05 August 2010

If BTC Regulated the Sale of Airline Provided Paint


Background: BTC (Business Travel Coalition) and others have been demanding that the airlines are forced to disclose their ancillary services and fees structures in all channels equally. So the Professor has imagined what would happen if BTC was in charge of consumer regulation when airlines sold paint.

With thanks to Charlie Leocha for reprinting the oldie but goodie original joke “If Airlines Sold Paint”. http://www.consumertraveler.com/today/if-airlines-sold-paint/

Opening Scene. A small local paint shop in main street USA. Man goes the Shop opens the door…. Outside the store are disclaimer signs in 6 point type warning you to the safety and pricing policies of paint. There is also a HUGE video display in the shop window not with attractive paint cans or uses for paint but with rolling rather stern dire warning information scrolling across the screen. It gives the consumer specific instructions on how to buy paint in online and offline. There are a list of places with maps and URLs showing where you can buy paint and the prices of paint at each place. There is so much information the board takes 5 mins to scroll the info which is illegible anyway. There is a Federal watchdog email address and website address prominently displayed on the signs outside the door, on the door and displayed throughout the store. On each paint can is a big warning like a cigarette pack health warning. Attached to each paint can is a 4 page booklet.

Man (looking a little bewildered) approaches a smiling Shop Clerk. The Previous customer storms out looking very angry dragging a balling kid behind her.

Customer asks: can I buy some….

Clerk: Before you say anything sir – I am obliged to tell you that you can buy paint online and offline. Before I can tell you anything about the paint please sign here that you understand that I am going to tell you about paint and that you understand I may forget to tell you everything about paint so this absolves me from making a mistake and my boss from taking the cost of the paint out of my paycheck… Please sign here (Handing customer a clip board with a 2 page disclaimer, man signs it without reading it)….. thank you.

Clerk: Now how can I help you on this truly fabulous day?

Customer: Hi. How much is your paint?

Clerk: Well sir, that depends on a lot of things and the government makes me tell you that there are possible surcharges here is a list of them (Handing a 4 page booklet). Please read this….

Customer: (Mutters under his breath – this is ridiculous) – out loud says: Can’t you give me an approximate price?

Clerk: Our lowest price is our introductory special at $12 a gallon. After that we have dozens of different prices up to $199. Plus the ancillary services fees based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: What’s the difference in the quality of the paint?

Clerk: Oh, there’s no difference. It’s all exactly the same stuff. But as you can see the cans are very different. Don’t you like the way the paint can sparkles?

Customer: Well, in that case I’ll take your $12 paint.

Clerk: Well actually the $12 variety is only available on our website. If you want to buy it here at the store you’ll be charged an additional $20 Customer Convenience Fee. Plus the ancillary services based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: So if I go home and get it off the website, its only $12?

Clerk: That’s correct sir – plus a Credit Card Usage Fee of $6 and then there’s standard Shipping and Handling of $15. Plus the ancillary services based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: What? So in other words buying online would cost me almost exactly the same as what I’d have to pay here in the store?

Clerk: I suppose so, but if you buy it here you get to use it immediately. Online purchases take ten business days to get to you – unless you pay the optional $25 Express My Paint Fee. Plus the ancillary services fees based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: You’ve got to be kidding me!

Clerk: Well no sir, but it’s academic anyway as right now the $12 paint is completely sold out in both places.

Customer: That’s BS. I’m looking at shelves full of the stuff!

Clerk: Ah, but that doesn’t mean it’s available for sale. We sell only a certain number of introductory priced cans on any given day. Hang on a second let me look it up, (Clerk looks at his computer and then smiles broadly) YES look at that! It just became available again – at $17.50. You can do the same search yourself Sir. Plus the ancillary services fees based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: C’mon! You mean to say it went up while I’m standing here?!

Clerk: (looking sympathetic) ‘Fraid so. Inventory control changes our prices all the time. I would actually like to sell you the paint but the Government says I have to wait till everybody has been told what the new price is. I strongly recommend you purchase your paint as soon as possible as it could go up again, but it’s also possible that it could go down and even not be available again. Finally the government might not let me sell it to you until everyone has been informed of whether the paint price has been checked by this mysterious organization called the BTC. How many gallons do you want?

Customer: Well, maybe three gallons. No, make that four, I don’t want to run out. I assume I can return anything I don’t open?

Clerk: Certainly sir. The $17.50 paint is non-refundable, but if you return it within 48 hours you will be entitled to a $5 credit towards the future purchase of another gallon of the same color at the same or higher price. Plus the final price may change because of the ancillary services based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand.

Customer: That’s crazy. In that case I’ll just give any unopened cans to my brother as he’s planning to repaint his home soon.

Clerk: Sorry sir, no-CAN-do! Our terms and CANditions – that’s a little in-house joke – prohibit paint transfer. It is strictly for the use of the original purchaser. Also the Government doesn’t like competition they need to know where you use the paint so that they can tell everyone in your street that you bought the paint and have used it.

Customer: But wait a minute, I hadn’t spotted those “Paint Sale – $9.99* a Can” signs over there? They are hidden behind all these notices, it makes it so difficult to see an actual price off... That sounds like a much better deal.

Clerk: Ah yes, that’s from our low cost paint division. The Government doesn't actually want to let me tell you about that as it would take too long to explain but we won court case and so we can no have the sign up. However i have to disclose a different set of rules, the asterisk denotes that the cans are actually half-gallons and the price is based on a minimum purchase of two. There is also an additional Environmental Fee of $5 per can – this is required because we use that nice sparkly resin to make the paint cans look nice – we have to pay a special fee because its made of red lead, a non-refundable Can Deposit of $3.50, a Paint Facility Charge of $5 and if you want more than one color, the second has a $25 surcharge and the third is $50 extra. Plus….

Customer: Yes – I know … Plus the ancillary services based on how you use the paint that the government makes me warn you about beforehand……This is utterly ridiculous. To hell with this! I’ll buy what I need somewhere else! Now at least I know I can buy it elsewhere – see here it says so in the booklet you handed me earlier.

Clerk: Well sir, you may be able to buy paint for some rooms from another store, but you won’t be able to find paint for your connecting hall and stairway anywhere but here. And I should also point out that if you want Uni-Directional paint it is priced at $249 a gallon. But that paint is special – you don’t have to tell the Government what you want to use it for.

Customer: I thought your most expensive paint was $199!

Clerk: That’s only if you paint non-stop all the way around the room and back to the point at which you started. Stairways and hallways are considered one-way exceptions to the rule. Plus you must notify the government when you move from one room to the other.

Customer: So, if I buy the $199 paint and use it in my hallway what are you going to do about it – send some goons in to paint over it?

Clerk: Wow, You are WAY smarter than the last guy who came in, I believe you’re getting it now sir. But no, please, that would be plain silly. We’ll simply charge you a Direction Adjustment Fee plus the difference to $249 on your next purchase. Then the government would have to come and inspect it. You cannot use the room until they do. I should tell you that after consultation with their consumer panel which would be your neighbors and the inspector – this process may take about 3 months.

Customer: Next purchase? No way! I’m out ‘a here

Clerk: At Skyhigh Paints we never forget you have a choice, so thanks for shopping with us. Have a nice day! And Sir please mind your step as you pass by the disclaimer signs we had a guy in here yesterday who tripped on it and wants to sue us for it…..

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