Friday, September 08, 2006

Cookies can be very expensive

The Checkout blog today spotlights a bizarre practise I wouldn't have imagined existed: Marketers are using your cookies to play with price points for flexibly priced goods (magazine subscriptions, airline tickets, etc.)

Basically, the post explains how clearing your cookie cache can change the prices you're shown at online storefronts. Offering different shoppers different prices is a longstanding marketing tactic, but this is an impressively personalized level of targeting. Yick.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why I'm never ever ever renting from Dollar again

Rental cars and medical bills: these are the two planets around which my financial life seems to orbit.

This weekend I stumbled across an unusual bit of consumer-unfriendliness I hadn't hit before. I had a rental reservation with Dollar, made through Travelocity. I scanned the fine print when I made the booking for the usual catches, but I can't swear I scoured every bit of it on every conceivable link -- though I did print the reservation and bring that along.

When I arrived to pick up my car, I was told the rate would be $55 a day higher than the one I had confirmed. What!? Why? Because I have a Brookyn zip code.

Yep. Dollar discriminates based on where you live.

Never mind that this car was being picked up in Manhattan and had no restrictions on where we could take it. Dollar wanted to charge me $110 more for my rental than they would if I lived on the other side of the bridge.

I argued with the counter person (nothing on my Travelocity printout mentioned this charge, though Dollar insists it's listed somewhere on the site), then called Dollar's customer service number and argued my way up the command chain there. No luck. I finally cancelled the reservation and made something of a scene, standing outside Dollar's office screaming into my cell phone that this was the worst customer service I had ever encountered from a car-rental company.

Now for the particularly spectacular bit of corporate stupidity. It was the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend, I was already behind schedule, and I now needed a last-minute car. Where did I end up getting one?


Which is owned by the same parent company as Dollar. Thrifty, however, has no surcharge for Brooklyn residents. "I've never heard of anything like that," the Thrifty agent said when I made the new booking.

And it was $30 cheaper than my original Dollar rate. So, Dollar's parent company managed to both infuriate a customer and make less money on the transaction than they otherwise would have. Go corporate America!

But seriously, I am never ever ever booking with Dollar again, anywhere.