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What about the customers?

  • September 21st, 2015

Where is the interest of consumers in this stuff story of a Motelier Association call for nationwide local government regulations to nobble private bach rental competition with moteliers?

The story approaches the issue as one of competition – moteliers facing commercial rates and zoning and other unspecified unfair disadvantages, against bach owners (represented by Trade Me) taking their trade.

No one in this story reflects on the real losers should councils follow the lead of:

The Thames-Coromandel District Council [which] proposed a $200 “bach tax” for anyone renting a home as short-term accommodation, which was then put on hold after a backlash from property owners and booking services.

The losers will be the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who miss out on the experience of ‘going to the bach’ if owners decide instead to withhold their baches from the market.

In typical balanced reporting the story cites two sides - what the bach owners get, and what moteliers don’t like. But there is no mention of the primary losers when regulators reduce supply of something people choose to pay for – the experience itself.

The real loss in being forced back to motels and family friends is the lost right to share in the privileges of being a New Zealander without being a member of the bach owning caste. Instead of it being a privilege, most of us can taste bach experience without tugging forelocks. A couple of families can be the temporary exclusive occupiers of some of that magic space. We can delight in someone else’s decor, check their books, be amused by their home handywork, imagine them enjoying the wind protected corner, the swing under the tree, the grape vine’s last bunch just ahead of the wasps, and many others, all unique, unlike the row of motel rooms in their arid car-park commons .

The Stuff report’s absence of instinctive respect for choice and the consumer is sadly not an astonishing omission – most reports of taxi industry unhappiness with Uber suffer similarly. The issue is reported as a fight by an incumbent business for survival against an interloper able to ‘cut corners’ or otherwise unfairly take advantage of a gap in law that ‘protects’ consumers.

Until I tried it I had no idea of how much better the Uber service is. Price is only a fraction of the Uber advantage. Being able to see the car coming on my phone, to know the driver’s name, his car type and number plate, his phone number are all new ‘privileges’. Getting out at the destination without payment is a further joy.

I gladly trade the spurious quality assurance and safety ’protection’ of the taxi licencing system, for the reputation based rating service offered by wonderful Uber.

But the regulators will be sure they are doing God’s work when they interfere. The poor moteliers are probably the realists. They should have been calling for freedoms equal to those of bach owners. Fat chance. Instead they see their only choice as to ask for equally damaging burdens on the competition. Why should they care about consumers – goverment only pretends to.

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