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Requiem for a travel legend — Curt Yeomans

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

Curt Yeomans covers government for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.

Only William Shatner could turn the end of a sales pitch character’s advertising life into an over-the-top affair.

The travel reservation web site, Priceline.com, has decided to stop using Shatner’s “Priceline Negotiator” character, as it switches from a name-your-price format, to a straight-forward reservations web site (they name the price, you accept it).

So, the company released one last commercial this week, to close out the character.

It sees Shatner’s oddball pitch man saving a group of travelers from a bus that is teetering on the edge of a bridge. Once he gets everyone else off the bus, Shatner (who is still standing in the emergency exit doorway) hands a smartphone to one traveler (so she can book a hotel room) and says, “Save yourself ... some money.”

The bus then goes over the edge and falls down into a cavern, and the negotiator dies in a fiery explosion as the vehicle hits the ground.

As everyone else stands, still in stunned silence, the traveler who received the smartphone books a hotel room. “It’s what he would have wanted,” she says quietly.

I have mixed feelings about the end of the Priceline Negotiator character. Honestly, he and his “Price-line Ne-go-ti-a-tor” theme song made Priceline.com stand out in my mind from a sea of what, 20 gazillion other travel reservation web sites.

It worked as a sales pitch. Only the Travelocity gnome could match the Priceline Negotiator in that regard.

You had good Priceline Negotiator, and you had his nemesis, Evil Negotiator (Shatner wearing a bad, pitch-black cartoonish mustache). The Priceline Negotiator sometimes acted like a secret agent who spoke in ridiculous code phrases.

He sometimes acted like a Marine drill sergeant who ridiculed people for not going low enough with their negotiations.

He had a “Falcon of Truth,” which pecked out people’s eyes if they told lies. He knew kung fu, had the reflexes of a ninja cheetah, and could speak Japanese. His weaponry included laughing-gas bombs.

He tased a father in front of his son once, just so he could negotiate a travel package for the man.

The Priceline Negotiator was a travel icon. He was the face of Priceline.com, and you don’t just blow up someone like that, without a difficult transition period, in the aftermath.

Priceline — without the negotiator — would be like Budweiser, without the Clydesdales. You just can’t do it.

My gut reaction is that Priceline might sink back into the group of travel reservation web sites, without a proper, regular pitchman who helps it stand out from the rest of the Hot-pedia-kayak-ocity pack.

Curt Yeomans covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.