False advertising to suck you in

November 15, 2013

Yes, Qantas, I’m look squarely at you! Qantas are notorious for putting out what appear to be good deals on partner hotels etc. until you actually try to find and book the rates on offer.

I got this teaser in a Frequent Flyer email from them the other day:

qantas01I’ve previously stayed in a couple of Stamford hotels in Sydney, and this coming February I’ll be staying at the Sydney Airport one again. You could stay in worse places…

So I thought I’d check out whether the deals on offer were better than what I already had. (Ultimately, this was irrelevant as my February 2014 booking is prepaid, with a 100% loss of money if I cancel.)

I clicked the ad in the email and got this (click on a image to see it larger):


Anyone see that magic $135 a night teaser rate anywhere? Nope. Me neither.

Being a persistent sort who hates being lied to, I decided to see if that teaser rate was hidden behind one of the boxes, and clicked on the $219 box for the Stamford Plaza at Sydney Airport.

The ‘best rate’ was less than $219 at $217, but nowhere near the $135 ‘let’s suck you in’ rate, and the rates just went up from there:


I said I was persistent, so I clicked on the $217 ‘View’ button to see what was hidden beneath, and found the rates for most days of the Australian summer (Dec 1 to Feb 28). Take a look at those numbers… I highlighted anything above $217 in red, and highlighted the $217 rate (or less) in green. Of the three months, only 19 nights are at $217, and a further seven nights are at the LOWEST rate of $206! For more than two months, the rate is higher — in some cases much higher — than the ‘best rate’ of $217.

qantas04Now I was intrigued… was there a $135 a night rate to be found ANYWHERE?

After a lot of clicking and scanning rates, I found some rooms for some dates at $135 a night — but ONLY at the North Ryde, Sydney hotel. By the way, North Ryde is an awfully long way from the centre of Sydney or the airport, so unless you really needed to be there for a specific purpose such as work this would never be a good option as the time and cost of getting anywhere would negate any benefit of the cheaper room rate.

The Adelaide Stamford Plaza had a couple of nights at $139 and $141, but mostly the rates for all hotels in all locations was well over $200 a night.

So, the teaser rate on the Qantas email didn’t actually lie as there is ONE hotel that has SOME rooms for SOME days at the $135 rate, but I still think this is false advertising when 95% or more of the room rates across the Stamford brand for the summer period are well above $135. I call it false advertising, even though I know it is an accepted practice to lure potential customers with a cheap rate, then disappoint them by having so few of those rates on offer (and usually not in places where you might be going).

(As an aside, the $195 prepaid rate I paid in June 2013 for the Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport date in Feb 2014 is looking good…)

One final thing… For those in the US, these sorts of prices are typical for 4+star hotels in Australian cities; in fact, they are much higher in some cities. For the same amenities (and in some cases more, such as free internet, breakfast, and evening snacks), I can stay in the US for around $100 to $150 a night.

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