Archive for the ‘Hidden Charges’ Category

Service of Full Measure

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I love to feel as though I’ve received my money’s worth and like to surprise people by giving them more than they expect.  So that may be why when I feel short-changed, I’m really irritated.

There’s a boutique takeout place in a nearby village that charges a premium for a small container of soup and when you get it home, the container is only three-quarters full. It happened twice–I figured it must have been a mistake the first time.  I don’t care for this approach so in spite of its stellar reputation, I’ve never been back. [Soup is one of the most profitable things on any menu so on discovering the skimpy portion I thought, “You’re testing my patience” when I should have been thinking, “um um good!”]

When I order wine-by-the-glass, I’m amazed by the difference in the amount of wine I get from place to place and in my experieince, the less I pay the more wine I’m served. And it has nothing to do with leaving plenty of room for a fancy red varietal to breath or because the goblet in an expensive place is bigger than in a reasonably priced one.

Dinner portions have a way of being amusingly tiny in some of the more expensive restaurants as well. Nobody needs enough roast beef to provide leftovers for a family of four [though dinner the next night is a treat!]. Yet to leave hungry after someone’s spent $100+ makes a customer feel duped as well as the brunt of a proprietor’s joke.

If I’m paying top price, I also like a nice big dollop of ice cream in a cone, even if I can’t finish it all.

If you speak with a lawyer or psychiatrist in an office or over the phone you are charged to the minute. Shouldn’t it be the same for everyone else who charges for their time–no more, no less? Here are examples of both instances:

**A friend recently signed up with a trainer at a well-known sports club. She pays $45 for half an hour and she has a $700+ contract. She works hard for her money and her clients get the best of what she does and she expects the same from the people she hires. She lets the trainer know every time he tries to shortchange her by five minutes at the end. She also makes him give her the time when he starts late because he’s finishing up with someone else. And she’s right! She’s paying $1.50 a minute so why toss away $7.50?

** Some PR staffers work at agencies where clients are charged for their time, billing in the $hundreds per hour. Accurate time cards are essential. Some write fiction–you know who you are. I’m always amazed when clients don’t speak up or weigh a hefty bill against a skimpy activity report.

When you feel you don’t get full measure, do you care or shrug it off? Are there instances that particularly irk you?

Service of Early Adopters

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Thank goodness for early adopters. A friend’s husband was always the first to own the latest gadget and I admire adventurers like him, although I’ve rarely been one.

The most obvious reason is related to cost. The frugal shopper in me remembers paying a fortune for a calculator, which became a promo giveaway a few years later.

And then I experienced another reason to hold back: To let others iron out the kinks so when I buy the gizmo, gadget or new-fangled whatever, it’s flawless.

I helped launch an innovative home furnishings product that interior designers scrambled to be the first to install. We were thrilled to take photos of this innovative window shade in the wonderful settings they created. They loved the look.

And then the complaints began when the ground-breaking cord mechanism stuck and decorators and homeowners alike found that they couldn’t clean the shades as instructed.

So I remembered not to be first when I considered an electric car and then wondered where I’d find plugs to feed it during my travels [or even where I live]. If I hear of a new medication, I don’t want to be the one to exhibit side effects that didn’t come out in drug trials.

The iPhone 4 brought this topic to mind. The New York Post headline, “Apple Slapped with ‘Death Grip’ Suits Calling Out the iPhone,” reflected some of the drama surrounding the sensitive antenna that frames the phone [on the left-hand corner] and causes dropped calls on the device that ranges in price from $700-$200. Some of the first adapters are suing Apple and AT&T, according to Emily Ngo and Michael Blaustein, who wrote the article, for “negligence, breach of implied warranty, knowingly selling a defective product and a slew of other charges.”

One of the phone owners Ngo and Blaustein quoted said he “felt like a guinea pig.” In my mind, that’s what early adopters are and have always been and that’s the service they provide us all. They often pay a lot of money to satisfy their adventurous and inquisitive natures so that the rest of us can enjoy the fruits of their support.

What has been your experience when you’ve been an early adopter and are you driven to be one?

Service at a Price

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

I bought a nifty yoyo at a boutique yesterday and asked for a gift bag–in this case, a very small paper bag with self-stick label to keep it closed. “That will be $1 more,” I was told. They kept the gift bag and gained my annoyance. A full-priced store that charges $10 for a yoyo should give you a gift bag.

How did stores make a profit in the past when they paid gift wrappers? Now, you’re often given a box and tissue paper to do the deed yourself. Barnes & Noble still wraps books and gifts and during the holidays, their stores invite local charities to do the wrapping–what you donate is up to you.

This brings me to American Airlines’ charging $8 for a blanket and pillow: Now, really. Aren’t we inching towards the “oh, you wanted a steering wheel with that car? That’ll cost ya,” style of business?

I got yet another renewal notice from a magazine in which my renewal rate at a “savings” was $20 for a year and the blow in card noted $15 for 12 issues. But look again at that card. In mouse type was, “plus $3 shipping and handling.” It’s enough to make you cancel the subscription, which I did.

ATM machines can be fee-scalpers too: Use another bank’s and watch out. Bank fees in general strangle a budget.

Have you bought theatre tickets online? There’s a $6 to $8 per ticket surcharge that you don’t get if you buy from the box office. That’s the surprise as you check out. It’s especially deceptive if you’ve fallen for a discount ticket promo that touts 25 to 45 percent discounts because that’s no longer the percent of the discount at all.

The head-scratcher: Doesn’t the box office staff cost the theatre money? Why charge so much more to have someone make out a label, put tickets in an envelope and slide it through a postage meter which should take less time than dealing with a whiney customer at a ticket window asking a bunch of questions. And with an email address, that cost them nothing to capture, the theatre can pester a likely suspect from now to kingdom come about upcoming shows–at no cost.

Can you imagine someone in the agency business playing similar games? “Oh, you expected me to write your press releases and select media for the $6,000/month fee? That’ll be an additional $3,000/month.” [I know, I know, some do.]

What surcharges drive you nuts? Why can’t businesses do what they should for a fair price and leave it at that?

Service of Hidden Charges

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

I’m not sure anyone wins when a company hits its customers with hidden charges. Seems crazy to go to the trouble to make a sale and then either turn away or annoy the customer when there are so many better, legitimate, straightforward ways to get the money you need to make a profit.

I’ve known PR agencies that cheat on out of pocket expenses rather than charge the fee that they should.

I have a favorite place to buy tops and sweaters, a manufacturer that also sells directly to the public. I dove at the opportunity to buy a $60 summer tee shirt reduced to $20 at season’s end, until at checkout I saw a $10 charge for shipping and handling.

The shirts are sold in protective plastic bags and it takes one second to toss one in an envelope. It can’t break and it weighs less than a pound. I cancelled the order–I felt taken. Yet, I might have bought the shirt priced at $25, with a $5 shipping and handling charge.

A friend picked up the phone to buy a gadget advertised on TV for $19.95–a second one would only cost the price of shipping and handling. The order-taker wouldn’t let him request the car-conference-calling-gizmo he wanted. The operator kept trying to divert him to buy this, that and the other, wasting his time and irritating him. When he was emphatic that he only wanted the one item, he was told to expect it to take a few months to arrive.

Many airlines charge a fee for checked or overweight luggage and one, I heard on a weekend radio travel talk show, charges passengers who use the lavatory. Meanwhile, a friend’s airfare increased only $15 by adding a detour to New York City on her way to San Diego. Starting point: Minneapolis! So why not charge a proper amount for the travel and stop the nickel-and-diming?

There is an exception. Some books in the secondary market on Amazon.com are priced at almost nothing. The rock-bottom book charge is almost ridiculous so I don’t mind paying twice the cost of the book for postage and packaging, even if I know that shipping Media Mail is inexpensive.

What hidden costs exasperate you? Do people think that their customers are stupid?

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