When the best price isn’t the best price at all

Meercats at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Meercats at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

WOE betide anyone who has not mastered the dark arts of internet search engines.

These days you cannot get the best price for anything it seems unless you are prepared to go online and pit your wits against the world.

Once upon a time in England you would see a price put on something and you would either pay it or go somewhere else.

Our society it seems is changing to the Middle-Eastern model where you have a starting price and barter down.

I remember when a relative or friend returning from a holiday on some subcontinent would appear wearing an ill-fitting off the shelf leather jacket supposedly handmade to measure by a native leathersmith, or they would excitedly show you a hand woven carpet they had bought, identical to a made-in-China one you could have bought from a hippy bird’s bedroom shop in Blackpool.

In hushed tones they would tell you the bargain price they had paid and scoff about how they had knocked the trader down to a quarter of the asking price.

“I had him crying tha knows..”

This process all seemed so exotic and mediaeval and so un-British.

Well now it seems these Life of Brian techniques have been resurrected for the British public by our esteemed my-word-is-my-bond overlords in the financial services industry.

I received a letter from my house insurance company which had massively raised my premium, blithely informing me that it was the best deal it had been able to find and wouldn’t I mind awfully if it automatically renewed it.

But latterly having been subconsciously influenced by a combination of TV adverts featuring talking meerkats and an annoying mustachioed Latin opera singer, I decided to enter my details into price comparison websites.

Lo and behold, I found an insurance deal which knocked a third off my existing insurance company’s price.

When I phoned up to cancel my policy, the agent at the other end of the phone seemed genuinely shocked. “Why didn’t you tell us - I’m sure we could have improved on that offer.”

“But you told me yours was the best you could find..”

It was a waste of time. It appears that hiding your hand is now an expected and encouraged part of how we do business these days.

Long standing customers are seen as cash cows to be exploited.

I am constantly annoyed by leaflets posted to me by my own phone company offering rates a fraction of those I pay, which I can’t have access to, just because I have had the temerity to have paid them my hard earned for 12 years. Loyalty shmoyalty.

But what about elderly people and those who don’t know Windows 7 from their elbow and think a mobile phone is for talking to people on rather than surfing the net and taking surreptitious photographs in pubs? What about them eh?