I first learned to upsell at a Jack in the Box on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica. At the end of confirming what a motorist had just ordered on the drive-thru intercom, I was expected to marvel, “Wouldn’t you like an apple turnover with that?” Although, the apple turnover has pretty much disappeared from the fast food world, the upsell, as we know from Supersize Me, has not; are you sure you don’t want the mega-gargantuan soft drink, instead of the one that would barely fill a child’s inflatable wading pool?
As those who have booked air travel tickets on line know too well, there are no more rapacious upsellers than the airlines and online travel agencies. Are you sure you don’t want to book a hotel room while you’re booking your ticket, or a rental car? Well, surely you’d like to make reservations at one of the restaurants we can recommend because they kick back 20 percent of your tab! And sunglasses — are you really going to entrust your vision to your present ones when we can offer you these Hugo Boss beauties at a price you’d have to be blind (get it?) to pass up? By the time you finally get your ticket booked, you feel as though a quintet of large men in black dress shirts, white ties, and fedoras have taken turns bouncing you off the walls of your home or office.
If the techniques now being employed by JetBlue are any indication, though, it’s about to get even worse. On the page on their Website that invites you to buy flight insurance from Allianz, you can click one of two buttons. The opt-in one sits atop a list of the glorious benefits that the traveler can position himself to enjoy for — stand back! — A Fraction of the Ticket Cost. Alternatively, he may choose a button labelled No, I choose not to protect my purchase.
Mark my words, it won’t be long before the text following the opt-out button is considerably amplified. One envisions something along the lines of:
Woefully shortsighted, penny-wise and pound-foolish, unable to see the forest for the trees as I am. I foolishly choose to reject your generous offer of insurance. I live in a dream world that many sensible children would be ashamed to inhabit, one in which nothing ever goes wrong unexpectedly, one in which sh*t doesn’t happen, and travel plans never have to be abruptly changed. In my ghastly naivete, no one ever begins singing Whitney Houston hits so loudly en route to JFK that the captain decides he’d better land in Kansas City, ensuring that I’ll miss all subsequent connections, If, God forbid, the plane should crash, I’m sure those who depend on me will be able to figure out an alternate way to keep a roof over their heads even in today’s very precarious economy. For less than I commonly spend on lunch, I am indeed willing to put those who depend on me in that sort of jeopardy.