posted Sep 15, 2015

Not too long ago, flying could be a relatively pleasant experience, but executives focused on cutting costs have stripped away everything flyers associated with luxury or even dignity. Food, baggage handling, boarding in a logical manner: Things once taken for granted now must be paid for or done without. Flights are more crowded than they’ve been since World War II, when they were carrying troops. And on a recent Ryanair flight, I discovered that not even water was free. - Why
Does Air Travel Make People So Grumpy?

There's a lot of money out there for someone who solves one of American-style capitalism's core problems... how do I signal to a corporation that I'm willing to pay slightly more to get service that doesn't have all the corners filed off? And how do we make this palatable to people?

I don't mean premium service. I mean just that... service without every corner cut. If I'm buying a $100 item, I'd rather pay $110 for something where they used metal for the critical component instead of plastic, or quality metal instead of cheap metal. I'd rather pay the pennies more for quality screws that won't rust closed in a year.

In theory, airlines have solved the problem. With many companies you can easily pay another ~20% of the ticket price for "enhanced economy" seating, with more legroom and better seats. But that's obviously not preventing the stream of complaints, so obviously it's not a palatable solution.

Is there a solution at all? If consumers at scale simply pick the cheapest option regardless of anything else, the answer is no. The market can only go in one direction, and given that that leaves the service providers with no other option, it is hard to blame them in good faith. But I'm not ready to make that call.

There are some other ways that seem to at least partially work. You can go to Wal-Mart and get something with all the corners cut off, plus a few bits of the core product, but you can also go to Target and get something that is cheap, but not quite that cheap. Supermarkets also now have so many products on the shelves that you can almost always either buy the cheap olive oil, or a more premium option.

But there's still a lot of markets where price is relentlessly driven downward at all costs (pun half intended), and it would be great if there was some reliable way at scale to coordinate a difficult-to-forge signal of quality that said "This has been made cost-effective, but not actualy 'cheap'".

Solve that to make a lot of money.

 

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