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September 8, 2009

Add-on fees squeeze budgets

The focus of a previous article was companies and their add-on fees for formerly free services. The airlines, in particular, continue to add surcharges for “shipping” our bags. Interestingly, the fee consumers pay for round-trip travel does not apply to luggage which has a separate charge for each direction of the trip and some airlines charge an additional fee if you forget to pre-pay the baggage fee on-line and wait until you arrive at the airport to pay. Other charges are for printing your boarding pass if you do not do so on your own. This forces even the tourist traveler to have access to a computer, the Internet, and a printer during their vacation.

A reader mentioned they had paid an excess parking fee for their van/SUV at a museum and were perplexed that cars were $5 but their SUV was $8 even though it fit into the same size parking space and brought six customers to the exhibit. The were even more frustrated when they asked about the additional $3 and the attendant pointed to a printed sign with the new price penciled-in over the old price of $5 for all vehicles.

Some hotels have instituted a “no-tipping” policy but add a fee of 20 percent for all food and services in addition to some “resort” charges for hotels with pools and health clubs and other traditional amenities. These are listed as “convenience fees” among the various taxes and charges for hotel rooms. When employees have no incentive to work for their tip, the service seems to suffer.

Credit cards, for the most part, have eliminated their fixed interest rates and added a higher minimum payment amount, fewer grace period days to pay your bill in full and a host of other changes that means consumers must pay attention to these changes and read the fine print of inserts or e-mails. Banks too are charging higher fees for check printing as well as higher overdraft charges and other account and service fees. Often you only find out about the increase when you use the service, and not before.

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