Sleaze Fees On The Rise
Banks are backing off new fees on debit card use, but retaining many other fees that today are one of their main sources of income. Airlines are making billions a year in fees for things that used to be — and still ought to be — part of their regular service. Fees have become so outrageous at some airlines that a carrier that doesn’t charge some of them promotes this fact prominently in its ads. Imagine. Not egregiously screwing airline passengers. What a deal!
Bank and airline fees, however, though they get the headlines, are just the tip of this sleazy iceberg, as a sickly American economic system gropes wildly for temporary relief of any kind. The operative thinking here is that if you can’t raise stated official prices on services needed by hard-pressed consumers, get it from them any way you can.
Insurers offer another prime example of the sleaze fees phenom. This morning I got a quarterly insurance bill. It was for $60. And I had the option of paying the full amount for the year, or paying a $6 “processing fee” for the privilege of paying quarterly.
A processing fee from an insurance company? What else do insurers do but process paperwork — other than employing a few people to make visits and low-ball the damages they find?
Here’s the big picture problems with this nickel and diming fee charging madness. It makes personal budgeting much harder because consumers always end up spending more than the upfront prices listed for services; official inflation numbers are distorted because fees are not included in official computations; a focus on fees by businesses to boost profits rather than improving service makes for an increasingly distrustful marketplace.
But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I should hop on the bandwagon myself instead of shaking my fist at it.
You’ve been reading this post for free. OK. But there’s a $12.50 “computer fee” to cover the wear and tear on the equipment I used to write it. And a $23.18 “veterinarian fee” to cover the pain and suffering of my cat who wasn’t getting patted during the period when I was composing this post.
Got a problem with this? Any complaints about these service fees should be addressed to your local bank, insurer, or favorite airline.
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