Fed up with fees | Reportage
I grew up in such a simple time. From the age of 6, I ran the cash register at the family grocery store.
Here’s how it worked. Let’s say I sold a box of Tide, priced at $1.99. I would add 4% sales tax and the total was $2.07. End of trade. There were no questions and there was no confusion.
I could say the same about everything I’ve bought. I still have my ticket stub from a Charlie Daniels concert. It cost twenty dollars. By mail, phone or in person, I spent exactly that, twenty dollars.
There was a price displayed on every car I bought. I would negotiate for a slightly lower price, the tax was added and the car was mine.
I could spend a night at the hotel. The sign said $69. At checkout the clerk added the sales tax and I was back on the road. The world seemed to work pretty well back then.
Not today. My sons are in their thirties and they have never known a world without fees. Some of these fees are clearly stated and others are hidden.
I don’t know who came up with these fees, but this evil genius is probably on a beach he owns, charging exorbitant fees to anyone who wanders onto his property.
Recently, my sons and I decided to renew a family tradition interrupted during the pandemic. We have scheduled dates to fly to Florida, spend a few nights at an AirBNB, rent a car, and attend Atlanta Braves spring training games. Early in the planning process, I started tracking all the prices offered.
Flights were listed at a certain amount, as were room, car and game tickets. I rounded it up to a total of about a thousand dollars. One of my sons was given the task of putting together the final package, and (spoiler alert!) it turned out to be about double what I had originally planned.
Why? You know the chorus. Airlines charge a fee for everything except flight attendant shoes. The AirBNB adds cleaning fees, service fees, and taxes which obviously provide a computer for every student, teacher, and alligator in the state of Florida. The car rental company, which once charged $29 a day for a four-door land boat, now charges an administrative fee, processing fee and upgrade fee if you prefer a vehicle that can accommodate more than two tiny Olympic gymnasts.
And of course, game tickets. Much has been said and written about Ticketmaster in recent weeks, as half of Americans spent an entire week tethering their laptops and multiple phones in a futile effort to buy Taylor Swift tickets without losing their homes and kids.
The ten dollar ticket from long ago to a spring training game that no team even cares to win is now multiplied by ten. PLUS convenience fees, internet fees, room fees, postage fees, and as various jokesters have said, fi-fo-fum fees and “because we can” fees.
The last line sums it up. They do it, because they can. Now you ask, is there hope? Will our government watchdogs put an end to these scams?
Let me answer your questions with excerpts from three different articles. First, the Associated Press quoted the Government Accounting Office. “These charges are not part of the ticket price, which means they can easily go unnoticed until it is too late for the consumer to shop around.”
Additionally, according to 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 hotels to include these fees, which are supposed to cover additional amenities, in the initial price they quote, rather than waiting for payment.
The! You see, help is on the way. Oh, I forgot some important details. These articles were published in 2010, 2015 and 2016. If you want real changes in the laws, your elected officials can demand additional fees.
(David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his new book “Hello Chattanooga” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You can contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at [email protected]).
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