A lesson in choosing value over price.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a miser. From hoarding my Monopoly money as a child to receiving my haircuts from beauty students well into adulthood, I’ve always preferred to sacrifice in order to save a buck. It took meeting my husband to finally convince me of the virtues of spending a bit more to ensure a better experience—that and an asymmetrical haircut. Under his tutelage, I have tried to evaluate products and services based on value instead of price.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard and I’m particularly stubborn when it comes to purchasing plane tickets. After all, isn’t flying any airline a chore these days? Therefore, when I recently had to purchase a ticket to a friend’s wedding, I turned to Orbitz. For those of you who haven’t used Orbitz, it is price comparison site for travel. It’s an enabler for penny-pinchers, like myself.

Upon entering my flight details, I was thrilled to discover a ticket nearly $100 less than the other airlines. The reward section of my brain lit up and I purchased the ticket without hesitation, patting myself on the back for my cleverness. As I would soon discover, the difference in price should have set off alarm bells, instead of prompting a happy dance.

I soon found this airline prides itself on its minimal approach to travel. Instead of a flat ticket price that includes all basic services one comes to expect from airlines, everything was a line item fee: printing your ticket at the airport, checking OR carrying on luggage, even a glass of water on the plane. With all the additional fees, I ended up spending more than I saved, and was left with a horrible memory.

The Benefits of Choosing Value Over Price

My experience with this particular airline was a big wake-up call for me. As an employee of a company that prides itself on providing excellent customer experiences, I was surprised at how willing I was to give that up to save a few bucks (which I didn’t even save in the end). Price speaks to the instant gratification part of our brains, often to the detriment of our long-term, overall happiness. Consider the benefits of evaluating products and services on value over price using my airline experience as an example:

Less Risk
I was familiar with nearly all the airlines Orbitz listed when I performed my search—some from first-hand experience, others by reputation. By choosing to go with the unfamiliar, newer airline merely on price, I ended up taking a big risk. When reviewing products or service, it’s important to consider reputation and level of risk as part of a company’s overall value. Take a look at reviews, request references and read through customer case studies to determine if a company is the right fit for your expectations. Then, you won’t be left in the lurch if a company suddenly disappears or a product isn’t delivered as advertised.

At times, the airline came across as very unprofessional—unclear departures times, miscommunication about luggage identification, etc. Along with reputation, knowing you are in good hands adds a lot of value to the customer experience. While reviews and references can indicate a company’s expertise, it’s also a good idea to read through their blog, search for contributed articles to external sites, or browse through their leadership bios. Being a thought leader in your industry or field is a sign you’ll contribute more value to a customer through knowledge and experience.

A Better Overall Experience
A dramatically lower price is a good indicator corners were cut elsewhere—in the case of my discount flight, comfort, customer service and convenience. There’s so much to do and so little time—do we really want to spend it annoyed and frustrated with poor service? If I had purchased the best value instead of the lowest price, I would have saved myself the time spent being stressed and anxious over hidden fees and unclear departure times. Spending a little bit more upfront on a company with an established reputation and expertise will save you not only from hidden fees, but save your energy so you can focus on what matters.

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