When gas prices spiraled toward the stratosphere, car-rental companies saw a distinct change in their customers' reservations strategies. Chris Payne, Dollar Thrifty's senior manager of corporate communications, offered this explanation in an article on Direct magazine's Web site:
"There are road warriors who like to get the best deal they can. [Before gas prices went up] they would reserve a smaller car than they really needed knowing we'd probably sell out and they'd get a bigger car at no extra cost. Now people are saying, 'Wait a minute—I reserved a smaller car and you want to give me that gas guzzler? Forget it, I don't want it.'"
The company, unable to make swift changes in its fleet, responded by creating a chart with which rental agents could assuage the concerns of their hesitant customers. According to Magill, "The chart shows gas usage and overall rental price differences model by model, based on a 100-mile round trip." By demonstrating how an upgrade offered a significant increase in comfort without costing as much as a customer might anticipate, Dollar Thrifty was able to frame the issue in realistic terms—essentially, that the tradeoff might be worth the extra $50 spent on gas. Interestingly, Magill notes that the chart remained a rental-counter fixture even after gas prices subsided.
Your Marketing Inspiration: In a shaky economy where customers have become increasingly price conscious, it's not a bad idea to show them how an upgrade might provide plenty of benefits without breaking the bank.
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