A month or two ago, I noted that you shouldn’t necessarily believe retailers when they claimed to have low stocks. Talk is cheap and if everyone believed retailers, they could take advantage of customers and trick everyone into buying at full price. (Also checkout the January Kellogg Insight.) Turns out, ski areas having been caught playing this game! (Study: Ski Resorts Tell Tall Tales About Deep Snow, NPR, Jan 4):
Researchers at Dartmouth College have confirmed something that skiers and snowboarders have long suspected: Resorts sometimes boost their snowfall reports to attract more customers.
Eric Zitzewitz and Jon Zinman are both associate professors of economics and fans of snow sports. In their report, Wintertime for Deceptive Advertising, they found that ski areas report more snowfall on the weekends, and that there is no such “weekend effect” in government weather data.
Zinman says they gathered snowfall totals from ski area Web sites and then compared those numbers with government weather data. According to Zinman, resorts reported 23 percent more snow on weekends. And the resorts that had the most to gain by fluffing up their numbers did more of it. According to Zinman, resorts with more people living within driving distance inflated their numbers more, as did resorts that don’t offer money-back guarantees.
The most interesting part of the story is that snow inflation is down in recent years. Why? The iPhone! “Catching fibbing ski areas” is among the things for which there is an app. It was released while the Dartmouth ski bums professors were doing their study:
“Once that came online, exaggeration by resorts fell very sharply,” Zinman says. “And [it] fell all the more sharply at resorts that have good iPhone reception.”
I guess a little customer monitoring goes a long way.