Friday Musings: Bait And Switch Is Alive And Well In The Travel World

I’m usually a very calm person to a fault and will usually let things go that other people would go crazy about. But despite my best efforts, even I will sometimes get angry over something rather minor. I don’t want to become one of those people who complain about #firstworldproblems like the downgrade of champagne in first class or getting one minute less of water during an on-board shower. But when I see an online offer that will be available at a future date, I expect that same offer to be available when I go to buy it. Such was not the case for this past Thursday’s Daily Getaways promotion.

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Generally, I’m a supporter of the Daily Getaways promotions. They can, occasionally, provide offers that are better than those available to the general public and that’s the reason these offers often sell out within minutes of their release.

The first few weeks of offers were “leaked” in advance to get people excited about the program, so we knew what offers were going to be available for the first week or two.

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Now, for the last few years, Sharon and I have purchased tickets to Sea World through Daily Getaways. The offer of a $50 ticket is great compared to the $100 single day tickets offered at the entrance. This year there was also an offer for a $75 Florida 2-Park Ticket on the preview website, which gave admission to two parks of your choice of Sea World Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island Tampa. While Sharon and I like Aquatica, as locals we’d never pay the $49.99 for a single day ticket. It’s just not worth fifty bucks to us to spend the day there. However since we’ve been paying $50 for a single day Sea World ticket, paying $25 more for an Aquatica ticket seemed worthwhile.

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This was on the Daily Getaways site until recently. So we could use one ticket whenever we wanted and use the second visit within 6 months of the first visit? OK, great! I even touted this offer in my preview of the Daily Getaways as one of the things I was looking forward to buying and we were 100% prepared to purchase two of the 2-Park tickets.

When we went to buy the tickets today, Sharon pointed out to me that now the second park ticket had to be used within fourteen days of the first admission. That’s quite different than the original terms posted for the offer. I didn’t believe her at first, until I looked at the offer.

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Wait a second. When did this change?? Having the second visit expire within 14 days instead of within six months is a HUGE difference. Instead of getting to go to Sea World over Christmas and Aquatica in the spring, we’d either have to go to Aquatica when the temperature might be in the 50s, or miss out on Christmas at Sea World. Sorry, but missing out on Rudolph and Clarice wasn’t something we were willing to do.

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The offers went on sale this past Thursday afternoon. I can’t say I’m happy but there is a part in me that laughs at the fact that, as of this writing, neither the Sea World single day ticket nor the 2-Park tickets have sold out. Apparently the travel geeks out there are smarter than Daily Getaways imagined? Honestly, the price for two single passes offered with this sale isn’t any better than you can get from a 2-park admission from Groupon (actually, the Groupon offer is $4.01 less). If the expiration between the admission between the two parks had stayed at six months, we would have spent the extra $25 for the two park ticket. But because of the last minute switch, we only purchased one 1-park tickets for each of us. We have no intentions of going to a water park in December, nor do we want to miss out on Sea World Orlando’s Christmas decorations.

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I can’t help to wonder what happened? Did the Daily Getaways people mess up and put up the wrong offer? Maybe the Sea World people sent the incorrect information? Whichever one it was, I’m still upset that neither of them have fessed up to making a mistake. I sent a Tweet to the Daily Getaways account but I haven’t yet received a response.

I’ve been accustomed to airlines and hotels saying they posted incorrect prices and are cancelling tickets purchased at the “mistake” rates. However, this bait and switch hit me differently. Daily Getaways, from the U.S. Travel Association, has been one of the most reliable offers out there, giving discounted travel to those who pay attention. I’d hate to see it degrade to the level where they say, “Sorry we didn’t check our offer before posting it but your order is now cancelled.” It hasn’t reached that point yet, but with unannounced changes to posted offers, can we be that far away?

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