As companies, states, and local governments are scrambling to make up for shortfalls in profits from sales taxes (because people are not spending themselves into the red as much anymore—hurrah!), new fees are popping out of the woodworks. No one likes to pay fees, but there are some that have become mainstream that I find particularly appalling. Heck, some have been around for years, and I still find them appalling.
- Emergency Row Seat Fees: Some airlines charge extra for passengers to occupy the emergency row seats. They justify this because of the extra room these seats offer. But seriously, you can’t recline in these seats because they are the emergency row, so you are most likely less comfortable than you would be in other seats. You also have to pay attention to the instructions during takeoff (instead of sleeping or reading) because should the plane go down, you have an actual job and function to fulfill. Perhaps the airline should be charging you less money for these seats, not more!
- Fee to Use a Bathroom: While studying abroad in London, I was shopping at a Tesco in a small mall for some groceries. This Tesco was on the way back to my apartment from the tube station. I wanted to use the bathroom, but was appalled when I was confronted with a coin slot machine that they expected me to drop a coin into! Paying to use the bathroom? Unreal. I dropped my grocery cart where it was, and headed home to use my own, free, toilet. Now Ryanair is looking to charge to use the restroom. Can you imagine transporting people 10,000 feet in the air, and then making them pay for the basic necessity of using a restroom?
- Parking: I come from the school of thought that paying for parking is part of doing business for the store owner, not for you. In most places other than downtown cities, you can find alternative places to shop with free parking, so why on earth would that retailer pass on that cost to their customers? For instance, there is a movie theater in Houston that Paul and I used to go to. We knew that they have a $3 parking fee (outrageous!), and so one time we parked our car in the free parking lot next door. Big mistake—the car was towed, and we had to hitch a ride with two other unsuspecting victims to the tow place and cough up $200. Let’s just say, that movie place has lost our business.
- Restocking Fee: I am not a serial return person (I used to work with a woman who one day confessed to me that she returns about half of what she purchases!); in other words, most of what I purchase I keep. So when I do return something, I have a legitimate reason and do not wish to incur some sort of penalty for doing so. Just two weeks ago I had purchased a box of tiles to try and match them with the existing tile in our laundry room. The box said that the tiles were 12 X 12 feet, which would have matched perfectly with our tile. When we measured it at home, the tile was actually 11 ¾ feet X 11 ¾ feet, a big difference and a misrepresentation. The owner wanted to charge me a 20% restocking fee! It’s not as if I was renting the tile from him, and thus he was rightfully claiming some of my money. Needless to say, I easily argued my way out of that one. Blockbuster also recently had a run-in with customers angry with their restocking fee.
- Shipping and Handling: I understand shipping charges, though of course am not a huge fan of it. But handling fees? Handling your product is one of the costs of doing business. If someone purchases something from you, you have to make sure it gets to the customer in order to fulfill your side of the transaction. I once ordered a pair of cute house shoes off the internet for $7.99. It was a pair I used to own in college, so even though I balked at the $9.95 shipping and handling fee (the shoes weigh less than half a pound), I paid it. A week later I get the package…which cost the business owner $2.95 to ship. Seriously. Some merchants on eBay will also add in extra handling fees and then sell the product at a lower cost than the competition to make it appear as if you are getting a good deal. In fact, as an occasional eBay seller myself, I was a bit surprised that in the seller’s tips eBay suggests that perhaps you should add in something on the handling in order to increase your profits.