I have had several friends who recently took trips to San Francisco and came back complaining.
It wasn’t the fact that you have a good chance of witnessing a shooting within a ricochet of Macys that annoyed them.
Nor that they slipped several times on sidewalk puddles created by droppings from the Mayor’s head.
It all happened hours before they encountered these privileges.
For shortly after their arrival they faced the Battle of Alamo.
If you have never rented a car from Alamo, you will perhaps be unaware that the company describes itself as “value-oriented.”
A reasonable translation of this might be: ” Cheaper than skates.”
This doesn’t actually mean that renting from Alamo will be necessarily be less expensive than renting from any other company. (Their insurance rates are not exactly value-oriented.) But the folks at Alamo understand the human mind rather better than the average member of Congress.
Here’s how one of my friends described his arrival at the rental car hall at SFO:
” So we get out out of the little train they have there and see all the different rental car desks. There’s no one around. Except for the 174 people in line for Alamo.”
(Yes, it’s not easy arriving in a foreign country from Tennessee..)
Alamo’s value-orientation is quite simple.
They know that people believe they get better deals on sites such as Expedia and Priceline.
So they make sure their rates are the cheapest on those sites.
By one dollar.
And the wise, discerning, value-oriented world public, craving the dollar a day saving (perhaps for a trip to McDonalds. Or Ross Dress for Less.), click on the lowest number and feel as if they have beaten the system yet again.
Until they arrive at their destination.
You might wonder why the arrivistes don’t just wander off to another desk.
Because when you get that lower rate on sites like Expedia, you pay upfront.
So the valiant value-oriented 174 pay a dollar a day to stand perhaps an hour in line.
Is there nothing that humanity won’t do to save a dollar? Fight a war, perhaps? (Kidding.)
Is it that, constantly pressured by the exigencies of capitalism, we spend much of our lives desperately trying to save our money for the inevitability of a day when it rains without pause?
Or perhaps we are so obsessed with the concept of winning that our serotonin only starts bubbling when we have got one over a car rental company, a small child playing soccer, the miles per gallon indicator on our Toyota Prius?
Then we end up standing in line.
Of course, some companies will do anything to stimulate the weaknesses that we mistake for strengths.
Yesterday, I walked past a clothes store and was dazzled by a large sign splashed all across its windows.
It read: ‘ FALL PREVIEW. SALE.”
Did this really mean that they were going to show me the new collections and then sell them to me cheaper than the price those other silly 174 would have to pay when the leaves begin to divorce the trees?
Really? I turned towards the door, following the hordes who were pouring inside.
Then, with an impulse that might have been from Pavlov’s God, I turned away.
” It’s Old Navy,” I whispered to myself. ” It’s Old Navy.”