When Free is too Expensive

I am writing from Newark, New Jersey, which is not my new favorite place. But this is not a post about that. On the flight here I noticed the airline magazine and spent a few minutes going through the puzzles. Across from one of the puzzle pages was a full-page glossy ad for FRE*E Hotel Bookings.

FreeSo we have folks advertising to give presumably a valuable eservice away without expense to me. Either

A. We have folks unclear on the concept of profitablility, or

B. They are very clear about profitability and want to lure me to their site for the sake of add-on fees or upsells to make their free offer not so free.

I have nothing against f*ree, but I’m done with it. If you offer fre*e hotel bookings, then you are getting paid by the hotel to make the booking and that removes choice from me and pervert the recommendation system. No one works out of the goodness of their own heart. No one gives away full-page ads in a top 3 highest captive audience rated magazines.

We have to eat. We sell.

I would rather pay a hotel booker to make sure I get the kind of room I want, where I want, when I want for the price I am willing to pay. It seems like we should have this service offered already . . .

Oh wait, we do!

Or did….

They were called travel agents. And while most have raced to the bottom to offer me-too basic booking services for nothing or next to nothing, some are still around, thriving.

Booking my hotel room is brainless. What we are willing to pay for is intelligence.

It is also more profitable for those who choose the long term committment to excellence demanding consumers seek. For my trip to Newark did I need a hotel booker? No. Due to the gig, there is exactly one hotel where I will stay. So I booked directly with the hotel, like most of us do.

When I want to go white water rafting . . . then I have options.

Travel AgencyThis is an unpaid recommendation for a friend of mine’s business, Golden Adventures. Diane Golden specializes in Baby Boomers and mild adventures. She organizes trips for runners, cyclists, wine lovers and hikers. And she does a mighty fine job. She specializes in her choice of population: Active Baby Boomers and her activities. And this year she’s been hiring.

So never mind the down economy, while it hasn’t been her best year ever, she has been growing. Providing expert service is more compelling than a f*reebie offering. I know the game for hotel . com, and for better or worse I use their paid reviews of properties written by low-paid staff members who have never been to the property (I’ve known some of these folks) to compare against other reviews, and then I make my choice and book directly.

That may seem unfair, but they don’t give me any reason to be loyal, they aren’t ultimately providing me with what I want which is real intelligence about my options. They are not making my job any easier. Indeed ultimately the free offerings cost me more time and THAT is the most precious commodity right now. F*ree is just too expensive.

Image courtesy of Platform London

11 thoughts on “When Free is too Expensive”

  1. When traveling for business, I use expedia.com or, if I’m familiar with the area I’m traveling to, book directly. For vacations, I use a travel agent because they put everything together for me in one neat little package and I don’t have to think about anything.

  2. I have to agree – nothing in life is free. I sometimes book my own accomodations and sometimes through a travel agent. It depends on where I’m going.

  3. Hi Kate,

    indeed, with most of my basic travel for business within the United States, booking my travel myself is best. Certainly, over time as I travel more and more, having my assistant do that or partnering with a travel agent is wonderful once they know me and my desires well. I love delegating what is not necessary that I be the one to do something.

    Certain international travel, like when I was going to go to Croatia in 2005, I definitely looped in a travel agent. The trip had to be canceled. 🙁

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Single Boomer Dating Expert

  4. Yeah, no one needs a travel agent to book a trip to the Newark Hilton, but if you want a cool rafting trip in Africa . . . I am happy to find someone who knows more than I do to plan that. That way they can educated me on the cool things to see and do.


  5. Nothing is ever really free. My ebook is “free” but people actually do pay with their email addresses!

    Lisa McLellan

  6. I agree. In my experience fr*e is too expensive (unless it’s a present … there again – reciprocity and all that!). If you follow the value, you’ll find the angle. I’m happy to pay if I feel I’m getting value – usually in terms of expertise or time saved.

  7. That’s interesting, my friends and I were just talking about “free” offers last night, and how we basically hate the concept of it. I’d rather pay because if something really is free you know you are sacrificing quality.


  8. It’s always better to go after what you want then picking by price or free. I know people like free stuff but I’d rather work hard and get what I want

    Jose Escalante

  9. I used to be a competition freak, that is my main hobby was entering competitions. I won quite a lot of stuff. In the end I gave it up which was difficult. I ended up spending my time on weekends, giving up my privacy (I still get emails…..) and as the internet kicked in I won less and less.

    Free = cost paid elsewhere.

    Keri Eagan

  10. I’m with Rob, I prefer to make my own travel reservations because I’m pretty good at it. When I travel overseas I prefer a good travel guide and happenstance. I usually like to just show up and see where I end up.

    That being said I do pay good money for good advice when my travel plans are somewhat complex or if I simply don’t have the time to do it myself. Good service does command a premium and I would definitely cough up the bucks.

    Steve Chambers, Sale Trainer Speaker

  11. Many people are willing to pay money for people to do all the logistics for them. These are the people that travel agents are really able to help. I personally like to make my own reservations because only I know exactly what I want from all of the available options- and so I do it myself.

    Other things I am willing to pay others for to free up time. (lawn mowing, printing/copying…)

    Seize the Day,


Comments are closed.