Fee Madness!

The current business climate of charging a fee for every single transaction I have made has started to get a little irritating. Every time I have used a foreign ATM, I have paid a fee. If I don’t carry a minimum monthly balance in my checking or savings account, the bank has charged me a fee. When I have used my credit card at different stores, I was charged a fee for the convenience of being able to purchase the item with that piece of plastic.

I wish I could have only blamed the banking institutions of the world for the implementation of the current fee epidemic, but I can’t. Ticket Master has charged an exorbitant fee for every single ticket I have purchased from them. They even charged me a fee for postage and handling when I opted to pick my tickets up at the “will call” window but the most irritating fee from Ticket Master was when I choose to have my tickets emailed to me. I was still charged for the postage and then I was charged another fee for the convenience of having the tickets emailed to me and saving them the cost of the printing as well as the cost for the actual postage and handling in the first place.

The electric company has now joined in the fracas as well. When I looked at the itemized list on my electric bill, I realized that they have been charging me a monthly fee. My town government charged a flat fee for garbage pick-up, which struck me as more of a tax than a fee, but they call it a fee nonetheless. When I placed an air conditioner in with my weekly garbage, the town charged me an extra fee which I believe they referred to as an “environmental recovery fee” in order to take the old air conditioning unit away. The phone company charged me for a “universal line fee” and then, literally, two lines down the bill, there was a “federal line fee.” I guess “universal” doesn’t cover as much territory universally as it once had in the past.

When I went back to examine the banking fees that were being charged by my financial institution, I realized that I had paid a fee or a “convenience charge” to bank via the computer. I would have to pay another fee if I wanted to have my mortgage automatically deducted from my bank account each month, and yet, a larger fee if I chose to have them draw my mortgage twice a month in two smaller installments. And the list of items could go on and on until we all realized that we are being nickel and dimed to death by every business in the world. I would like to know what happened to customer service or “user friendly business” to use a technical term? Ironically, I paid a fee for technical assistance when I didn’t understand the software they charged me an arm and a leg to have installed on my computer in the first place! It was fee madness I tell you and I was getting angry!

The good old days of quality service for a fair price were gone. Every business seemed to require a payment for hidden fees, charges, surcharges, recovery fees and convenience charges and by the time it was all added it up, these little “extras” really started to add up. These little fees were turning into big business, literally. Don’t even get me started about buying a car! My favorite line at the end of every automobile commercial is the disclaimer that says, “Price doesn’t include taxes, licensing, and fees.” That great price they just quoted in the commercial jumped astronomically when I added those prices into the equation.

Anyway, I went to a foreign ATM yesterday. Let me explain because a foreign ATM was not an ATM in another country, it was the term used to describe a bank that was not part of my banks banking network. Apparently, my bank and this bank had not signed the Treaty of Teaneck where the “really cool banks” had gotten together and agreed not to screw each other with fees. Simply stated; all other banks were foreign to these “really cool banks.” They all had the same type of money, used the same technology, and were interconnected but without having signed the Treaty of Teaneck, there were barriers to consumers who wanted to use a convenient ATM. These barriers meant that I was a member of a rival banking treaty and for that distinction, this banking institution and their allies decided that they would get those consumers of foreign banks at the ATM machine by charging us a fee. Well, this particular ATM was not working properly. I had agreed to pay the $2 fee for using the foreign ATM, but this particular ATM did not work. It was out of order.

So I went into the bank and asked if the teller or the manager could help me. I made it clear to the banking representative that I needed to get money quickly and that their ATM was broken. The manager told me that I could get money out of the bank by running the ATM card I had in my hand through their credit card machine because I had the nifty little Visa logo and I could do all of this for a 2.5% fee. Someone call my doctor; my blood pressure was on the rise and I was about to blow a gasket. If I had used the ATM, they would’ve have charged me $2 for the honor of getting $250 of my own money back from the their institution but since their ATM was broken, I now had to pay $6.25 to get my own $250 from one of their cash drawers via the credit card option. It seemed odd to me that there would be a huge discrepancy but I grinned as I handed the woman my ATM card and said, “Not a problem.”

She took my card and before she ran it through the credit card machine, she asked, “Can I please see some identification?”

I knew she was going to ask to see my identification because I have the letters “C.I.D.” printed on the back of all of my credit cards where my signature would normally be written. It was a form of theft protection and this time, I was happy I had it. “Yes, you can, but there’s a $10 fee.”

“What? Are you crazy? We are not going to pay $10 to see your ID.”

“And I am not going to pay $6.25 to get money out of this bank. Have a nice day!” I said as I took back my ATM card. The nerve of some people! How dare they want to see my ID and not pay for it? I mean, they could have stolen my identity and I would be stuck with years of aggravation and financial loss trying to get it back. Why this fee was a logical down payment on that realization, how dare she cop an attitude with me about it?!

I drove across town at the net expense of $2 in gas which, ironically, would have been the original fee for the use of the foreign ATM, and I used a domestic ATM machine to get my own money for free and I went on my way. And since yesterday, I have started a push to take back my identity in case it was ever stolen and more importantly, to benefit from others who waste my time.

I told the telemarketer that I would be willing to hear his spiel if he paid a $3 listening fee. I have revised my ID fee to $5. If I were needed to roll down my window at any service station or drive through window, it would now cost the business $2. That would be a $1 charge to roll down my window and a $1 charge to roll it up again, but I preferred to collect the fee all at once. The fee would be waived and free of charge if the window was already open. There was now a $1 per answer fee for any question that was asked of me and that included the pre-cursor “Can I ask you a question?”

I told the postman that there was now a $5 per week opening fee for opening my mailbox to deliver the mail and I told the food delivery people that they had to pay $2 or forego their tip for me to open the front door. It would be a $3 fee if they parked in my driveway because that would be charged as an extra $1 for a “standing fee.” There was now a $10 fee to park in my driveway for more than ten minutes. I have included a 39 cent fee for all letters, which I have graciously saved people the hassle of paying over the phone because I have opted to send all of my mail as “postage due.”

And my all time favorite fee was now the $2 per ten minute standing in line fee at every establishment that I have visited. It was a $3 per ten minute fee after I have been up for eight hours on any given day and well, it was double time on Sundays. I have also included a $5 fee for every five minutes I have to wait in the waiting room of my local ER and it was a $10 fee per five minutes if I deemed the attendant/nurse to have a snotty attitude.

I forecast that business for me is about to boom, so I had a credit card machine installed in my house and I even have a portable credit card machine while on the road. Of course, the use of a credit card required another 3% convenience charge on top of the original fee. I used to be “user friendly” but I realized that businesses made a lot of money by attaching fees, which in turn, added significantly to their bottom line. Therefore, I have decided to increase my own personal wealth by getting in on all of the “Fee Madness.”

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33 Responses to Fee Madness!

  1. Angie says:

    This is one of my favorites! I think it hits a cord for many of us. I am thinking up my fee schedule as I write.

    Thank you for the wonderful humor!

  2. Doug M. says:

    Doug,

    This post was great. I go through life trying to avoid fees, not because I am cheap (though that could be a topic on its own) but on principal. I was using my online banking and noticed a $1 fee in two accounts. I had not used any new services and had the required balances. After calling the branch, they told me that it was a “statement fee.” First, we all had passbooks. Then, most banks switched us to statements. Now, they charge a fee for the statement that THEY wanted us to get in the first place.

    While I love this post, you missed one important thing. The “fuel surcharge fee” that is attached to damn near everything today. I had a guy from Poland Spring come into my office to sell me water. We agreed on $5.99 per bottle. A couple of months later the price jumped to $7.99 with no warning. I called and they lowered it back down to $5.99. Wouldnt you know that within 2 deliveries they added a $2 “fuel surchage fee” to each bottle. That was the end of Poland Spring in my office. Fed Ex has reduced fees for me but has added “fuel surcharges” to each shipment. I wonder how they planned to move the item from my office to the destination when they set the rates if they were not planning to use fuel to begin with. To put it in perspective, Poland Springs delivers when it is convienent for them (every 3 weeks or so) and do so in a route that has them hit 4 units in my building, not to mention every other building on Main Street. Assuming we all get one bottle, they get $8 without their truck ever having to leave my parking lot…now I know that they are gas guzzlers, but I would think that the fees far exceed their fuel costs.

    At the end of the day, I use FedEx and the phone company (necessity), but not Poland Springs. Use network ATM’s, not ‘foreign’ ATM’s and Citizens decided to never charge me a fee or they would lose my business. In reality, they charge it, then the branch credits it back. Vote with our feet and we will…

    My fee to complete that line is $3.75.

  3. Bill in Boston says:

    A note to the author of this article: You have really captured the essence of the demise of service in America. More importantly, you have done it in a way that is actually really funny. I say actually because humor has taken some big hits as well in recent years. Movies aren’t funny anymore, nor are TV shows (writers or no writers) and authors and columnists both have become tediously boring and rarely hit the nail on the head.

    I hope to see more material from you because you do have the increasingly rare gift of making some keen observations and then delivering them in a light-hearted yet cutting way creating an enticing cocktail mixture. The problem is that now I want a bit more, so please keep the writing coming!

  4. Angela Polk says:

    Dear Doug:

    Please don’t charge me a fee for leaving a comment. (Smile!) What can I say? You have an adept way of letting readers see the big picture and I must confess, I never really paid attention to all of the subtle fees until now. Moreover, I want to get in on the action by jumping on the “Fee Madness” bandwagon.

    Thank you for posting this for I am positively sure I have stumbled upon greatness. Your knack for storytelling is something that is rarely seen delivered as honest and blithesome in this Blog-obsessed-world. It would be such an amazing honor to read more of your work.

    Peace & Blessings!

    P. S. Check out my new motto:

    “Yes, you can, but there’s a $10 fee.” Doug Veeder a/k/a Irishman For Hire

  5. Doug Veeder says:

    No Angela, leaving a comment is free, nothing to worry about there…. unless Doug M. gets his way.

    Maybe, one day, all of the “fee madness” will come to an end. Until that day, thanks for the support and kind words.

    And check back often for more material.

    Have a great night,
    Doug Veeder

  6. Jennifer says:

    Doug M:
    I work for Poland Spring, and I wanted to make a correction to your post as to not misrepresent our company. We do have an oil surcharge, but it is not per bottle. The surcharge is $2, once per invoicing cycle, even if you receive 30 deliveries of 200 bottles each in that cycle (hypothetically, obviously). If for some reason you don’t have any delivery within a cycle, you incur no surcharge. I’m positive that was explained to you when you called to close your account, but I’m not sure if perhaps you misunderstood.

    The only reason we do not make special deals in cases as you mentioned above (multiple offices at the same stop) is because the situation can change so greatly. Offices move all the time. Our system is not nearly sophisticated enough to track it alone, and it’s not really something we could have people doing manually either. There’s much less room for error having a flat rate for every delivery stop.

    Thanks for choosing Poland Spring,
    Jennifer

  7. Doug Veeder says:

    Jennifer,

    I fought with myself and told myself not to respond to your comment because I fear you will reply and the point of my article above and Doug M.’s comment will denigrate into semantics and we will stray from the relevant issue.

    The point is this; if you have a delivery business, factor the delivery or fuel charges into the cost of the the price and negotiate with the client. People won’t care if the bottle charge is $6.99 or $7.99 if that was what our bill says but when companies add “fees” it becomes “madness” for the consumer; hence the title “fee madness.” Nothing makes me more irate then to open a bill that I know should be, let’s say $21.99 + tax, and it reads $30 + because of the “fees” that were never explained in the first place; especially when it is a “delivery business” because delivering goods is part of the deal and should be factored into the price.

    To make a long story short; to add “hidden fees” in my mind is deceptive business practices and whether or not you agree, I agree with Doug M! I understand that the fine print taketh away what the large print giveth but if business wants to act in that manner, consumers will ultimately find a company that does not. BTW, I pay less than $4 per bottle of water and there isn’t a “fuel charge” on my bill.

    Thanks for reading,
    Doug

  8. Doug M. says:

    Under $4/bottle…where? After dumping Poland Springs I just pick up a bottle or two from the Monadnock place down the street and that costs $5.

    I was not going to reply to Jennifer either, but I did want to point out that she did not address the issue that her sales person knocked on my door he promised a price that they only honored once or twice and without notice increased the price. When I called them on it, they reduced it back down…only for the ‘fuel surcharge fee’ to make up the difference shortly thereafter. She did not even address the issue of misrepresentation and/or deceptive trade practices or the total amount of money generated by these fees as opposed to the increase in their actual fuel costs. As she would say, perhaps SHE misunderstood the thrust of my post. What I didn’t say, yet still in line with the misrepresentations of her sales staff was that I was not supposed to be added to a schedule and it was supposed to be ‘on call’..I call, they deliver within a couple of days…that happened once…after that bottles just appeared every 4 weeks (or whatever). While not relevant to the Fee Madness issue, totally relevant to dumping on Poland Springs and they way that at least this one salesperson did his job.

    Looks like Doug V’s little blog here is growing by leaps and bounds…congratulations on that Doug.

    Doug

  9. Jennifer says:

    I’m sorry I didn’t address the issue of the price– I thought you were just saying that they added the $2 oil surcharge to each bottle, which is untrue. I clearly did misunderstand you.

    I simply work at the call center for Poland Spring. I won’t lie– at the call center, we cannot stand the sales reps on the field. Your story is one we all see way too often, where the sales rep promises a price and doesn’t enter it correctly into the system. While I have to stand by my company, seeing as they provide an income for me, I will not stand by the field reps for a second. They make false promises to meet their sales quota. I have to be slightly thankful however, seeing as I have no quota, and my entire job is based upon fixing the issues they create.

    I don’t want you (or anyone) to think I was attacking you or trying to blindly support the cult of Poland Spring. I just did not want it to be thought that we add a $2 surcharge to each bottle (that’s just crazy!) We did mess up your special pricing though, I’m sure. It’s a communication error withen our company that is incredibly out of hand.

    Sorry again for your bad experience, Doug!

  10. Doug Veeder says:

    Just when I thought the FEE MADNESS had stopped and we had outed most of the perpetrators… it appears the wedding cake people have gotten into it… $5-$9/serving and that doesn’t include taxes, delivery fees and set-up fees… Wow!

    http://lacubanagringa.com/2008/04/28/wedding_cake/

    My wedding cake for 125 people cost $230 in 1996 and we didn’t have any additional costs $230 or $1.84 per person.

    Inflation, I guess…plus, those added fees (&%$&%%!!!!! I hope her wedding will still be a memorable day…

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