Pretty Good Tours, Ltd. Expands Its Base

The executive staff of Pretty Good Tours, Ltd. had assembled in the CEO’s office. CEO Francine Fillistin sipped her coffee as she waited for the rest of the staff to gather. This was going to be an important meeting in the posh paneled office overlooking downtown.

Everyone seemed to be present. Everyone, that is, except for Felix Earnest, who was always late. Suddenly the door flew open; Felix tumbled through and found the last vacant chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I was on an important call.”

A few smirks seemed to be appearing and disappearing on the faces of his fellow staff members. “Yes, of course, I understand; one has one’s priorities,” said Ms. Fillistin. It was time for her to begin.

“Thank you all for being here. Of course, you have to be here, don’t you?” She emitted what passed for a laugh in her circle. “I have called you here to come up with some new ideas about how to increase our share of the river cruise market. I have some fresh ideas that I think Pretty Good Tours, Ltd. might be able to use in the foreseeable future.”

“Here is what I see as our chief problem. There are many companies that offer river cruises all over the world, in Europe, Asia, South America; heavens, even here in North America we have rivers and the potential for river cruises.”

“You and I know that there is only one tour company that advertises on television. Yes, that’s the tour company that everyone thinks of if you say you are going on a river cruise. ‘Are you using the company with the pink and puce boats?’ a friend may ask. And then you say, ‘No, I prefer Pretty Good Tours, Ltd. It’s actually a pretty good company and since they don’t spend money on advertising, their tours are cheaper.’” Ms. Fillistin looked around the room at the rapt faces of her staff. She continued.

“But no one really wants to boast about going on a cheaper river cruise. If you are going on a cruise you want to imply that you have just spent a ton of money—and that you can afford it. So, the first thing I think we should do is raise our prices to some exorbitant level and then offer great deals to customers that will bring the prices down to the usual rates. That way, our customers can with good conscience quote the higher price to their friends.”

The staff nodded in agreement.

“Next, I think we need to find sub-groups of people who are not considered by other tour companies. People who are left out. The disabled, for example.”

Felix Earnest spoke up. “Ms. Fillistin, actually XYZ River Tours offers special arrangements for the disabled.”

“Oh.” Ms. Fillistin sounded disappointed. She furrowed her brow. “Well, are there other groups not served by tour companies?”

Felix blurted out, “Yes, the insane. No one organizes tours for them.”

Ms. Fillistin looked down her long nose at him. “Felix, I do not believe that we call people insane these days. They may have mental-health issues; yes, issues, that’s what they call them. Or they may say a person is bi-polar. Or schizophrenic. Somehow I cannot imagine a tour group composed of bi-polar customers. After all, if they take their medication, they are just like you and me. Isn’t that right, staff?”

Everyone nodded vigorously.

Ms. Fillistin continued. “Let’s get more creative. Think outside the box, people!”

The staff squirmed. Melody looked downcast. Jeffrey looked worried. Gladys Ann seemed on the verge of tears. Only Felix looked happy. Suddenly he burst forth with what he thought was the best idea he had ever had.

“I know. How about a river cruise for the claustrophobic? Nobody is ashamed of being claustrophobic, the way they might be if they were schizophrenic or bi-polar or sociopathic or something like that. People smile when they admit they’re claustrophobic.”

The staff looked at Felix with varying expressions of disbelief and wonder. Ms. Fillistin, on the other hand, looked interested. “Yes, go on. How would such a tour work?”

Felix seemed to be daydreaming. Then he suddenly said, “The boat would have to be remodeled for such a tour. No small spaces. Every room would have to be large. Maybe eliminate doors. No, that might be too drastic.”

“So we would have fewer people on the ship and therefore make less money?” asked Ms. Fillistin.

“Not necessarily. You could have groups of claustrophobics sharing the same room, but only if they wanted to. And we could charge more for the larger rooms.”

“Any ideas as to how the program would differ for these people?”

“No trips to castles with spiral staircases or dungeons. No trips to churches with dark confessionals. No trips to buildings with small elevators. No movies about prison cells.”

The staff all looked expectantly at the CEO.

“Felix, I like the concept. But would there be enough people to fill one of our ships?”

Melody spoke up. “How about reserving the bottom deck for acrophobics?” Ms. Fillistin looked puzzled. “You know, people afraid of high places.”

Ms. Fillistin’s forehead unfurrowed itself. “Ah yes. Do go on!”

“And we wouldn’t really have to modify our excursions on land very much if the acrophobics and the claustrophobics were on the same boat. The acrophobics wouldn’t go to the top of a castle, but the claustrophobics could do that. The claustrophobics wouldn’t go into dungeons, but the acrophobics would be perfectly happy there.”

“Interesting. But our boats have three decks. Who stays in the middle?”

Felix thought for a moment. “The slightly neurotic. They won’t need much special treatment.”

“And you think anyone is going to self-identify as slightly neurotic?”

“They will if they get a special price; I’d call myself slightly neurotic if I could get, say $500, off my bill.”

Ms. Fillistin looked severe. “Felix, I’m thinking of firing you.” Then she brightened up. “ Or giving you a promotion.”