by Dennis Yang
Mon, Oct 1st 2007 4:56pm
With the Internet, we now have a whole range of options when we need to book travel, ranging from online travel services to "name your own price" services. Whether or not we are better off still is up for debate, but now a new angle has emerged in the quest for lower prices. Booking travel through non-US websites may yield travelers a better deal -- even for the same exact offering. In one example, the rental car price quoted was 58 percent lower when booked through the foreign site. Travel companies defend this practice, claiming that they need to be able to set different prices in different markets in order to compete. But, this is merely the economic principle of price discrimination at work -- if you're able to get a higher price for any reason, then it technically is exactly what the market will bear. The mere fact that American customers visit different websites than Spanish customers naturally segments the market. So, by being able to increase their utilization by lowering prices in the appropriate markets, the price of the goods is driven down in the long run by this practice. That said, people will still be pissed off by this practice because buying from a different website does not seem like a "reasonable" explanation for that price difference. At least companies have not implemented higher prices for the wealthy -- that would definitely raise some eyebrows.
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