$1 For Air? | Unskippable - Marketing Keynote Speaker - Jim Kukral

$1 For Air?

My tire got a little bit low the other day so I stopped by the local gas station for a fill-up. Here’s what I found.


Yep. $1 for air.

Obviously that price is over the top for me and I’m guessing you as well. Sure, I MUST have the air, and they know that, so they can charge whatever they want, however, to me that price is outrageous and I’ll never go to that gas station again because of it.

There are a couple of points at work here.

#1: Luxury vs. Need
There is a definite difference between selling luxury items and need items and how you can price them. I NEED gas to get to work. I NEEDED air so my tire wouldn’t pop. When you’re selling needs, you can price pretty much how you wish, assuming you don’t have a competitor offering a lower priced choice. Because of this, I was forced to pay the $1.00 to get my tires filled up, even though I believe the price was too high.

The other side of this equation is selling luxury items. Water is a need, but bottled water is a luxury item. In other words, you don’t HAVE to have bottled water, but it’s nice to have. In this example, the people who sell bottled water can again charge way too much for something we don’t really need to have.

Are you selling luxury or needs? Really think about it. Then price accordingly. But be careful, read point #2.

#2: It’s Easy To Create Customer Evangelists & Even Easier To Lose Them
Just because I paid the $1.00 for air does not mean the gas station wins. In fact, they lose, big time. I will now purposely not go to that gas station for gas or food or drinks or anything, ever again. Why? Because they’re greedy. Why not make the air free? It’s air! If the air was free I’d remember that and make sure to go there more often. I’d buy my gas there and other things. I’d always remember that they gave me something I needed.

Think about the little silly things you charge customers for that you should probably be giving away for free. The barber should probably include the hot straight-razor shave at the end of every haircut. The restaurant should probably make kids drinks free instead of $2.99 on top of their meal.

Consider these examples:

  • What if a restaurant charged for salt/pepper and ketchup and mustard?
  • What if your mechanic charged you to read the magazines in the lobby while they changed your oil?

How much money are you really making from selling these extra things? Isn’t it possible that your customer is wondering why you’re trying to gouge them for every single little thing? At what point does your customer get fed up with this system and decide to take their business someplace else? How much revenue will you lose long-term because you’ve lost that customer?

These are important questions and thing to consider. Don’t charge $1.00 for air.

About the Author

Del Younglas - May 18, 2010

Local tire purveyor Conrad’s feels your pain and recently started offering air the way it was meant to be: free. And kudos to them for advertising it on the radio and their website http://www.econrads.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=10. I will go out of my way to stop by and use their free air and more than likely purchase my next set of tires from them. I wish I was the marketing team who came up with that idea!

    Jim Kukral - May 18, 2010

    Interesting to know Del. I will now stop by there next time.

Stacey Hylen - May 18, 2010

Hi Jim,

I would be gassing up somewhere else too!

But I have paid for air before at an oxygen bar in the Venetian in Vegas. It was an amazing experience full of upsells that they had built into the experience. You could buy the massagers they used , power shots and they took your credit card at the end.

On the other hand, there is a restaurant that ticks me off that they charge for lemon! This is at a fish shack that you eat outside at picnic tablesbut has sit down restaurant prices, $17 for fish and chips. Can I PLEASE HAVE some more lemon?

I think there is a line between maximizing profits with upsells and serving your clients that business owners need to look at ways to do both at the same time.

chris - May 18, 2010

I have actually been to a restaurant that did charge for ketchup packets. I was in Toronto for an event, and a few of us went to a local burger place for some food. We asked for some ketchup to go and they charged us like 10c or whatever the canadian version of that amount is. We were pissed. But, they were near a college, so we figured maybe the students took advantage of it, so the restaurant did that as a protective measure, not as a way to gouge its customers….still we were ticked.

Nancy - May 19, 2010

There is usually a button somewhere on the unit that starts it up for free. If you buy gas you can ask them where it is.

I too was dumbfounded the first time I can across an air pump that wanted my money. Often people have a preference re the gas station they fill up at. This put me off my usual pick.

Dave Starr - May 20, 2010

Amazing how short sighted some businesses can be. When I lived in Colorado, I used a copy and print shop right in front of our local courthouse … even though it was a ways from my business and I had to use a parking meter? Why?

Becuase once when I had to go to court I was late and desperate for a place to park and change for the meter. I walked down the block and the copy shop had a sign .. "Parking Meter change gladly given".

That one free transaction bought then years of business. Ask what you are doing for customers … or what you might …

DanielT - May 24, 2010

Even though you try to find another station to go for, if you need air NOW, you need air NOW. And you will have to pay the $1.00 for it even if you don't like it. Then…..you just breathe in and hope that when you need it again, you are near free air.

» My thoughts on the Gulf oil spill… (heartbreak and fury)… - Mom Goes Green - May 28, 2010

[…] I, for one, will never patronize a BP for any reason. I understand that all U.S. BPs are franchised and some may say that this will only hurt the business owner but, regardless, they are still supported by BP and I will not give them my money.  There are too many other choices and I will allow myself to run out of gas and walk before I stop at one of their gas stations or stores (my husband already boycotted them recently for charging $1 for air!). […]

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