A recent indecent reminded me of the value of the quality-pricing philosophy that my travel company, Smiling Albino, uses for the services we provide in SE Asia.

An old college friend (we’ll call him Michael) from the US came to Bangkok a short while ago with his wife and three kids. To expedite a smooth arrival we suggested Suvarnabhumi’s Fast-Track immigration services for his family, in which a representative meets you at the plane, escorts you through a private customs channel, helps retrieve baggage, and liaises with your van driver to get you on your way. It’s a great service that allows travelers to relax in those blurry first moments at a foreign airport. Ideally Fast-Track means you are off to the hotel in your vehicle just minutes from landing. 

Michael opted for the Fast-Track option, despite being understandably shocked at the price of nearly $200USD for the family, plus the cost of the van transfer. And right on cue upon landing, it worked seamlessly, and they were whisked like rock stars from the plane through the airport to their waiting van. Everything was perfect!

Except it wasn’t. 

Traveling 30 hours with a family in tow can be exhausting, and in his sleepless/jetlag/arrival stupor, Michael accidentally tipped the Fast-Track staff $300, rather than the 300THB ($10) he intended.

It could happen to anyone, and I’ve made similar mistakes using foreign currency without focus in the past. Certainly coming as far as Southeast Asia increases the chances. But here’s the kicker: Michael is one of the smartest, most-successful people I know. He’s a smart, street-savvy CEO of a significant multi-national, has offices around the world, and travels regularly. He once lived in SE Asia a decade ago during start-up phase. The point is, Michael is accustomed to international travel, and as a father of three, used to juggling multiple plates at once.

We tend to underestimate the effects of fatigue, but also the effects of gliding into a holiday mind-set with its euphoria and carefree release from our regular routine. Sometimes we get uncalibrated and don’t realize it. As an insurance perk, this is one of the benefits of deluxe extras like Fast-Track, or like having a professional guide meeting you on arrival. They aren’t there to explain the weather, they’re there to add value, ease the transition, and watch your back. 

Michael soon realized what he’d done once settling into the van on the way to the hotel. It was midnight, but he emailed us immediately to see if we could help. Here’s where the quality pricing model of our business kicks in. First thing in the morning our operations team discussed the situation with our trusted airport supplier, and over a couple of phone calls the mistake came to light, transparency reigned (and likely a few smiles shared) and our airport partner arranged to wire the $300USD back to us immediately, such that we could return it to our client by mid-day.

Too easy? Why?

What if Fast-Track and the arrival transfer had been booked via an online agent or travel portal, or arranged on-site (which incidentally is more expensive)? What if it had all been outsourced to the lowest bidder with a strong SEO presence but little in the way of supply chain integrity or back-office quality assurance?  You’d be on your own, in a part of the world where English isn’t strong, and which has a tendency for a pass-the-buck outsourcing model. Good-bye $300USD. Michael’s holiday would have begun in frustration, with little recourse to recover.

Within hours he was fully refunded while riding a long tail boat through the old canals of Bangkok, feeding fish with his family, and basking in the memories that travel is supposed to be all about. The peace-of-mind knowing that we had his back, and could rely on our integrity-based partnerships, ensured that no one lost here. Michael appreciates us even more, and we, in turn, are thankful for our great airport supplier. We can’t wait to send more business to them as a demonstration of that commitment. 

Anyone can book a day trip or a transfer or a flight or a hotel. Often the lowest rates comes with risks. That might be fine with things go right. But what about when they don’t? Quality pricing should ensure there is a layer of integrity built in to costs which pay dividends when it counts. Think of it like an invisible, built-in insurance policy.

So, some frills we suggest may cost more than the lowest online bidders. I’m fine with that. Services are priced such that people can treat their supply chain with a level of dignity which results in accountability and deliverance. Had Michael opted to save $25USD on Fast-Track, he’d likely be out $300USD. Because he trusted our brand promise and supply chain, everyone came out ahead, and the goodwill only means more opportunities for everyone in the future.

It was a good reminder about why we do what we do, who we choose to work with on the ground, and ultimately our quality commitment to our guests. We run our business with pricing integrity so that you win. Everyone wins. We’ve got your back.