Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard

What Travelocity knows is that every time I go to New York, I book a four-star hotel—and usually through them. When the email popped up and said “Recommended for you. The Jane.” I was shocked to see an accompanying visual of the smallest hotel room known to man. It looked like a room on a train!

Travelocity is my “go to” travel site. I was a very early adopter and over the years have used them to book airline flights, cars and hotels. You’d think by now they’d know my travel tastes and preferences, so I was totally surprised when I got an email recently that recommended a two-star hotel in New York City.

Okay, I’ll admit I had recently stayed at a two-star hotel in a small town outside of Yosemite, but Travelocity didn’t know that because I had been price shopping and booked that hotel through

But what Travelocity does know is that every time I go to New York, I book a four-star hotel—and usually through them. When the email popped up and said “Recommended for you. The Jane.” (sidebar: This garnered a first reaction of “Hey, Travelocity, my name is NOT Jane!”—clearly glancing at a headline doesn’t mean one always reads it accurately), I was shocked to see an accompanying visual of the smallest hotel room known to man. It looked like a room on a train!

It was a picture of a single bed next to a wall, suitcase on the floor next to it and a door (hopefully leading to a bathroom and not a hallway with a shared bath) that looked like Melissa McCarthy would have trouble squeezing through.

With a price of $105 a night and only 2 stars, I knew it wasn’t a hotel I would ever consider—after all, this is New York City. The next hotel on the list was the Wyndham at $255 a night (three and a half stars) and the one after that was the Trump SoHo at $525 a night (five stars).

Surely Travelocity has the intelligence to leverage their database full of my years of hotel bookings to suggest hotels closer to my past purchase behavior. If not, shame on them.

They could be sending me intelligent—nay, relevant—emails with suggestions for hotels that are having a sale (You’ve enjoyed the Hotel Mela in the past, now enjoy it again and save!) or airlines with a deal (You’ve booked Delta to New York in August in the past, now plan ahead and bring a friend for only $50). You catch my drift.

I’m sure the folks at The Jane paid Travelocity a lot of money to promote their hotel at the top of the weekly email, but come on guys. Travelocity’s marketing team needs to help their clients be a little more intelligent about selection of the target audience.

Instead of choosing people who’ve booked a hotel in New York in the past (which is probably a very large pool of targets), why not either:

A) Only select people who have booked a two-star room in New York; or

B) Craft your message to us three or four star people that says something like this: “New York hotels don’t have to be expensive. Check out this interesting option: The Jane.” And follow it up with one of the Traveler Reviews (that I don’t need to click-through to read) because this hotel sounds far more interesting after you read the “Quirky Hotel” and “One of my best travel experiences.” reviews. That way, I might actually learn more about this suggested hotel without a pre-disposed bias (remember, my finger is poised over the “delete” button!).

The lesson here is: If you’re an online seller of goods and services, you have a wealth of customer insight at your fingertips. Make sure you’re leveraging it—in an intelligent way—and you’ll be sure to keep customers and fans coming back for more.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

15 thoughts on “Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard”

  1. Thank you all for your comments on this article, both the positive and the negative. We will keep them in mind as we plan the articles and blogs to bring you in the future.

    I appreciate that some of our readers enjoyed the subject line, but also that some of you did not, and some were clearly offended by it. I am sorry we caused such offense. That’s never our goal here. This headline is strongly connected to the content of the post and helps build the points in it, and that’s why we chose not to change it. With that said, I can see how it could be taken out of context as a subject line, and again I’m sorry for that.

    I have deleted a couple comments that we felt got too personal. We welcome debate, but please try to keep it civil and focused on the article.

    For those of you who have chosen to unsubscribe for this one subject line, I understand, but I do hope you’ll reconsider.

    Thorin McGee
    Target Marketing

  2. "OMG! She’s on to me!" – I thought this headline was directed at me because I subscribe to the Target Marketing newsletter but never buy anything or attend any webinars. Check that, I attended one. 🙂

  3. Wow! I’m no prude, but the potty mouth subject line of today’s Target Marketing email is not something one would expect to have pop up in a company inbox. Just sayin…

  4. Nice article Carolyn. This is a symptom when "impressions served" is the metric for success – and the revenue model online.

    Publishers get paid on impressions, but what if there aren’t enough relevant viewers to advertise to given what the client has money to pay for?

    Given the choice, most publishers take the money and serve up irrelevance… just this once, right?

  5. Not many years back, I stayed in a Lisle IL hotel for 40 nights per year over a 4 year period. Invariably, the ever-changing front desk staff would ask me, "Have you stayed with us before?" at each check-in. Not so different from promotions, the retail or customer experience is boosted by recognition and relevancy. Come on people, you have the data and the systems to leverage are available. Use them in all your interactions so we’ll be able to say, "Hey, you know me!"

  6. Was about to take offense at your name calling in the headline before reading the content.
    I thought you were giving me an investment opportunity that cost very little.

    While I was a little hurt at your contempt for one my personal qualities it still wasn’t enough to prevent me from wanting to check out a low cost money making opportunity.

    But it was only about motels. Rats, I’m so disappointed.

  7. God bless you, Carolyn for coming up with the funniest subject line I’ve read for yonks. And to hell with Milqutoast Adams. The sort of person who would probably vote for thye return of Prohibition.

  8. Are these commenters kidding? Offended by "cheap bastard?"
    TV and the internet are filled with language far more offensive and everyone just shrugs it off
    I feel the headline is perfect, and if you are offended by it you are way beyond prude and a hypocrite.

  9. The writer used a little edgy humor to cut through the clutter of a bazillion e-mails everyone gets every day…and there are actually people out who got nothing more from the article than being offended by the headline?!! They need Target Marketing more than most.

  10. Oh, good grief! If you’re being exposed to a word that you’ve never seen, heard or USED before, then maybe you SHOULD unsubscribe. It’s not like they’re referencing A-T-M or Dirty Sanchez or something.

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