners have not got a prayer of getting to .500-let alone their lineup getting ABOVE the Mendoza Line...yep it is summer. And if you have noticed each of those lovely online travel sites is advertising rates and offers that almost seem too good to be true. Which brings to mind the tale of a long, gone business whose advertisements have become legend, as well as being taught in every business course from Butte to Biloxi...not to mention ended up being on the program 'Masterminds' about people who thought they were above the law [not that Expedia, Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz or others operate that way...far from it...that would be ILLEGAL]. So with apologies to the Brothers Grimm and Justin Hayward [The Moody Blues]....

Once upon a time in the far away land of New York City, the borough of Brooklyn to be precise - there was a businessman named Eddie Antar. Eddie had a store in this little burg that was called incorporated as Ultralinear Sound Corporation, but had the dba that was better known. 'Crazy Eddie'. Yes, the same Crazy Eddie whose ads were on practically round the clock, be it radio or television, promising to beat the prices of any and all electronics dealers in the area. Walkman's, car stereos, speakers, recievers, televisions were all being hawked at a fever pitch by a spokesperson who seemed to act like a prehistoric Lewis Black after an all-day diet of Jolt Cola. But it was the promise of those low prices that got people to come in and buy [yes, when I lived back in that far-away land, I used to go there because of the prices. What can I say I was a kid] and the business soon flourished to the point where there was a Crazy Eddie in every corner of the city...almost as many as there are now Starbuck's.

As they grew and became part of the local scene, they started getting a reputation. Not a good one either...if only because not only at times did their ads seem to be to good, their followup when called on to match or beat the prices of other stores was not as promised. Actually less and there were rumours of the old bait and switch, pressuring some folks to buy items they really did not need. But it was the lack of being honest about the price matching that got the most attention...until it was found out later that Eddie had been cooking the books in such a way that would be embarassing to even the dumbest of wiseguys. [At this point it should be mentioned that Mr. Antar ran away overseas where he thought he would not get into any trouble, only to run afoul of the Israeli government and is currently in jail].

What is the connection or lesson that can be gathered from this tale? Crazy Eddie operated also on the idea that not many folks would be sharp enough to read the fine print on the receipts and would only be concerned with the low price and 'great deal' they had gotten. In effect, some travel sites are operating in the same fashion. A deal on a vacation to let's say Barcelona or Buffalo is only as good as the paperwork [or the webpage] that states what all of the terms and conditions are, no matter what. The airlines have picked up on this, as such have wonderful legalese on their sites mentioning all sorts of stipulations about price, scheduling and such. OK, a couple travel sites may be doing this as well...however some seem to be too good to be true. If you see something along those lines, remember Crazy Eddie and other businesses in the same vein. That way this summer..or any other season the only things that would run the risk of being burned would be hot dogs on the grill that were left on about 30 seconds too long.

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