The Standard Journal
Fed up with fees
Igrew up in such a simple time. From the time I was 6, I manned the cash register at my family’s grocery store. Here’s how it worked. Let’s say I sold a box of Tide, priced at $1.99. I would add the 4% sales tax, and the total was $2.07. End of transaction. There were no questions, and there was no confusion.
I could say the same thing about everything I purchased. I still have my ticket stub from a Charlie Daniels concert. It cost twenty bucks. By mail, by phone, or in person, I spent exactly that, twenty dollars.
There was a sticker price on every car I bought. I would negotiate for a slightly lower price, tax was added, and the car was mine.
I could spend a night in a hotel. The sign said $69. At checkout, the clerk would add the sales tax, and I was back on the road. The world seemed to run pretty smoothly back then.
Not today. My sons are in their 30s, and they have never known a world without fees. Some of those fees are clearly spelled out, and others are hidden.
I don’t know who invented these fees, but that evil genius is probably on a beach he owns, charging outrageous fees to all who wander on his property.
Recently, my sons and I decided to renew a family tradition that was interrupted during the pandemic. We scheduled some dates to fly down to Florida, spend a couple of nights at an AirBNB, rent a car, and catch some Atlanta Braves spring training games. As we began the planning process, I started keeping track of all the quoted prices.
The flights were listed at a certain amount, as was the room, the car, and the game tickets. I rounded it off to a total of about a thousand dollars. One of my sons was given the assignment of putting together the final package, and (spoiler alert!) it came out to about twice as much as I originally predicted.
Why? You know the drill. The airlines tack on fees for everything but the flight attendants’ shoes. The AirBNB adds charges for a cleaning fee, a service fee, and taxes that evidently furnish a computer for every student, teacher, and alligator in the state of Florida. The car rental company, which once quaintly charged $29 bucks a day for a four-door land boat, now slaps on administrative fees, processing fees, and upgrade fees if you prefer a vehicle that can accommodate more than two tiny Olympic gymnasts.
And of course, the game tickets. Much has been said and written about Ticketmaster in recent weeks, since half of America spent a full week tying up their laptops and multiple phones in a futile effort to buy Taylor Swift tickets without forfeiting their homes and their children.
The long ago ten-dollar ticket to a spring training game that neither team even cares about winning is now multiplied times ten. PLUS the convenience fee, the internet fee, the venue fee, the mailing fee, and as various jokesters have said, the fee-fi-fo-fum, and the “because we can” fee.
The last line sums it up. They do it, because they can. Now you ask, is there hope? Will our government watchdogs shut down these scams?
Let me answer your questions with excerpts from three different articles. First, the Associated Press quoted the Government Accounting Office. “These fees are not part of the ticket price, meaning they can easily go unseen until it’s too late for the consumer to shop around.”
Also, according to the Tuscaloosa (AL) News, “The Federal Trade Commission says companies cannot hide important information from consumers to trick them into buying goods and services.”
And the Washington Post reported, “The government may soon require that hotels include these fees, which supposedly cover extra amenities, in the initial price they quote, rather than waiting until checkout.”
There! You see, help is on the way. Oh, I forgot a few important details. Those articles were published in 2010, 2015, and 2016. If you want actual changes in the laws, your elected officials may require an additional fee.