Or Why I Hate Buying Airline Tickets, Cars, and Mattresses
When I went to the seat map to purchase tickets for a simple flight from Chicago to Boston, here is what I saw:
Apparently, every traveler in the cheap seats was flying alone and had opted for a window or aisle seat. There were no couples or families on this flight. Strange. Maybe something else was at work here. Could it be that the airline was trying to force my husband and me to pay for an upgrade to have two seats together? The cynic in me told me to wait a bit. The seat map might change.
Buying an airline ticket is like buying a car or a mattress. These are three experiences where I feel that no matter what I do, I will be cheated. In each situation, there is no real price for what I am purchasing. I am forced to play a game, but no matter how skillful I am, I am certain I could have done better.
Recently, I decided to replace my old Toyota Rav4. I never loved the car. It drove nicely enough, but I hated the color and the after-market sound and navigation system the salesmen threw in to make me overlook the color didn’t always work. But when I bought it, I was pressured to take what was supposedly a great deal on the last car of its type they had in stock.
This time, I was determined to get the car I wanted in the color I liked. After doing my Internet homework, my husband and I set out to look at the car we had selected. We vowed we would not be pressured into buying it. Just looking. Of course, once we entered the dealership, there was no way they would let us leave. Every time we started for the door, the deal got better. We rejected the car on the floor that they offered at a low-low price, loaded with every option imaginable. We wanted a different color and model, and we stuck to our guns this time. Once again we put on our coats and were leaving when a miracle happened. The exact car we wanted was to be delivered to them within two weeks.
They kept us there by continuing to lower the price and add extras. Of course, we were robbing them. They would barely make a profit on this car. Right. We were so worn down by the process that we decided to buy the car. Don’t get me wrong. I really like the car. But I hate the question that crosses my mind every time I drive it. Did I get a fair price or did I pay too much?
And then there is my new mattress. Again, after careful Internet research, my husband and I ventured into a mattress store just to try out a memory foam mattress. And once again, every time we attempted to leave, the deal became sweeter. Suckers that we are, we ended up buying when we were just looking. Again, don’t get me wrong. We love our new mattress. I just wish I didn’t have the nagging feeling that we may have been cheated when I go to bed every night.
The same thought occurs to me whenever I fly. How much did the person across the aisle pay for her seat? If I had waited a few days or bought my ticket on a Tuesday instead of a Friday, would I have saved money? After consulting numerous websites and setting up price alerts, did I really pay a fair amount for this ticket?
Why should buying a ticket to fly from Chicago to Boston or purchasing a car or mattress be such a consumer nightmare? I would so much prefer to pay a fixed price, even if it means I may pay a bit more. Instead, I feel like a contestant on The Price is Right.