Know a great way to post an annual profit of $262.9 million? By ripping off your customers.
That appears to be the philosophy of travel company Flight Centre, who stand accused of training their staff to make massive mark-ups on flights.
And, having spoken to dozens of the company’s employees, the ABC has revealed the practice appears to be nation-wide.
“Say the flight was $1500 — they would mark-up and say ‘oh the flight is $1800’,” Olivia Little, who worked as a travel consultant at a Flight Centre for 13 months, told the ABC.
“Or if it’s a huge business class flight they would mark up a couple of thousand.”
Apparently it was a widespread practice, which was taught in training.
“It definitely wasn’t hinted at. It was, ‘this is how we operate. This is how you make money. This is part of your job’,” said former employee Renee Olofsson.
“It wasn’t uncommon actually that I would have a manager physically adjust the mark-up using my logins and on my customers.”
It wasn’t just ex-employees who spoke out either, with some unidentified current Flight Centre workers revealing the gouging practices were still alive and well.
“You kind of pick and choose who you do it to,” an unidentified woman who still works at one of the company’s 689 Aussie stores said.
“You aim for a 10 per cent margin [on top of the cost of the flight]. I know consultants who aim for a 20 per cent margin.”
Another ex-employee said, “You don’t do it all the time because you feel guilty. You’re not human if you don’t feel guilty for absolutely ripping-off customers.”
For their part, Flight Centre agreed that they mark prices up, but said that was simply how businesses make money and that the practice was never “excessive”.
“A central team in Australia proactively monitors margins on individual transactions and action is taken if the margin earned is considered excessive. Action can and has included dismissal,” a Flight Centre spokesperson told the ABC.
“The company strongly believes in a fair margin and refers to this in its philosophies.”
But more than just the mark-ups, the ABC investigation also revealed the company is doing a number on their staff, who say they are being underpaid and overworked.
“I understand in most businesses there is reasonable additional hours, which it did say in my employment contract,” Ms Olofsson said.
“I don’t think reasonable additional hours is being rostered in upwards of more than five hours each week on top of your employee hours.”
However, the company again denied they were doing the wrong thing, saying “Commissions motivate our front-line staff to give the customer the best experience”.
“Our people are guaranteed to earn at least the applicable minimum award wage. Most do so comfortably based on their fixed pay and commissions and there is no limit on the upside (incentives are uncapped for our sales people),” a spokesperson said.