Flash sale: A $49 colonoscopy

Cleveland took a major economic hit a few years back when United Airlines cut most of its flights from our city. An airport is the heart of a metropolis. Lack of direct flights means that business meetings, leisure travel, conventions and trade shows will likely opt for more convenient locales. This was a business decision for United which I am sure was rational. Nevertheless, their gain was our loss.

As a result, we have had several low-cost carriers swoop in to gain market share, like Frontier, Spirit, JetBlue and Allegiant. Not a day goes by that I don’t receive an email blast from one of them announcing fares “so low” that it seems simply not possible. Many of the stated fares are less than it would cost me to drive to the destinations. How do they do it?

Of course, the fare price that is stated is not what you will pay. The total cost of your flight has been fractionated, resulting in an a la carte payment system where every additional service adds to the cost. The airlines justify this with idiotic PR pronouncements that state that this payment system serves the customer who can only purchase the services he actually needs.

The fallacy here is that most travelers will need to purchase several airline services. That low bait price is deceptive as nearly no traveler will pay it. I suppose that if you were traveling without luggage, were departing at convenient times such as 2 a.m., eased yourself into the commodious middle seat and brought a carry on piece the same size of the pencil cases we used in elementary school, then you could actually pay the base price. If however, you have any checked luggage or carry-on items, want to choose your own seat, want enough legroom to allow some circulation to reach your toes, want a beverage, want an oxygen mask that works or want a flotation device that floats, then you will pay for every one of these luxurious upgrades.

Even with all of their pick-pocketing, the costs are still generally less than conventional airlines. But the gap between them is less than you might think.

Perhaps, this is how we should market colonoscopies.

COLONOSCOPY for $49!

Once we’ve signed up the customers, we would review some of the optional services that they may wish to purchase to enhance their colonoscopy experience. Just like with the airlines, they are free to bypass these extras and can then pay our low base price. Here are some of the high-end upgrades available to those who want a Cadillac colonoscopy:

  • Greeting from the receptionist
  • A properly disinfected instrument
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Sterile needles
  • Economy-class anesthesia
  • Business-class anesthesia
  • Treatment for side effects of anesthesia
  • Monitoring vital signs beyond initial free blood pressure check
  • Sober nurses
  • Charge for withdrawing the colonoscope (base charge only includes insertion of the instrument)
  • Use of the restroom before or after the procedure
  • Forward report to the referring physician
  • Explain results to your family members (base charge includes ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ gestures only)

There’s no reason that this pricing approach couldn’t apply to your business. Soon, we’ll be reading ads for new cars for $2,500, vacations to exotic beaches for $149, five-star restaurant meals for $7 and a remodeled kitchen for just $99!

Why not just tell us the truth? How much extra would that cost?

Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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