The best deals are hidden


I landed at Oslo Airport some weeks ago. My destination was the center of town, but Oslo (like most cities) positioned its main airport way on the outskirts of town (over 20 miles away in this case), so I needed to negotiate my way there.

I got there just fine, but in the process I found a small-but-useful lesson about finding deals, advertising, and being a savvy consumer.

Take the train (but which one?)

So how to get to town? Taking a taxi was right out, of course. This being Europe, I assumed that there would be a train that would connect the airport directly with downtown (unlike less civilized places like New York City).

And right I was. Around the airport were giant signs announcing the “Flytoget”. This train promised service to central Oslo every ten minutes. A large electronic sign announced how long until the next train, so as to emphasize the frequency.

Flytoget comes every 10 minutes, so sayeth the big sign.
Yes, that is every 10 minutes.

I wandered over to the ticket area and examined a rail map. I was surprised to see that lots of trains went to Oslo central, not just the Flytoget.

Hmm, looks like the L12 and R10 will do the trick quite nicely.
Looks like the L12 and R10 will do the trick quite nicely.

I went to investigate and found an interesting scene. In front of me were two completely different sets of ticket machines. On the right, giant orange signs for the Flytoget, including people in orange shirts milling around to help travelers. On the left, some plain old ticket machines. No signs and no one to help you.

Oooh, shiny
Oooh, shiny!

I used both machines to price out a ticket, and found something interesting: The Flytoget machines would sell me a ticket into town for 170 kroner ($30) while the “plain” machine would sell me a ticket for about half that price. Mind you, this was to the exact same station. The “regular” trains ran slightly less frequently, but aside from that, I couldn’t tell the difference between them, short of the color scheme.

I bought a ticket for the “regular” train, and got into town maybe 10 minutes later than if I had taken the Flytoget.

Be a deal-spotter

I bring this up to point out that the good deals are almost never publicized strongly. When you see something marked as a “great deal” you may wish to look around and see if there are other deals to be had, ones that might be better but less prominent.

An example (perhaps less prevalent these days) is trying to get high-speed internet from a phone company without getting phone service. As of a few years ago when I was shopping for this, I found that what I wanted was effectively unlinked from the rest of their site. The pages were there, but you could not get there unless you knew the exact web site address. Clearly, that was a deal that they didn’t want you to know about. And it makes sense, because they made more money when they forced you to buy services you didn’t want or need. If you thought that was the only option, you’d be more likely to go for it.

In this case, Norwegian Rail was clearly hyping an expensive product with a glaring problem: it was unnecessary, effectively a duplication of service. The solution was marketing: make the signs larger and more prominent, give it a nice subtle coating of bright orange, and steer people to assume that it is the only option.

I’ve long said that if they are advertising it, you don’t need it. To this, here is an addendum; if they are advertising it, there is often a better deal that they are not advertising. Don’t be fooled by the big orange sign.

But enough about me. Have you found a good deal that was being drowned out by a more prominent and worse deal?


  1. shetzel

    Well played, sir!

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