Sun, Feb 19, 2017 - Page 6 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: Certain unhappiness for little gain

Another serious tour bus accident has happened on one of Taiwan’s highways.

In the search for the cause of the disaster, there has been a great deal of discussion and analysis, most of which has been insightful, considerate and reasonable. Repeated injunctions have been made for the authorities to punish those found guilty and to compensate victims and their families, the finer details of which have been discussed and deliberated from every angle imaginable.

However, after the public debate comes to a close, how many people are likely to feel confident that similar accidents will not happen in the future, or that — at the very least — the current heightened level of vigilance will be maintained for any length of time?

Accidents involving chartered tour buses are becoming not just more frequent, but also more outrageous. Earlier this month, a tour bus carrying Chinese tourists crashed into a bridge in southern Taiwan, leaving 12 passengers injured. In July last year, 24 Chinese tourists, a Taiwanese guide and the bus driver died when the bus they were traveling on caught fire.

Since Taiwan opened its doors to Chinese tourists in 2008, over a dozen major accidents have occurred, which clearly demonstrates that these are not isolated events. This latest calamity is simply another instance in a long line of Taiwanese tour groups claiming the lives of Chinese tourists.

The underlying cause of these accidents is yet to be properly addressed: price wars between tour operators. Budget tour companies readily engage in cut-throat business tactics and are unwilling to provide compensation when blood is literally spilled as a consequence of their actions.

Since these operators need to keep prices down to increase their competitiveness, their business models are always predicated on reducing costs in order to maximize profit.

The need to reduce costs in business was originally about improving efficiency in the pursuit of a niche market, especially in times of recession or when finances are tight.

The main and most commonly employed methods for reducing costs include increasing labor productivity, maximizing equipment utilization rates, reducing production overheads, reducing staff costs and lowering salaries.

However, if cost control measures begin to affect the quality of the product, they begin to become counterproductive and prevent the business from achieving its profit targets. A business that peddles inferior products often results in dissatisfied customers and poor sales.

Management of consumer awareness is therefore a crucial link in the overall operating chain. If this important last line of defense becomes ineffective, then there is no lower limit to the many adjustments a business makes to its operating model.

The accident record of the tour bus industry is extremely poor, yet rarely is the role of the consumer actually discussed.

Consumer awareness is more than just a basic knowledge of the law and consumer rights.

It also concerns the perception of value for the cost, which often translates into a desire on the part of the consumer to “get their money’s worth” or to “find a bargain.”

This type of consumer behavior is bound up in cultural values and is not just a product of a consumer’s individual financial position, but also about the greed of getting a small bargain, a national sport.

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