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The Almighty Buck

Add-Ons Add Up 401

Posted by michael
from the bleed-em-dry dept.
The Washington Post has a story about the proliferation of extra fees tacked on to just about every product or service under the sun. A couple of good insights make it worth the read.
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Add-Ons Add Up

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  • Vancouver Airport (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EkiM in De (574327) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:11AM (#4695449)
    I had a conference in Vancouver in October. When I flew into Vancouver's airport I found out, much to my surprise, that I would have to pay 15 Canadian dollars just to leave the place (this fee not being included in my ticket). The airport authority called it an "Airport Improvement Tax". My only thought was, "I don't care what this airport looks like, I'm only going to be here a couple of hours".
    • by dattaway (3088) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:27AM (#4695497) Homepage Journal
      Sounds like an offer you can't refuse. But I would offer to stay and help improve things myself. I'm sure they would like for me to stick around and add a grass roots feel to the place.
      • This happened to me in Montreal. I always wondered what would happen if I refused to pay.

        With a bit of luck, you'd be deported and have your return journey paid too.
      • by El Camino SS (264212) on Monday November 18, 2002 @09:12AM (#4696394)
        My mother in law was in Mexico on a tiny little island, and as the plane was about to take off, the military and police stopped it for not having the official duties paid, this amounted to going seat to seat and getting 15 USD for every person. Needless to say they all had the cash to pay, but never told a soul that there was an issue about it until the plane was ready to take off. No one ever saw one official document. Hmmmm...

        *Cough*. B-S. *Cough*.

        My boss, who worked for CNN for decades was recently in Mexico, and he just keeps a wad of cash with him when he pulls out his news camera to work down there. I'd say about 1/3 of the people that I have talked to about Mexico have been shaken down by the police because they are foreign.

        Needless to say, I went to Mexico. Great place. Same place as the relatives. No plane fee for me leaving. Surprise. But you can bank it that I had at least 50 USD for me and my wife when we got on the plane.

        After all, in Mexico policing is a for profit business. You should assume like I do that the police are massively crooked whenever you go to a foreign nation, and be surprised when they are not.

        • by fantomas (94850) on Monday November 18, 2002 @12:32PM (#4698381)

          I kind of assumed in USA *everything* was a "for profit business".


          Certainly US-slashdot posters often indicate a preference for no government unless avoidable, no taxes where possible, etc. I read this as one of the messages from the original article, that local authorities were collecting income from people through indirect taxation rather than direct taxation.


          Maybe things just cost money, and paying for them ultimately comes down to each of us, but it simply boils down to how the organisations get the money out of us.


          (BTW I find your assumption that "police are massively crooked whenever you go to a foreign nation", i.e. the whole world is crooked apart from the USA, naive and xenophobic to say the least. Some of your police hardly have an international reputation for integrity).

          • Some of your police hardly have an international reputation for integrity.

            That's because we like to blame our problems on everything. Our news has to have something to blame. Our politicians do it too. We like to complain, because if we didn't everything would be boring and we would have no goals. Its good that people feel insecure so they will be driven to spend money on ways to feel safe. Actually, its very peaceful here in the USA. Just don't tell anyone.
        • After all, in Mexico policing is a for profit business. You should assume like I do that the police are massively crooked whenever you go to a foreign nation, and be surprised when they are not.

          Dammit, i'm a Mexican and I really would like to deny what you're saying. Sadly enough, in many backwater parts of the country that's just too true. And it's not only for tourists either.

          All I can do is to apologize in behalf of the honest, working people in the rest of the country, and hope that those idiots come to realize that scaring away tourists is not gonna help this country at all.
        • While it is apparently true on the surface that many foreign police agencies are obviously corrupt, the situation isn't really much different here, it's just done in a much more civilized manner. In clearly poor countries such as Mexico, profit must be generated at the individual level. It is up to the underpaid policemen to subsidize their own life style, whether that means supporting a family or a cocaine habit.

          In countries such as Mexico and Colombia where a lot of illegal drugs are produced / manufactured / distributed, the value of the drugs themselves is miniscule compared to what it is once it reaches our shores. We say that "other governments" have "corrupt" police forces, but consider that our own police agencies directly profit off of the drug trade. How so?

          Duh. Through property forfeiture and seizure, of course. In some states, you can lose your car for simply having a joint in your possession and getting pulled over for a minor offense. You can just as easily lose your house and other assets if they can claim that you couldn't afford it without illicit drug sales. In most cases, no due process or even conviction is required. And what happens once that property is seized? It gets sold, and the money goes back to the police force. In many cases, this property was in fact purchased with drug money, and the police essentially turn that drug / blood money into their own, profiting from it. In many cases, this property was not in fact purchased with drug money, but it is still seized and auctioned anyway, and nobody is the wiser. Nothing can be done about it until enough people support ballot initiatives to reform this horrific practice.

          Some might not call this "corruption" but the fact remains that by perpetuating this cycle, the police are essentially profiting directly off of the incredibly inflated drug trade in the US. As long as they continue to do so, there will be no true incentive to "end the war on drugs," but to perpetuate it for eternity. That's whole idea, isn't it? Not to actually "win a war," but to constantly justify a war either by pointing out its meager successes, or its persistent failures. "We can't give up now...almost there." Even if there was a way to win this "war," the government truly would not want to do so. Do you have any idea of how many electronic appliances, among other things, are purchased directly by foreign nationals with obvious drug trafficking connections? Our entire economy rests on a foundation of illegitimacy, of corruption, what have you. There's no turning back, at least from the perspective of those with the power to make a difference.

          Not only is corruption inherently built into our system in this way among many others, but there are plenty of cases of "truly," directly corrupt officers who look the other way in certain cases, plant evidence in others, or just wreak havok in general on the so-called justice-system by looking out after their own interests before all others. It's human nature, after all.

          So in the US we are fleeced in that we pay monstrous taxes to subsidize the federal and local police forces, who spend much of our money fighting a losing war in order to justify their bloated existence. Not only that, but we pay taxes to subsidized tobacco farmers, who produce one of the most addictive and dangerous (and widely used drugs) known to man! We constantly are asked to pay extra fees to support supposedly capitalistic enterprises that cannot support themselves due to their excessive, bloated, inherently un-capitalistic nature. We must subsidize failure on a regular basis, in order save face for those who would rather not admit such.

          In Mexico it might be common to get shaken-down at the individual level and be forced to part with some hard-earned cash. In the US, we are fleeced systematically, every day. I have a Discover Card with "no annual fee," yet I was charged $6.08 in "finance charges" last month, when I kept a totally empty balance! That's one minor example, of course...but don't think the US is any more civilized simply because our money is transferred out of pocket electronically and in a stealthy fashion, whereas in other countries it must be yanked the old-fashioned way...

    • I paid my airport improvement tax in Calgary.
      I can't wait to see the airport improvements next time I go back!

      Seriously though in most other nations they just put this tax in the price of the ticket. That way you never get hit up for the cash. Clever huh?
    • Re:Vancouver Airport (Score:2, Informative)

      by fishmonkey (301785)
      When departing bali you have to pay 100,000 rupees in cash (about $20 Aus last time I was there) - I had to stop over there for 4 hours on the way to europe and back and had to pay both times... catches a lot of people off guard
    • Re:Vancouver Airport (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nogami_Saeko (466595) on Monday November 18, 2002 @06:30AM (#4695786)
      This is a good reason why I drive down to my Dad's place in Seattle (I live in Vancouver), park my car at his house, and fly out of Seatac.

      The good ol' Canadian Govt (swindlers 'r' us), are also charging an additiona $20-25 in "security fees" each way as well. Not to say that any of it goes to airports to improve security. Nope, it all goes into general revenue in Ottawa.

      One local carrier had a "fly for $1" day to illustrate how insane the fees were. The ticket cost $1, with all of the extra fees, levies, etc added on, the final cost of the ticket was nearly $100.
    • Just for reference, the Airport Improvement Fee is essentially a toll fee that goes towards the cost of the new terminal (just completed within the past couple of years).

      Not that I expect them to remove the fee once the terminal is paid off - that's the real catch in these kinds of fees. The system gets used to the cash influx and comes to regard it as some kind of inherent right, rather than as a temporary measure (kind of like income tax was?).

    • In China they hit you with the "airport construction fee" when you try to leave. I believe it is 90 yuan (about US$11) for departing international flights, at least from Beijing and Shanghai. You've gotta go to the counter and pay the fee and get your little slip of paper, otherwise you don't get through the checkpoint to get to the gates. And you better not lose that little slip of paper, otherwise you go pay for another one.

      I believe there is also a smaller fee for domestic flights within China, but it's been a few years so I forget how much that one was.
  • Yeah... (Score:4, Funny)

    by darkov (261309) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:13AM (#4695455)
    the proliferation of extra fees tacked on to just about every product or service under the sun

    ...like Slashdot.
    • Re:Yeah...but... (Score:2, Interesting)

      The difference between the examples in the article and Slashdot (assuming you're referring to the subscription system) is that with Slashdot, you either pay to get rid of ads while reading, or you dont. Plain and simple.

      With other fees (car rentals fees, atm fees, airplane ticket fees), if you wanna use these services and opt out of these *cough*bullshit*cough* fees, you are SHIT OUT OF LUCK! :(

  • by KagatoLNX (141673) <kagato@souIIIja.net minus threevowels> on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:13AM (#4695456) Homepage
    My boss gets lots of complaints because we pass the 3% credit card charge on directly. Like somehow people who pay with cash or check should subsidize the credit industry.

    I hate that sort of thing. It first really hit me when I got an unexpected $1 fee for using an ATM. Not the fee from the ATM's owner--a fee from MY OWN BANK for not using a preferred ATM network! After that I just came unglued (switched banks too).

    In the end, I think it's all just part of the game. Most people are so jaded about "the value of service" anymore that the only way to sell something is with the lowest price. A lot of these fees serve no other function than to allow the price to represent the real value of whatever it is you're paying for. No longer do we live in an age where many aspects of the transaction are rolled into an "overhead account". Everything seems to be billed in excruciating detail!

    While it largely makes sense, I long for the days when bills were simpler.
    • by MyHair (589485) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:29AM (#4695502) Journal
      My boss gets lots of complaints because we pass the 3% credit card charge on directly. Like somehow people who pay with cash or check should subsidize the credit industry.

      But doesn't handling cash and checks cost money, too? Armored cars and local security to guard the cash, and someone gets paid to take the checks to the bank. I don't know if it compares to credit card fees, but don't discount the cost of cash and checks.
      • by Rubbersoul (199583) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:41AM (#4695532)
        But doesn't handling cash and checks cost money, too?

        Yes, but the difference is that with cc transactions the company you are buying from gets a bill from the credit card processing company for using the service, a fee that the company would not have had with a paper transaction.

        With paper money the cost is internal to the business so it does not get added on extra. If they just raised the price of every item a few dollars that would 'punish' those that want to pay with cash.

        What it comes down to is you have to pay the workers to cover the cash register anyway, but you don't have to pay the charges to use a cc processing company.
    • My boss gets lots of complaints because we pass the 3% credit card charge on directly. Like somehow people who pay with cash or check should subsidize the credit industry.

      If they don't like the extra 3%, then the ought to pay using a debit card. If they normally buy things with money that they don't have, then they should be used to being ass-raped by the credit-card companies.

      • If they don't like the extra 3%, then the ought to pay using a debit card.


        If they like federal fraud protection and some remote resemblence of accountability from the financial institution they should avoid debit cards like the plauge.

        There is always two sides to any issue. I use my credit card like a debit card, simply because I don't like being liable for a several thousand dollar piece of plastic.

      • by Galvatron (115029) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:20AM (#4695624)
        If they don't like the extra 3%, then the ought to pay using a debit card

        *chuckle* Debit cards charge a higher fee, closer to 5%, if memory serves. Many retailers would rather not accept debit cards, but at the moment, Visa and MasterCard are demanding that if a store accepts their credit cards, it must accept their debit cards, too. There is currently a class action lawsuit going on (or there was, last time I heard) to settle whether or not this is illegal bundling of services. If the retailers are victorious, debit cards will no longer be accepted at many places, and Visa and MasterCard will likely go bankrupt as well because of the massive damages that the retailers are claiming (won't affect you as a cardholder, the debtors will just take over and it'll be business as usual).

        • You've got it backwards. Debit cards (when used as debit cards and not as credit cards) charge much lower fees. There was a report on NPR's All Things Considered a few days ago, which gave numbers. On a $100 purchase, the credit card fee was a few dollars (~= 3%), while for the debit card fee was ~$0.09. The problem is that most debit cards are "branded" with Visa or MasterCard logos, and can be used as credit cards. Using a debit card as a credit card incurs credit card fees, despite the fact that the money still comes out of your checking account. When using a debit card, it's important to have it swiped as a debit card. That is, if you care about the merchant's fees.
    • Be Careful (Score:4, Interesting)

      by vor (142690) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:26AM (#4695636)
      Adding the 3% to the bill if the customer is paying by credit card is a sure way to piss off the credit card company. They might even revoke your ability to accept credit cards.
      I know of many restaurants in NY which rather than take the 3% loss on transactions (which at busy places can cost tens of thousands at the end of the year), have an ATM installed on site. Wanna pay by CC? Sure, go use the ATM. Now instead of losing 3% on the sale, the business gains $1.00 (other $1.00 goes to ATM vendor).
    • by BingoBoingo (538071) on Monday November 18, 2002 @07:53AM (#4696021)
      My boss gets lots of complaints because we pass the 3% credit card charge on directly. Like somehow people who pay with cash or check should subsidize the credit industry.


      Most (if not all) credit card companies have policies against charging extra for credit card transactions.
      http://usa.visa.com/personal/about_visa/contact_us .html?it=ss_/index.html#d [visa.com]

      From Visa's web site:

      Can merchants set a minimum purchase or charge me a fee for accepting my Visa card?

      Visa merchants are not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts, even on sale items. They also are not permitted to charge you a fee when you want to use your Visa card.

      If you run into a problem like this with a merchant, please notify the financial institution that issued you your Visa card. These institutions have access to the appropriate Visa rules and regulations and can help you document and file your complaint. You'll find their address and/or telephone number on your Visa statement. Their telephone number may also appear on the back of the card itself.

    • Whether you think the fee is justified or not, you should at least familiarize yourself with the facts surrounding the situation.

      There are 2 types of ATM usage, the banking jargon usually refers to "domestic" and "foreign" but that is in relation to a bank. So Bank X's card on Bank X's ATM is a 'dmestic transaction" or an "us-on-us" transaction.

      For us-on-us transactions, they are almost always free - the cost for maintaining the ATMs and the network is figured into the normal account setup.

      For us-on-them transactions, it gets messy. First, the owner of the ATM will almost always charge you a dollar or two for using their machine when you don't bank with them. That is the fee you are prompted for on the screen.

      Now, Bank X's ATMs don't have access to Bank Y's accounts. This is reasonable, Chase isn't going to give Wells-Fargo access to ttheir systems, for example. So to facilitate this, their must be a middle clearinghouse that facilitates transferring the money and providing a standard network interface. This is the Plus, Cirrus, etc network. These are independent companies, or sometimes banks. In this area, Midwest Payment Systems is dominant, owned by Fifth Third Bank, for example.

      This clearinghouse network charges the bank the card is from a fee for facilitating the transfer of money. That is why your own bank charged you a fee.

      My suggestion is to find a bank with a large ATM network if you are interested in avoiding fees. For better or worse, its the system that is there.

    • My boss gets lots of complaints because we pass the 3% credit card charge on directly. Like somehow people who pay with cash or check should subsidize the credit industry.

      Have you checked your merchant agreement - many do not allow tagging on a fee for CC's or requiring a minimum purchase. Some companies add the fee in the price and then offer a discount for cash.

      I'm not sure what a CC company would do if someone complained? Back-charge the 3%? Cut off the vendor if enough people complained?
    • Under major credit card company rules, merchants may not add transaction fees. Your boss is breaking their rules and could be fined by them.

      Rules may have changed, but the last I checked, a merchant may, however, offer a discount from the stated price for those paying with cash.
  • hum...... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:14AM (#4695458)
    Get this new 2ghz 200gb/hd 256mb/ram computer free! See deails... Price doesn't include shipping, handling, delivery fee, order fee, fat lazy ass fee, dumb ass fee, silicon surcharge, cd fee, bill gates payoff fee, electricity licence, electicity processing fee, ordering this-fee, and several other fees and licences. Total price: $5000
  • Car-rental extras... (Score:5, Informative)

    by pwagland (472537) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:17AM (#4695472) Journal
    As mentioned in the article the car-rental business is famous for it's extras. Here are the ones that they mentioned
    • extra local taxes
    • the hard-sell "collision damage waiver,"
    • the charge for an extra driver
    • the ever-popular "refueling charge" should you not fill up the tank.
    • At the San Francisco airport a $12 surcharge helps pay for the car-rental shuttle bus
    • a state-mandated $10 at Boston's Logan Airport helps fund the city's new convention center
    • last month, also in Boston, Dollar Rent a Car slapped on a $1.84 daily "peak-season" fee
    I am renting a car in the near future, where they also threw on a "Premium Station Surcharge" for picking the car up from the airport instead of a local station. That comes to around 20USD. Plus, often, you have limited kilometres, so you had better count on adding on a few dollars if you go too far....
    • Yes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The Tyro (247333) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:23AM (#4695486)
      Traveled to Houston recently. my rental car charge was DOUBLED by taxes and extra fees... to the tune of around 400$ for the week.

      I don't know what the hell they are building in Houston that justifies that level of extra tax and local fees, (airport tax, use tax, local tax, etc, etc).

      That kind of nonsense kills me... "Oh, did I mention that a few additional charges and taxes are added... that'll be DOUBLE what you thought it would be! Thanks for doing business with us!"

      Yeah, thanks... it was good for me too.
      • Re:Yes (Score:2, Flamebait)

        When I worked in retail we had a particular phrase to describe this phenomenon:

        "Welcome to $BUSINESS, assume the position!"
    • by moop (140175) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:52AM (#4695558)
      It wasn't until I read the article and began to think about it. But there are so many cases, and not even in the industries mentioned in the article. The two examples that came to mind was first McDonald's were if heaven forbid you can't have a 20piece McNugget with 2 sauces they get you for a dime a piece for a extra sauce. And at the local university, if you want just a cup for water its a dime, unless your purchasing something. Its kind of amazing if you stop to look around and see how many places have little addon prices.
    • When I booked a trip to Florida last summer, my travel agent offered a special deal on a car rental (with Dollar). I could rent the car for a high daily rate, but there would be no extra surcharges, and that was guaranteed! I took one look at the list of possible surcharges and decided to go with the all-inclusive deal. Did I get a good price? I don't have a clue, probably not... but I paid no additional surprise fees to Dollar, the airport, or any additional taxes.

      The article is dead-on: people are willing to pay for convenience.
    • I rented a car a few years ago in San Diego. We had to bring it back 'full'. This was the first car I had ever driven where the fuel gauge needle dropped quickly right after you filled the tank. On the other hand, my truck's needle stays above full for about 40 miles. This one was significantly below F less than 20 miles from where I filled up.

      The rental company took it upon themselves to charge me for 2 gallons at $3.99 a gallon! They slipped it by me too, since we were in a hurry for our flight.

      Fortunately a later complaint got the charges removed, but they probably slip it by lots of people. Makes me wonder if they special-ordered the car with the gauges set that way.
    • Of, say, the U-Haul variety.

      I'm hoping I don't have to move again anytime soon, because that was painful. Big signs anywhere about it being 19.95. If you expect to spend anywhere *near* that, you'd better be moving to someplace down the block, because the extra mileage is super-expensive. And, of course, very similar surcharges everywhere.

      And they tried to give us a truck with a half-empty gas tank, and then tell us that there was a refueling fee if it wasn't returned at the same point.

      "To pay for you to put gas into the truck... the same way you obviously didn't?"

      We got given another truck.
  • by whiteranger99x (235024) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:21AM (#4695482) Journal
    Seeing this article reminds me SO much of George Carlin's Advertising Lullaby [losbear.com] bit (gotta scroll down a bit for the script) :P

    Basically he says that the marketing and advertsing people pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer with friendly deals and offers that the consumers dont realize they're being, as Carlin puts it, fucked in the ass! Good stuff, LOL :)

  • I noticed this.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by James_G (71902) <james@gMOSCOWlob ... p.org minus city> on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:24AM (#4695490)
    With my bank, Washington Mutual.. It was kind of amusing. They have all these ads on the radio about their "No fee checking!". Yep, no fees on some things. Fees on absolutely everything else. I moved to a credit union [1sttech.com] shortly afterwards and haven't looked back since.

    It definitely makes you think though. I noticed all the extra taxes and fees and such on my phone bill, but like the article says, I never paid a great deal of attention to them. Now I'm going to start shopping around and see what better deals I can get.


    • With my bank, Washington Mutual.. It was kind of amusing. They have all these ads on the radio about their "No fee checking!". Yep, no fees on some things. Fees on absolutely everything else.
      Not that I want to defend WM, (I have issues with them as well) but I do believe you may be unfairly criticizing them here. Could you be more specific as to what they have so unjustly charged you for?

      Their ads simply claim to offer free checking, which they do. I've had an account there for many years and never been charged for checking. Yes I have to pay for a new box of checks or extra copies of my statement. But, these are optional and they won't charge you until you request it. I find it especially amusing that you pick on the only major bank not to charge extra fees at their ATMs.

      And a bank charging for extra services is entirely different than your phone company or the rental agency adding on hidden fees and taxes that you are not able to opt out of.
  • bastards (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lingqi (577227) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:28AM (#4695499) Journal
    And "since there is only so much space and weight an aircraft can accommodate," there's "an additional fee for passengers who require more than the average."

    so if i don't carry jack shit of baggage (as I frequently do, to skip the baggage claim phase), I don't get a discount - so what justifies this?

    they should not make stupid excuses and just admit that they are giving it to the consumers and laughing all the way to the bank about it. sheesh.

    • Re:bastards (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Galvatron (115029)
      What justifies it is that they don't need your space. If everyone brought 200 lbs. of bags, the plane wouldn't be able to lift off. If everyone brings exactly their weight limit, however, there shouldn't be a problem. So they need to create a disincentive for people to exceed the weight limit, but they don't need to create an incentive for people to go under the limitation.

      Your argument might make sense if there were a lot of people who wanted to exceed the limit, but couldn't. Then, maybe, it would make sense for the airline to pay you for your weight allowance, so that they can sell it to someone else. As it stands though, they don't need to do that.

      Seriously, I don't get what the problem is. United isn't a freight service. If you've got a lot of shit you want to take, ship it. If you want to take it on the plane with you, you have to recognize that not everyone can do that. The limit is pretty damn generous, too. I have to take all my stuff back and forth to college with me, and I only occasionally rub up against the limit (and even then I can almost always shuffle things around so that no one bag goes over).

      • Not the full story. most flights are over booked, normally by 5 - 10% because so many people fail to show up. Most planes also carry some freight in the additional space alongside your luggage (or they used to when I was in this stuff) to make use of the capacity.

        If everyone took their allowance they wouldn't be able to take off, they'd have empty seats because people wouldn't be able to travel with their luggage.

        They assume that 20% will only have a light bag, 40% will be well short of allowances and of the rest a small number will have excess and be CHARGED for it.
    • They should have a giant scale at airports and charge by the pound (or kg, depending where you're flying :)

      (of course, some funny slashdotter will go there with 50 empty boxes)
    • I work int eh airline industry. More precisely in the check-in software industry. Do you know how we give the places ? We don't give them in numerical or alphabetical order. We give them using calculation of what we call the "trim factor2 using some Weight&balance programs adapted for the plane. Meaning we use repartition algorithm to place people. Now if you have somebody which is 150 Kg, not only they take two place and have possibly thrombose or health problem for them or their neighbours but in the worst scenario case you can change the balance of the place enough to change the trim factor and drop in non-secure zone, or at least expensive in fuel. Just put a team of Sumo in the fore of the plane and kids at the behind.

      I don't know for sure how are the security/economics zone for trim factor, but i know we had a problem with that recently for some airline and had to change our seat mapping.
  • DMV (Score:5, Funny)

    by D+iz+a+n+k+Meister (609493) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:31AM (#4695510) Journal
    When I had to pay for my car registration this year, the back of the card they sent me said I could pay online, but there was a $2.50 service charge. I actually went to the DMV to pay and there was a $3.50 counter charge. WTF? Why do I have to pay for the privillege of paying?

    • Re:DMV (Score:5, Funny)

      by whiteranger99x (235024) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:56AM (#4695561) Journal
      When I had to pay for my car registration this year, the back of the card they sent me said I could pay online, but there was a $2.50 service charge. I actually went to the DMV to pay and there was a $3.50 counter charge. WTF? Why do I have to pay for the privillege of paying?

      You might as well call it the "I would rather stab myself in the eye repeatedly with a pencil than pay this,but i have no choice fee" fee.

      • Re:DMV (Score:3, Funny)

        by Reziac (43301)
        Kinda like the Washington Mutual TV ads, where the bank teller charges the hapless customer a conversation fee, and when she objects to that, tacks on an emotional-outburst fee!

    • What you should have done was say: oh, three fithy? Never mind, I'll go back home and pay on-line. That's only too fithy.

      At least you would have wasted their "three fithy's" worth of time (as they had already made you waste yours).
    • Re:DMV (Score:5, Funny)

      by squaretorus (459130) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:53AM (#4695705) Homepage Journal
      I bought a TV last year. It just cost £200. I paid cash. The guy went to collect it for me. Out of stock.

      Can I pick it up later? "£20 reservation fee"
      Thats 10% of the cost of the telly! Can you deliver it? "£25 delivery charge"
      Fuck this! Can I have my money back? "you can have vouchers less 10%, its policy to stop people stealing and returning goods!"

      I left with my cash. He pretended to phone his bosses boss to authorise it - I could hear greensleeves play while he was saying 'seems genuine enough, he handed me the cash 2 minutes ago, yeah the ordering system must be offline or something'. Little shit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:32AM (#4695513)
    IT'S NOT JUST BIG COMPANIES

    Something similar has been going on for years with my swimming club. Every year, we hold a few "District Meets" where every club in the district competes against each other. The club that hosts the meet has to arrange everything, get there early to set up and so on.

    And yet EVERY swimmer, even those who got there early to set up, are charged for admission and also PER-EVENT they are swimming!

    Now, the swimming officials have to be supplied by Swimming Victoria (the state-based overseeing body), but they are volunteers who receive no money.

    So, although Swimming Victoria only provide us with volunteer officials, they make a few thousand dollars while doing bugger all.

    It has even reached the point where parents arriving to pick up their kids at the end of the meet must pay a "spectator fee" or wait outside the pool - they can't walk in and grab their kid!
    • It has even reached the point where parents arriving to pick up their kids at the end of the meet must pay a "spectator fee" or wait outside the pool - they can't walk in and grab their kid!

      So let me guess... to avoid the fees, the parents have the children wait outside...

      I'm not a parent, but I've got to say that this is fucking criminal. It's like a "Less of a chance my child will be kidnapped by a pedophile" fee. It's fucking extortion.

      Wait until something happens to one of these unsupervised children, and the lawsuit hits the fan. After that (if the pool is still operational) they'll probably not only stop charging but in fact REQUIRE parents to drop in and show I.D. to prove they are the proper parent.

      Sheesh.

  • Fuck banks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fastball (91927) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:37AM (#4695522) Journal
    I have been nickled-and-dimed with a diminuation of service by my bank, a bank we call Bank One, for too long now. They charge me $3 for "teller assistance" when I deposit a check. Then, my deposits aren't posted to my account sometimes until three or four days have passed. Like many other banks, they try to "order" my withdrawals and deposits in such a way as to attempt to charge me for overdrafts. And I typically keep a balance in my checking account at or above $500. Fucking absurd.

    I've had it with Bank One. My next paycheck is going into a new checking account with a new bank that isn't going to hold me upside down and shake me for loose change.

    • Re:Fuck banks (Score:3, Informative)

      by Spunk (83964)
      Like many other banks, they try to "order" my withdrawals and deposits in such a way as to attempt to charge me for overdrafts.

      Jesus. I've seen my bank do the opposite - reorder so I didn't overdraft. Did I say bank? I meant Credit Union, which AFAICT is the only way to not be fucked in the ass. I left Fleet due to their add-on fees.
      • Credit Unions are great. The only downside with mine is that it's out-of-state, which means you can't find an ATM that won't charge you (instead I do a $100 cash withdrawal on your debit card at Wal-mart after buying a couple bucks worth of stuff).

        I kept them, even after moving out of their state, because they're such an improvement on any bank.
    • You might want to hunt the net for the possibility of a class action suit regarding this. A few years ago I received notice of a class action settlement against NationsBank for exactly the same practice. If I hadn't thrown out my bank statements I would have been eligible for a refund of my overdraft fees.
    • I consulted for Bank One for about a year at one time. My only advice is to run away as quickly as possible! Any company that wastes money on the scale that they do doesn't deserve to be in business. I was on a team with 7 other consultants, and for 10 months out of the year I was there, we had literally nothing to do. They were paying consultant rates for us to surf the web.
    • Re:Fuck banks (Score:2, Informative)

      Take a look at the First Internet Bank of Indiana (www.firstib.com). I've been with them for over a year and have paid about 2 dollars in service fees.

  • by lingqi (577227) on Monday November 18, 2002 @04:44AM (#4695538) Journal
    Rented a Chevy cavalier for two days from LaGuadia (LGA), it was like 78/day with the insane taxes (yeah, really, for a cavalier - but I *had* to, so alright, I will part the 155 dollars).

    When I returned it, they charged me 110 dollar *per*day* of "under age fee" because I am under 25. AND they taxed the fscking fee (at the same 17-18% rate which I have no idea where comes from)! is that funny, eh? considering in CA AVIS charges like 10-15 dollars for the same underage deal, I can just smell "bullshit."

    If I didn't check the reciept, they'd probabbly just let it slip (I think if you don't file a complaint right away or some such, you waive your rights after a certain time). Eventually it got sorted out and such, but still it took a several phone calls, placed on hold, explanations, transfered, re-explanations, the whole works.

    Point is, be careful out there, guys (and gals) - companies will rape you when they have the chance, so check your bills and add things up. And yeah - renting from AVIS in LGA is not a good idea.
  • As coined by large companies:

    Free Market: "The freedom to convince the consumer you offer the lowest prices by aggressive advertisement based on misleading emotional impulses and the freedom to compensate the low, listed, prices by post-charging costumers for things that really should be included in the fees charged up-front."

    Or, in plain english, lying about the real price of things.
  • Here in the UK things are a little better particularly with banking. How does this sound: No monthly charges, no charges for use of Cards (in the UK at least) Interest on current account balences (upto about 3%). The UK has regulators who generally try to keep these things in check. Airlines are generally just as bad, although some of the newer buget carriers quote you the price all taxes included.
    • you seem to be living in a different UK than me. I attempted to pay my BT bill at HSBC (THEIR FUCKING BANK!) and was told I'd need to pay a £5 fee for paying my bill; I attempted to pay my MBNA bill at the Royal Bank of Scotland (THEIR FUCKING BANK!) in CASH and was informed that I'd need to pay a £20 fee and that the payment "could take up to four days" to be registered on my account; I attempted to pay another credit card account £500 in cash over the counter at a nationwide branch only to be refused because "we don't have the facilities to deal with large amounts of cash at this branch". What?? A bank that can't deal with money? Fuck them all, I now bank with smile - and they haven't tried to fuck me over YET.
  • by Zorgoth (68241)
    While I am as tired of being nickled and dimed to death as the next person, this simply is not going to go away. The basic charge for a service does not necessarily reflect what the final charge to the customer will be. It almost never will, there are too many extras, options, and case by case variations (especially in the service industry). Sales tax is tacked on to every purchase in the US. You always have to remember that 8.25% (in Houston) will be added for state and city tax. But here in Germany the "rough" equivalent, VAT, is added before the price sticker is placed on. While that is more convenient to the customer, unless you have been paying attention, you never know how much is tax. The problem is not the extra charges, the problem is transparency and when "options" are mandatory.
  • by WhaDaYaKnow (563683) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:12AM (#4695596)
    Dana Chase, director of acquisition and retention in Sprint's consumer long-distance marketing division, said its property tax surcharge "reflected the cost of our business that we needed to recover." Chase added: "We felt it was better for the customer to add a special line item than adding it into the permanent rate."

    Yeah, and I feel that it would be better if you could itemize your entire business model on my bill. I mean WTF? Do I really need to know how they run their business? No; I really don't give a rat's ass.

    Oh, but that would mean you would have to raise the price that we agreed to in our contract, doesn't it. The same contract that is 500 pages long, all worded in _your_ favor, but you couldn't find one single section that allowed you to increase the rate that was agreed upon. And now you decided that your business 'needed to recover' some cost so you just 'added a special line'.

    I know I'm on a long rant here, but let me say this: I'm getting SICK AND TIRED of these f*cking companies that make me agree to pages and pages of agreements and yet there is no credibility on their side. What's wrong with people? It's like no-one is willing to stand behind their product. If they screw up I am turning out to be the person to pay for it. Damn that pisses me off.

    Anyways, I'd like to thank /. For giving me the opportunity to vent from time to time. ;)
  • Cable Companies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by evilviper (135110) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:14AM (#4695605) Journal
    The local Cable co has been running an ad over and over for the past couple years that criticizes satelite companies for tacking on extra fees... One example is the extra monthly charge for a second reciever. Of course, they don't mind being blatanly hypocritical.

    Their new Digital Cable package sounded a lot cheaper, but adding in the little extra charges that they include, I was paying even more per-month... I canceled on the spot.

    Most people may not notice, but I notice, and I reject it on principal alone, not to mention that going with the seemingly more expensive options usually save you money in the end.

  • The one that really gets me is a %5 tax on my phone bill to pay for WW2! WW2 has been over forever, but that tax put there to pay for it still is being collected.

    Or the %20 in federal taxes added to airline tickets (one of which is the insulting 9/11 fee- a tragedy that wouldn't have occurred if the feds hadn't stopped pilots from carrying guns to prevent hijackings, and taken over airport security, ensuring poor security.)

    Then there's the %50 fee on gas, that you never see because its built into the price- but is all tax. A brilliant deception because people all over hate oil companies for charging so much for gas, even though they aren't!

    And in my state liquor is market up about %50, of course since the state owns all the stores where you can buy it, you never see this add on fee- its built into the price.

    And lets not forget cigarettes-- a %50 markup in my state as well. But you don't see this fee because its built into the price. Another hidden tax. And people hate tobacco companies, hmm, noticing a trend.

    Now the scum are starting to propose "vice" fees on fattening foots, so we can expect to pay an extra %50 for the privilege of buying a big mac that big momma government doesn't want you to eat?

    Never mind the fees that you have to pay before you even get the money that you use to pay fees with!

    The %15 taken out for social security-- you'll never see that money again.

    The hidden income taxes that your employer "pays" but that you really are the one paying-- for instance unemployment insurance. (Let me buy it privately- I know I'll get a better deal! When they charge you four times as much as the service costs, how much of it is really taxes?)

    Not to mention workers comp. I'm a programmer. Why do I have to pay workers comp-- again, let me keep my own damn money and I'll buy my own insurance and get a much better deal!

    (And if you think its not your own money, the employer pays for it, you might be a liberal. This is an absurd distinction- every employer counts all these taxes in the total cost of employing you and so you must be worth more than that to the employer for them to hire you-- that is you have to earn all the money, plus their profit, to make it worth while to hire you. If they didn't have to pay so many fees, you would get more cash, because you'd still earn the same amount of profit for them that you do now.)

    Even if you only make $36k a year- the average salary- you're paying half your income in taxes- and that's just direct. The things you buy, would be %30 or more cheaper if there wasn't a federal income tax, etc. (And the value of the services you get from the government? Less than %10 of what you pay in taxes-- thats how much you're being ripped off.)

    AS they say, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

    So I don't mind companies adding fees- if I don't like them, I can always refuse to do business with them, they need them anyway to cover the ever increasing tax burden they are being saddled with-- and that tax burden you don't get to opt out of if you don't like it.

    At least let us invest our own social security money if we choose to-- there's no acceptable reason not to, unless it really is just a fund for the congress to raid whenever they want a raise.

    • [...] Then there's the %50 fee on gas, that you never see because its built into the price- but is all tax [...]

      You seem to have a problem with taxes that are included in the prices. I absolutely don't. I don't care what fraction of my gas money goes to the government when I buy gas; I care about that only when I go to the election box (and then, I think that gas taxes are actually too low).

      And the value of the services you get from the government? Less than %10 of what you pay in taxes-- thats how much you're being ripped off.

      Yes, and do you know where most discretionary spending is going? It's going into the defense budget. Those supposedly fiscally conservative Republicans are outdoing themselves in spending money. I agree I'm being ripped off by this, but what can I do?

      At least let us invest our own social security money if we choose to-- there's no acceptable reason not to, unless it really is just a fund for the congress to raid whenever they want a raise.

      Social security is not a retirement plan, it's a fall-back. It doesn't make sense for you to invest it yourself.

  • by Vidmaster_Steve (455301) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:18AM (#4695620) Homepage
    Subscribe to Salon Premium to read the whole story!
  • Thailand (Score:2, Funny)

    by leroybrown (136516)
    I had to pay 10 bucks to leave the Bangkok airport. I never thought I'd want to leave a place where hot women grab my crotch as I'm walking down the street, but after two weeks of that, 10 bucks was a small price to pay to get away from all the GODDAMN HOOKERS!
  • Happened to me... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:44AM (#4695682)
    Long story but a valuable note at the end for some...

    I got my first credit card so I could get an Internet account. The interest on it was outrageous so I paid it off monthly.

    This went on for years until one morning I discovered my car had been stolen. Fearing that there might have been some old mail in the glove compartment, I got all of my cards(including other cards at better interest rates) cancelled, reported as stolen, and reissued with a different number.

    While calling people who charged my first credit card monthly(three accounts and a few online services) I accidentally gave them the number of one of my newer cards. I didn't bother making the necessary corrections because it didn't matter to me.

    A week later, the issuer of the first card sent a replacement but left the expiration date the same which was two months away. I put it away and ignored it.

    The date of expiration on the card came and went and I got nothing. Not having any outstanding balance and not receiving any mention from the issuer I assumed they had dropped me.

    Two years later, I get a monthly statement from these guys. Surprised, I look at it and it's several dollars for maintenance. It seems that they assumed I still had a valid card and since I did not use it they were going to charge me for the honor of not using it(a new policy it seems).

    Politely, I explained that they never issued me an updated card, their interest rates were too high, they could cancel my card, and I wasn't paying the fee. Worked like a charm.

    On a side note: for the few who read this, it *really* pays to call your credit card issuer, act dumb, and ask them why their interest rates are so high(even if they aren't).

    Tell them about all the mail you get about other issuers promising lower interest rates(you get those all the time, remember those numbers).

    Tell them about how those cards are offering to transfer your balance for *free*.

    Explain that you like to do business with them but those offers are tempting and, "Is there anything you can do?"

    Although I have relatively good credit(I think) I have heard from others that this will work even if you are really bad. The worse thing that can happen is they say no and you can brush it off with an "OK, just checking" attitude.

    Try it. It *REALLY* works!
    • Blockquoth the poster:

      On a side note: for the few who read this, it *really* pays to call your credit card issuer, act dumb, and ask them why their interest rates are so high(even if they aren't).

      I'd like to second this bit of advice. I got one of my cards lowered from 14.99% to 9.99% in two calls using this very tactic.

  • I blame myself... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ctar (211926) <christophertar@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:51AM (#4695699) Homepage
    This is half business as usual, but half the result of the ongoing corporatization of America... The majority of publicly held companies face serious pressure to make greater and greater (not just sustainable) profits for obvious reasons. As most shareholders only have an interest in the return on their investment, they don't give a shit about how it happens. Thats what these upper-management types get paid to do; squeeze as much profit out of the company as possible, regardless of the way customers or the environment or (insert innocent victim here) is affected. And, take the fall for the shareholders when they screw up enough to get in trouble legally, or in some way that adversely affects profits.

    As the article says, the fees that are shown separately as fees are done so very intentionally...You don't see anywhere on your wireless bills your share of the $415,000 in PAC campaign contributions that SBC made [citizen.org] in 2002 alone. Or, the $548,000 that AT&T made.

    Or, conversely, that they receive millions in 'corporate welfare' every year in the forms of subsidies and tax breaks that don't translate into lower prices, but....You guessed it:

    Higher profits!
  • buy vouchers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by g4dget (579145) on Monday November 18, 2002 @05:53AM (#4695704)
    For many services like car rentals, hotels, etc., you can buy "vouchers"--prepaid "tickets" that include a well-specified set of services: insurance, all fees, etc. Read the fine print and make sure that they state that they do include all charges that you care about and that they give you the coverage you need.

    In general, people should have the option of negotiating specific, binding contracts with sellers or service providers, be it in the travel industry or anywhere else, with full disclosure of all fees ahead of time, and with a well-specified duration. On the other hand, doing business under contracts that give companies the option of changing their contractual obligations unilaterally at any time should simply be outlawed. Until it is, do business with companies that make commitments.

  • As a student in Scotland, if you believe the guff our dear leaders come out with higher education (uni, college, whatever you call it) is free for all.

    Bollocks.

    For starters, instead of charging tuition fees like they do south of the border (this is so the LibDems, a minority party with the balance of power up here, can claim that they honoured their pledge to scrap them) they merely charge you two grand when you graduate.

    And then there's the student loans. Instead of actually giving you a grant so you can live (as they did back in the day), they give you a paltry amount (based on how much your parents could give you if they didn't do anything but give you all their spare cash) then start charging you interest on it at the rate of inflation.

    Of course, the unis can charge what they like for the 10by10 foot box they make you live in. And there's all sorts of hidden costs, like printer accounts, matric cards, lab fees, key deposits, beer at the union ;)... It all adds uo.

    We're getting screwed over. And do you know what? They start on us once we're old enough to get credit. It's things like this that make me want to pay cash for everything.
  • Point by Point (Score:5, Informative)

    by EmagGeek (574360) <gterich@@@aol...com> on Monday November 18, 2002 @06:20AM (#4695762) Journal
    And "since there is only so much space and weight an aircraft can accommodate," there's "an additional fee for passengers who require more than the average."

    Yet, do they charge less for customers who use less than average? I think not.

    Sprint decided to charge some of its PCS wireless customers -- primarily those with poor credit ratings who were on a special price plan -- $3 when they wanted to speak to a customer-service representative.

    The less money you have, the more expensive everything is for you. The more expensive everything is for you, the less money you have. Now even insurance companies charge you more if you have less-than-perfect credit. Cell phone companies charge you more. Land utility companies charge you more. I've even seen surcharges on Apartments, Hotels, and Rental Cars for less-than-perfect credit.

    a state-mandated $10 at Boston's Logan Airport helps fund the city's new convention center

    This is a privately levied tax! Amazing! Basically, a for-profit piublicly run private venture (convention centers are all for-profit, and have nothing to do with the public good, hence they are private) taxing people who don't even have the right to vote in that area.

    Dollar Rent a Car slapped on a $1.84 daily "peak-season" fee -- "leaf-peeping season," you know.

    Why don't they use their GPS tracking to detect when renters drive the cars on popular leaf-peeping routes and charge the fee that way? It'd be like being able to put a private virtual toll anywhere! They already do this to detect when customers leave the "allowed" area, and charge them heftily if they do...

    Meanwhile, for the privilege of paying a credit card bill over the phone, Citigroup charges $9.95.

    How can it possibly be legal to charge someone for paying their debt to you?! Oh wait, it's free if they mail in a check, so the creditor can hold onto it until it's late, then charge more fees... You're basically paying for the proof that you paid on time.

    It has launched a preferred-guest program that,.... to any customer who signs up. And the cost of signing up is also free....
    customers who sign up for this preferred service tend to spend 25 percent more than the average guest

    Doesn't sound very "free" does it?

    How do they do it?

    There is software out there called "Customer Relationship Management" (CRM) software that many banks, insurers, and utility companies are using to target fees and customer services. There are several ways this is accomplished using the profitability score, the risk score, and the opportunity score:
    1) When you call customer service, you punch in your account number. The computer looks your account up and if you're a "good" customer (i.e. profitable), you get bumped to the head of the queue. If not, you wait.. and wait.... and wait..
    2) The computer periodically measures the profitability of your account. If you are a very profitable customer, it may reduce or relax fees on your accounts.
    3) If you start to pile up money in your bank account, the computer will sell your personal information to places like mortgage lenders, car lenders, and other high-dollar financing brokers to start trying to separate you from that money.
    4) If your average balances start to decline, down go your scores and up go your fees!
    5) Use all of your cell phone minutes every month without going over, and all three of your scores drop and you'll never get decent customer service. Some cell phone companies are even working on technology that will decrease the likelihood of your call being dropped depending on your profitability score; when there is contention between customers on a crowded cell. Say there is a full cell, and a highly-profitable customer drives into it - the software will determine which unprofitable customers can be dropped so that the profitable customer doesn't get dropped.
    6) If a bank is taken over, this software determines which accounts the suitor keeps, and which ones are sold off to other subprime banks (probably with higher fees).
    7) Pay off that credit card balance every month, and you'll start to see your interest rate drop gradually in order to encourage you to carry a balance (I know for a fact Capital One does this. I have a card and for every month I pay my balance in full, my daily rate drops by a few ten-thousandths of a percent). Conversesly, you may also see 'participation' fees levied against you if you don't ever pay interest.
    8) You may also see 'participation' fees if you don't use your card for a number of consecutive billing cycles.
    9) Call customer service frequently? Maybe you better think twice about that
    10) Paying $4 to use a teller at your bank? Profitable customers don't have to. (i.e. you have your mortgage with them)

    Exercise some critical thinking skills and I'm sure you can see where people you do business with will look for opportunities to measure your profitability. Once you can see where they are trying to manipulate you, you can turn it around and begin to manipulate the system in your favor.

  • I don't really mind this, companies should be able to charge any fee they want, for any reason they want.

    There is currently a controversy on "white label" bank machines that charge $1-4 to get your money out of your account.

    I think this is fine, as long as it is clear what you will actually pay. If the company is misleading about the price that is wrong.

    Anybody notice pricewatch has the cost AND the shipping cost? This way you compare the total actual cost.
  • by fritzson (546763) on Monday November 18, 2002 @06:22AM (#4695769) Homepage
    If you can, find a credit union which you are eligible to join. Over the last 10 years mine (the USA Federal Credit Union) has
    • never charged a monthly fee for any account
    • provided me with a free supply of printed checks
    • called me (years ago) when the interest rates on money markets became higher than those in my savings account just to ask would it be ok if they transfered part of my savings to a money market account?
    • provided an ATM card with 16 free uses per month (half for merchants / half for cash withdrawal)
    • provided a list of credit unions in my area which have no-service-charge ATMs (there are no local branches of my Credit Union)
    • provided free on-line banking which gets better each year
    • introduced their on-line bill paying service with two free years of use, then, after charging for it for a year, they reduced the monthly fee.
    Maybe not all of them are as good as this one, but they do generally behave as though service to members is important. There is an alternative to fee happy banks and you should seek them out.
  • Ticketmaster.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonhuang (598538) on Monday November 18, 2002 @07:06AM (#4695876) Homepage
    Indeed.

    Today I bought a 25$ ticket from ticketmaster--$6.50 "convenience fee", $4 handling fee, $1.50 shipping charge.

    Which would be reasonable except that delivery consisted of generating a pdf for me to download and print.
  • by r2ravens (22773) on Monday November 18, 2002 @07:19AM (#4695919)
    "Homeowners look at interest rates and points, but they don't spend a lot of time comparing other fees that make up the closing costs -- even though a lot of money is on the table."

    Points have always pissed me off. Points are extortion charged by the lender to convince them to make you a loan - even if you have good credit. Another little advantage to this scheme is that they are the equivalent of interest charged up front. Each point is equal to 1/8 of a percent of interest on the loan amount, and it's paid up front.

    The real trick is that it's the equivalent of that interest rate charged over the life of the loan. This would be fine if you kept the loan over the full 30 year (or whatever) term. However, based on turnover and people selling, moving, etc., the average loan is only kept for 7 years. Therefore the effective interest rate increase can be many times higher.

    Considering the cost of homes and the amount loaned, this can be many thousands of dollars that you get screwed out of.

    Bottom line: unless you're going to keep the loan over it's full term, never pay points. It's just not worth it. Take a slightly higher interest rate up front. Of course, YMMV so check it out and do some math based on the how long you expect be in that particular home and loan.

    Another one is "document prep fees" when buying a car. This one is for filling out the form and processing the title at the MVD/DMV. This can run into the hundreds of dollars and it represents a few minutes writing your name and address on a form and writing a check to your local MVD/DMV office. Sure you might wait in line a while, but the folks there generally try to be helpful and can certainly tell you what you need to get titled and licensed. Is $300 - 400 worth eliminating the (maybe) frustration of that process? Personally, I'd ask for the MSO (Manufacteror's Statement of Origin) and do my own title work (with the help of the MVD/DMV clerk if necessary.)

  • by mikeboone (163222) on Monday November 18, 2002 @07:58AM (#4696035) Homepage Journal
    Has this thing called a "number portability surcharge." I called once to ask what it was. Basically, it allows me to keep my phone number if I switch to another phone company. This is a land-line, mind you, and gee, our small town has a monopoly phone company! Who am I going to switch to?

    This stuff makes me want to start a competitor just for spite.
  • ADDONS!!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b96miata (620163) on Monday November 18, 2002 @08:02AM (#4696046)
    Fees like this particularly infuriate me. I am currently looking into other banks after first union(wachovia now?) decided to start charging 50 cents every time you pay with something with your atm card. This after they'd finally dropped their 1.00 fee in addition to the 1.50 you pay to atm owners for getting money at a damn 7-11. The article does make one good point though - companies that play their marketing off consumer frustration with fees can make a bundle. I recently stayed at a wyndham, the hotel chain listed in the article. It sounds stupid, but the fact that I signed up for a free program and now can count on free internet access, free ld phone calls (!), extra pillows, and a free (as in beer) beer whenever I walk into my room there will make me choose them over just about any other chain. Other hotels could take a big lesson from them, especially certain "luxury" hotels whose idea of "business services" is putting analog jacks on the sides of the phones so you can pay 10 bucks in service fees to check your email over dialup, and allowing you to receive faxes for a dollar. Give me broadband in the room and I'll stop bitching about how there's only 5 non-pay channels on the tv.
  • "And sometimes these fees amount to far more than a few dollars or cents. At Virginia's George Mason University, for example, in-state undergraduates pay $2,375 in tuition -- plus an additional 60 percent, or $1,416, in fees."

    I go to GMU, and I'm not sure who pays that much extra. Other than the fact that we get less budget assistance than UVA or Va. Tech, and as a consequence pay more tuition than either, I'm not sure what these fees are. I do know, I've never paid that much extra myself.
    Maybe they mean housing, but it should cost a lot at a former commuter school that is trying to build as many dorms as it can as fast as it can (plus it's optional for all students). Maybe it's the activity fee ($50) or the meal plans (non-mandatory for everyone but on-campus freshmen-juniors). Might be the lab fees (I'm an EE, so I don't think my experience is representative. We have labs with many easily destroyable parts :)
    Suffice to say, despite this damning pdf [gmu.edu], I'm still not sure.
  • Are a daylight robbery. First you have to shell out over $200 for the phone itself then they sting you with a connection fee and then they offer you the exclusive $20/month deal. Except the twenty bucks is twenty bucks plus GST plus PST plus $6.95 of, listen to this: "Tower Maintenance Fee". Then once you walk off with the phone there is a charge on your phone whether someone calls you or you call someone. Either way you pay.

    Having lived in the UK for quite some time, every Canadian cellphone "Special Offer" feels like a rip-off.

  • by avi33 (116048) on Monday November 18, 2002 @09:00AM (#4696324) Homepage
    I went to a show [hedpe.com] at the Chicago House of Blues, and I thought I might buy the ticket online to make sure it wasn't sold out by the time I got to the door.

    What started as a $14 ticket had a $.75 fee if you wanted to print your ticket off the internet, a $2 day-of-show price increase, both of which seemed fairly reasonable (though they should be giving ME a discount for printing my own ticket). Without any warning at all, at checkout, they tacked on a $3 'transaction fee' and a $5.50 per-ticket 'handling fee,' and a $1 building maintenance fee, PLUS tax, (which is not applied at the door), and my total came out to $29.67, MORE THAN TWICE THE ORIGINAL TICKET PRICE.

    um, I took my chances at the door, and got in for $14. Too bad that's not an option for most bigger venues.
  • TicketBastard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skeedlelee (610319) on Monday November 18, 2002 @09:23AM (#4696452)
    You know, it always somehow made sense to me that ticket master could charge a convenience fee for tickets. The idea was that they had to charge a small enough amount that you didn't decide that it was too much and just go over to the actual box office and buy it without the service charge. However, the amount they charge these days is f'ing ridiculous.

    I wanted to go to a show recently where the venue is 200 yards from my house. I figured, ha! here's a chance to actually go to the box office and avoid the surcharge! It turns out that they have closed their box office, because no one was using it, you can only buy tickets through ticketmaster/bass or whatever. And the fee is like 35% of the cost of the ticket! When there was actually an alternative I would blissfully accept Tm's business model (and bend over), but now that there isn't an alternative at all. Anyone else have this happen (ie. tried to buy from a box office, when there no longer was one)? Alternatively, anyone ever get charged by ticketmaster when buying the ticket AT THE BOX OFFICE?
  • by aquarian (134728) on Monday November 18, 2002 @09:07PM (#4703086)
    Airline costs have "risen rather dramatically" over the past two years, and paper tickets are "more costly to administer than electronic tickets," American Airlines spokeswoman Sonja Whitemon said in explaining the airline's decision to impose a $20 fee on customers who insist on old-fashioned tickets. Fewer than one-third of American's passengers opt for them, she said.

    And "since there is only so much space and weight an aircraft can accommodate," there's "an additional fee for passengers who require more than the average."

    This is bullshit. What they should say is that it's more costly to offer the same level of service/guarantee that they offer with a paper ticket -- which they don't.

    There's a lot more to the ticket fee issue than meets the eye. The public is aware of it, and it's why they still insist on paper tickets. What's the deal? Well, if you read the fine print, you'll see that an electronic ticket is a completely different class of ticket. It's a different contract. Basically, they have the right to bump you first if the plane is overbooked, or even if someone shows up at the last minute and is willing to pay full pop. With an electronic ticket, you're the low man on the totem pole. Of course airlines are pushing these, because it gives them carte blanche to do what they want with you, overbook flights, etc. Some e-tickets even have fine print about not being responsible for delivering checked luggage, etc.

    Be really careful with e-tickets. Read the fine print. I do, and I've always found it well worth it to pay the difference, and even to wait in line.

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