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Everyone remembers the Aussie electronics entrepreneur and explorer Dick Smith... right?
It would have been very hard to have been an electronics enthusiast in Australia or New Zealand during the 1970s and 1980s without having bought one or two of Dick's kitsets or a bagful of components from one of his stores.
After selling his electronics empire to Woolworths many years ago, Dick invested his time and efforts into passions such as flying his helicopter around the world and engaging in "worthy" causes. It's hard to find anyone who is more patriotic than good old Dick.
A month or so ago, Dick posted a video to his YouTube channel in which he heavily criticised the effect that (mainly) US-based online booking sites were having on local Aussie (and Kiwi) accommodation operators.
Then, for some reason, that video disappeared.
Fortunately, thanks to the power of the interwebs, copies still exist.
Now if you listen to Dick's impassioned rant, you'll see that he honestly believes that these big US online sites are ripping the profits out of local motels by forcing them to pay huge commissions -- or be left off the listings.
Dick also rips into Google (parent company of YouTube) and I can't help but wonder if this critique has resulted in the original video from mysteriously vanishing.
But is Dick correct?
Or is he just living in the 20th century?
Globalisation is one of the buzzwords of the 21st century and one that New Zealand has willingly embraced.
One of the key aspects of globalisation is the promotion of cross-boarder trade and isn't that exactly what's happening with these booking agencies?
Surely it could be argued that if the motels had a problem with these online booking agencies then all they need do is withdraw and set up their own equivalent service -- and indeed this is very true.
If the motels of Australia were really serious about sending so much of their hard-earned money off to US-based companies then they need only say "no thanks" and spend a few grand setting up their own Aussie-only booking site. If the big US companies had *no* Aussie motels on their list then consumers would have no option but to use that Aussie site and then "everyone's a winner" (to quote that great Aussie movie The Castle).
Monopolistic practices work both ways, if you're smart enough to realise that.
I like Dick Smith a lot... but sometimes I think he loses sight of the big picture and his rampant patriotismitis clouds his objectivity.
Instead of calling on the public to boycott these US-based agencies, why not call on the moteliers to simply set up their own online booking site and withdraw en-masse from those nasty thieving US-based ones? It's the Aussie motels that are losing cash so why don't *they* take the actions needed to remedy the situation? Why place the burden on the shoulders of consumers who are just looking for a good deal and a convenient way to pre-book their accommodation?
In fact, given Dick's philanthropic and entrepreneurial inclinations, why doesn't he fund the creation of an "All Aussie" online booking agency? By wresting the business away from the yanks, he can charge a smaller commission and make sure the money stays in Australia (everyone's a winner! -- remember?)
Sadly, I think that in this case, Dick's just happier to show his English ancestry and have a bit of a whine about the situation without actually doing anything (other than creating a rant video).
Come on Dick... get off your bum and *do* something tangible. Create the Dick Smith Aussie Booking Site and support the Motel industry that you've told us you have such great love for. Do it properly and even *you* will make a bit of dosh out of it -- then you can buy a new helicopter or spend that money on one of your many other worthy causes.
What do readers think? Who's right... Dick or me?
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