When “Cheap” Isn’t a Bad Word


Ruthanne Terrero
Vice President—Content/Editorial Director, Ruthanne Terrero

A recent dive into how consumers look for travel information on the Internet showed that “cheap” is the most often used adjective to precede a search.

I was confused. Who wants a cheap vacation? Cheap is the word for the jacket whose buttons fall off while you’re trying it on in the store. Cheap used to mean someone with a garish appearance who behaves too provocatively in public to get the attention of the opposite sex. My mother once told me that shoes with ankle straps were cheap because that’s what ladies of the evening wore. Of course, I fell in love with them after that because they were forbidden.

Turns out though, that cheap apparently isn’t a forbidden word when it comes to travel and that’s because what consumers simply want is to be able to afford a trip. They want to hit the road and don’t want to take out a bank loan to do it or find out there are hidden charges involved after it’s too late.

So don’t be put off if someone asks you if you can get them a cheap flight. Ask them where they want to go. Jamaica? Why? They’re attending a destination wedding? Really. Has the rest of the wedding group booked through a travel advisor? Can you help the others with their plans as well?

Better possibilities exist. Today’s consumers mix and match. They will fly a discount carrier to Miami to pick up their yacht and sail the Caribbean. They might want to get to Europe because they’ve dreamed of seeing Rome, Paris and London and now they’re doing it all in one trip and don’t care what the flight looks like.

Don’t market with the “cheap” word to attract these folks, however. Be sure your website or agency window displays stress the words “practical,”“obtainable” and “value added.” Speak of experiences, use imagery of real families, evoke the emotions that regular people can relate to.

The above examples of finding lucrative clients who shop using the word “cheap” is the best case scenario and I’ll bet you were thinking that as you were reading it. Dealing with most of these people isn’t worth your time. So how do you filter though the masses?

First, determine if the client has a realistic view of the cost of travel. If they want to travel to Asia for two weeks for $1,500, there may be no hope for them. Or, if they’re constantly trying to wrench a deal out of you or insistently trying to make you lower your price, rather than allowing you to consult with them, let them book their own trip online. Clients who buy inexpensive, low-commission products often demand the same amount of attention as those who are making an investment in their trip, sometimes more.

But if you have someone who is willing to listen and has future trips in mind and is less fearful about cost and more intrigued by the access and value you can deliver, work with them. Who knows, perhaps by starting off with the word “cheap” what they really had in mind was to escape the mundane grind at home, to run away from wintery days and to try somehow to avoid the onset of strep throat they get every January because some guy coughed on them on the subway again. 

Caution: You might not close these deals immediately, but work at it. Real estate agents usually don’t sell houses the first time a house is shown. They have to work with their clients’ needs, which could be financial or personal. The timing has to be right for making a big purchase, but if the desire is really there, and they feel they’ve truly got a trusting relationship with their agent, the investment on the side of the advisor will be worth the time.

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