Tonight I flew back home after a few days in Sydney. Whilst up there I
stayed at the hotel I used to frequent in a previous corporate job. It
was nice to be back. On my previous trip to Sydney I booked a hotel at
the very last minute. It wasn’t the nicest place I’d ever stayed at.
Far from it.

That particular hotel was obviously a lower-cost option than the hotel
I checked out of this morning. Still, I felt it was not even close to
being worth what I paid for my stay. For one thing there were no tea
or coffee making facilities. Now despite the fact that for almost the
entire stay I was not in the hotel (the only times I was there I was
either asleep, about to go to sleep, or just woken up and about the
leave) and I had little or no chance to make a cup of tea in my hotel
room, I would have liked to have seen that I at least had the option
to. I would have been happy to pay a little more for that too.

I think I would have been quite happy to pay perhaps $25 more per
night. I was only there for two nights but that’s still $50 the hotel
could have got out of me just by supplying a couple of teabags and a
kettle. And a cup. All of which would have actually gone unused.

Nothing in life is free.

Everything has a cost, and a value.

People like it when things are offered to them for free. Free things
can be valued more than comparative items that are not free but which
are extremely cheap.

Being offered a free item makes people feel that they are the
recipient of a generous gesture. Being offered an extremely cheap item
can make people feel that they are having a low-quality piece of
rubbish offloaded onto them. Being the recipient of generosity stirs reciprocity. For a customer,
this reciprocity could be expressed as an increased willingness to pay
for something else on offer. Of course that other purchase just might
include the cost of the free offering. (It’s worth repeating: Nothing
in life is free).

Some teabags and the chance to make a cup of tea would have made me
feel a little more valued, and my stay a little more appreciated. I
would have responded by happily paying more and being more content
about the room rate. I might have even gone back. Instead, this time I
stayed on the other side of the harbour. Way out of my way but I was
more than happy. There were teabags and a kettle in my room too.

Business should always keep the power of “free” in mind when looking
to increase customer engagement.