Sunday 1 March 2009

Miss-information in advertising

For as long as I can remember, gas stations have always placed the cost of gas in large numbers with a dot which is then followed by a nine or a four or a five or what have you. So what is being sold for 99.9 is really being sold for one tenth of one cent short of one dollar. If you buy twenty liters of gas, you pay $9.98 which is two cents short of $10.00. Why don’t they simply round out the figure to one dollar so that the sign says; 10.0 per liter. The reason is that the 99 is more appealing than the 10.0 is.

I remember when looking at the travel pages of my local newspaper, the cost of staying at a resort would read; $799.00. When you called up the travel agency that was selling the package, you then learned that there was a restriction that came under the heading of ‘double occupancy’. In other words, you would have to pay double otherwise you couldn’t stay at the resort because the resort didn’t want you staying at one of their rooms all by yourself. Actually I did get a room all by myself but that is because there were vacancies that the resort wanted to fill and one person staying in the room was better than no one staying in the room. This also applies to cruise ships but it doesn’t apply to flights. By the way, the words ‘double occupancy’ are printed in very small letters---naturally.

The travel agency also told you that there were additional charges that come under the heading of taxes. The taxes could be at least a third if not more than the original price so what your stay at the resort would cost would be over a thousand dollars. You didn’t learn any of that unless you phoned them. The original low price printed in large letters was merely to get you to phone the travel agency.

I wrote several letters to the newspapers complaining that the travel agencies were not printing the actual costs of the packages. Later, the newspapers decided that the hidden fees should be included. They are now stated in very small print (you almost have to use a magnifying glass to read them).

The Toronto Star has an advertisement in which it states that you can spend eight days and seven nights at the Royal National Hotel in London, England for $839.00 with the return flight included in the price. This price doesn’t include that airport taxes in both Toronto and London and the security fees in Canada along with the Canadian GST. The total taxes amounts to $408.00. This means that the vacation would cost $1,247.00. and not just $839.00.

The airport taxes probably are the landing fees charged by most international airports per landed aircraft, and usually paid by the passengers as part of the price of the airline tickets. The Canadian federal government's rental fees for airlines are exceptionally high, prompting its airports to charge the airlines more in landing fees, fees that are passed onto their passengers. Toronto's Pearson International Airport is the most expensive airport in the world for landing a 747 airliner.

Security fees are levied for the screening of passengers and their baggage at airports. Ottawa collected $1.2 billion in air traveler security fees between 2002 and 2005 but only $800 million was used for airport security so their collection of fees is a farce.

Airline prices also prices include airline fuel surcharges.

This means that for that trip to London, the $408.00 covers all those extras over and above the $839.00 listed for the airfare and the hotel.

What I object to in the advertisements is the policy of the travel agencies to place in small print, the additional cost of the package. Why don’t they simply lump the total price together and state that taxes are included? That way, we can see at a glance what the cost will be. But then, perhaps we will be deterred from calling the agency when we realize the total cost of the package. That is obviously the way the travel agencies think.

Air Canada had a one page spread in the Toronto Star in which it was advertising the sale of their ‘Europe Pass’ which according to the ad, starts in price from $499.00. (fees and surcharges are included but not the taxes.) What, do you ask, does this Euro Pass do for you?

According to the ad, you can choose six to eight one-way flights in economy class. You will note that in order for it to be useful to you, you have to buy at least six-one way flights to wherever you are going.

The 'Europe Pass' is valid for one year from the time of purchase. It is available with six flight credits (three round trips) for a single traveller or eight flight credits for up to two travellers (four round trips for one or two round trips for two. The small print also states that prices may vary depending on the zone of departure.

When I called Air Canada for more particulars, all I got was a recorded message about flights, times etc. I could speak to anyone who would tell me what it would really cost if for example, I chose to fly to London, Paris and Berlin return from Toronto, Canada.

What I did see in Google was that the 'Europe Pass' is available for purchase in both Canada and the United States for flights from four zones covering Eastern and Western Canada and the Eastern and Western U.S. Prices begin as low as $2,994CAD travel from Canada (US$2,394 for travel from the United States) including applicable taxes for six flight credits for an individual traveller. Now I know what was meant in the ad when it said, and I quote; “Starting from” $499.

Holiday Market Travel advertised that one could fly to Rome care of Alba Tours for $499. In small print it added that the taxes are $298.00 This means that the total cost is $797.00. Of course, you actually have to pay double because in very small print (and I really did have to use a magnifying glass) you can only get this trip when you purchase two packages. (double occupancy)

Have you ever noticed how appealing the fare looks when for example, it prints that a summer 2009 departure from Toronto to London, England is only $99.00? This is what Canadianaffair was advertising. Then when you pull out your magnifying glass, you read at the bottom of the page that the $99.00 is only one way and that in addition to that fare, you have to pay an additional tax of $156.00 and on top of that, surcharges which isn’t actually stated as to what they are. I tried to reach someone on the phone but again, all I got was a recording. I didn’t learn what the surcharges would be.

There in an ad in the Toronto Star in which it states that the cost of spending a week at a resort in Purerto Valarta, Dominican Republic is $497.00. Of course, in smaller print, it states that the tax is $266.50. On top of that, there is an additional cost of $20.00 US which is $25.56 Canadian. The total cost which is $788.76 includes airfare. That’s pretty reasonable for a seven-day all-inclusive trip for one but of course, you can’t have it unless you pay double to meet the ‘double occupancy’ restriction. Still, it’s pretty reasonable. What I do object to is the very, very small print at the bottom of the page. I used the magnifying glass but I had to put the page close to the light to read the print. I am amazed that such small print can actually be printed on a page of newsprint.

Days Inn in Niagara Falls, Ontario placed an ad in the Toronto Star stating that a room would be $69.00. When I pressed further, I was told that $8.97 is added as tax and they charge $10.00 for parking. This means that to spend one night at the hotel, it would cost $87.97 Canadian. That still is cheap but the $69 looked real enticing until I learned of the hidden fees.

I have gone far enough with this piece. I sure I have got my point across.

Looking at advertisements is like looking at a beautiful woman when she is fully dressed in magnificent clothes. It’s when she is in a state of undress that you suddenly discover to your horror, all the hideous warts covering her body that had been cleverly hidden from you.

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