Famous Last Words: The Selling of TSA Precheck
When the 9/11 terrorists struck, airport security changed dramatically. Travelers were urged to get to the airport four hours in advance of their flights.
A month later, I had to be in Chicago for the DMA convention. I wasn't scared of flying. With the increased security, this was probably the safest time to fly in the history of commercial aviation. However, I opted not to go through the airport check-in mayhem and instead bought round-trip Amtrak passage with a sleeping compartment.
How was it? In two words: damn pleasant. I relaxed, worked, ate so-so meals, read and really slept. The train was several hours late, but so what?
Although airport screening is far more organized now, it's still a nuisance. Whenever I go through the process, how I envy those perfect, practiced pirouettes performed by George Clooney in "Up in the Air."
New Senior Benefits: Smart Marketing
In its zeal to make traveling safer after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) randomly pulled every Nth person from the line and did a random search. Old folks in wheelchairs, as well as small children, were patted down. The resultant publicity was disastrous.
So for those of us over 75, the TSA has lightened up the rules. Oldsters can:
• Leave on shoes and light jackets through security checkpoints.
• Undergo an additional pass through Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) to clear any anomalies detected during screening.
On several recent flights, Peggy and I found ourselves in the new TSA Precheck program line. It has even looser rules.
For years, Peggy and I were road warriors. We flew a lot and never made trouble. Presumably, some database recognized us as no threat. So maybe the Feds were giving us a free sample of TSA Precheck. Not only did we have to go through fewer hassles, but also the TSA Precheck lines were a lot shorter.
TSA Precheck Website
The Homeland Security folks wanted to sell us on joining TSA Precheck. I went online and discovered if we visited any of 250 application centers nationwide, filled out an application, showed some government ID, gave them fingerprints and parted with $85, we could be part of the TSA Precheck program.
The Federal Government Is an Abysmal Salesman
I saw the following line on the site: "Not sure which [Department of Homeland Security] DHS Trusted Traveler program is right for you? View a comparison chart of the four DHS Trusted Traveler programs."
Here's where the Feds' marketing falls apart: Four different programs—one TSA program and three customs and border protection programs—are offered, ranging in price from $50 to $122.25. The chart was confusing as hell.
Too many choices; would I need TSA Precheck to cover me for overseas travel, or would I have to enroll in a second program? And which one? Further, all fees cover five years—a huge selling point which the amateur writer failed to mention in the early promo. So $85 is really a good deal!
Takeaways to Consider
- If you are a competent direct marketer, the government needs your skills.
- Always use professionals. Going with the lowest bidder is lousy policy.
- Don't offer too many choices.
- "Confuse 'em, ya lose 'em." —Paul Goldberg
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is "Write Everything Right!" Visit him at dennyhatch.com or contact him at email@example.com.