Back in early July, I wrote an article called “Cheap is Not Necessarily Frugal.” In it, I argued that you’re often better off in the long run if you opt for a more expensive product or service rather than skimping and trying to save a few bucks.
While I still believe that this is often the case, I was recently reminded that sometimes cheaper truly is better…
Park, ride, and save
On a recent trip out of town, I shared a ride to the airport with a co-worker. At our airport, you have three options when it comes to parking: Daily, Economy, and Park-and-Ride. In the past, I’ve always opted for Economy because: (1) it costs about half as much as Daily, and (2) it doesn’t require a shuttle ride like Park-and-Ride, which is by far the cheapest option. As we approached the airport this time, however, my compatriot turned off into the Park-and-Ride lot.
While this wouldn’t have been my first choice, I wasn’t about to complain — after all, I wasn’t driving. Much to my surprise, we were out of the car and into the airport in record time. While I’ve had terrible experiences with Park-and-Ride at other airports in the past, these lots were managed in much the same way that Disney handles their parking. They had signs pointing you to the currently open lot, and there was a shuttle sitting right there in the row in which we parked.
Upon boarding, we were handed a color-coded ticket that would direct the driver back to our car, and we were dropped off curbside just outside our airline’s check-in counter. And when we returned, the driver dropped us off alongside the trunk of our car. All in all, this was far more convenient that the Economy lot — in fact, it was arguably better than the Daily lot. And yet, we paid just a fraction of the price.
The lesson here, which runs far deeper than optimal parking strategies, is that you shouldn’t assume that a higher price necessarily signals a better or more convenient product or service. While it’s often worth paying extra for quality, it’s important to be sure that you’re actually getting more for your money. In this case, the airport was simply charging a premium for the perception of convenience.