Monday, March 4, 2013

Fees, Fees, Everywhere Some Fees Invade Everything

First it was the airlines, who screw us over with their byzantine system of fees. Hotels do it, too.

Now, restaurants have gotten into the act. An outfit called Miller's Ale House in Winter Park, Fla. started putting a fee on everybody's bill marked "Revaudage PUF," according to television station WESH. 

The "Revaudage" referred to the development the restaurant was in and "PUF" is "Personal Usage Fee" the television station said. The fee was for maintenance of the property. Customers were using the property, after all.

Of course, few people would really examine their restaurant bill to notice the fee. True, it only amounted to less than 50 cents per bill, but it was still shady.  Why not just mark up the cost of the food every so slightly to keep the restaurant profitable.

Miller's Ale House removed the fee after the bad publicity from WESH-TV surfaced.

Instead of just being straightforward with their pricing, more and more businesses seem to want to create the fee structure knowing most of us can't keep track of it all. Most of us don't know what's included in the price and what is an extra charge.

That way, we're lured in by their "low" price, but hit with fees so they rake in the dough and we're screwed.

These businesses do it simply because they can. As an Associated Press article on complex airline fees asked,  Here's the AP take on the airline industry:

"What other industry can you think of where a person buying a product doesn't know how much it's going to cost even after he's done at the checkout counter?" said Simon Gros, chairman of the Travel Technology Association, which represents the global distribution services and online travel industries.

The answer to that is, in the future at least, more and more.

More from the AP story:

"The harder airlines make it for consumers to compare, 'the greater opportunity you have to get higher prices,' said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, whose members include corporate travel managers."

A lot of the reason this complicated fee structure seems to be gaining popularity is data mining, according to the AP. Businesses can try to sell you services based on what you wanted in the past. Baggage claim, more leg room, frequent flier, etc., according to the AP.

So we have to pay the price in higher expenses and much more confusion so businesses can learn more about us so they can try to get us to spend even more money on them?

I hope we don't end up where everything we buy is like that. Nowadays, we go to the grocery store and say, buy a can of soup for $1.99. Straightforward enough. Are we going to go to some system where the soup seems to cost $1.99 a can but we have to go to a Web site to make sure we don't pay a $2 carrying fee for taking the soup out of the store once we purchase it, a 50 cent restocking fee, a $1.00 manufacturing fee, and a 50 cent recycling fee, so we end up paying $5.99 for a $1.99 can of soup?

We know costs go up for businesses Just raise the damn price so you can still make a profit. We won't like the higher prices, but we get it. Inflation exists. We deal with it.  Just tell us in a straightforward fashion how much it will cost to buy the thing you are trying to sell.

To obscure how much we're paying through a complex fee structure just seems dishonest to me, even if it is perfectly legal.

Because that's essentially what we're doing with airlines, some hotels and resorts, and apparently, a few restaurants now.

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