Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Land of the Fee

I wish I could take credit for the title of this particular blog, but I can't . . . Laura Daily, writing for the latest issue of AARP The Magazine, coined the phrase in her article Fed Up With Fees.  Every so often an article--even in the AARP propaganda for those of us pushing the envelope--plucks a string in me.  This one was one of those articles.  Basically it dealt with the new business practice that companies, banks, and big-time organizations are charging fees for services that once were free.  We've all encountered them and it seems that we are encountering the with more frequency.

It seems that banks like charge for these services.  Remember when people wrote checks?  Now most of our business is done through bank cards--actually debit/credit cards--that the bank issues to reduce paperwork.  It is suppose to save money and lighten the work load--which should, if one does it right, increase the profit for the bank because there are less expenses.  But apparently the profit margin wasn't what the banks wanted--they wanted more.  To increase the profit they started to add fees for services that once were the bedrock of banking--there is no longer such a thing as "free checking", the return of written checks, or even a free toaster for opening an account.  No, there are now fees for checking accounts--unless you keep a minimum of half-a-million dollars in your account; there is a monthly charge if you want a paper record sent to you; and the toaster--what's a toaster?  Then there were rumors that they were going to start charging a monthly fee for using the required debit/credit card necessary to do any sort of purchasing.  We have to pay the bank to use our money?  Something is not adding up and it sure isn't adding up in my account!

Banks aren't the only ones using this ploy to increase their profit rates.  Have you flown lately?  It doesn't pay to call the airlines to book your ticket in hopes of saving a few dollars by dealing directly with them--nope, there is now a twenty-five dollar handling fee.  It costs to take your luggage with you--a twenty-five dollar charge per bag.  Want something more than a three ounce pop and a mini (I mean, mini) bag of pretzels or peanuts it is going to cost a person a minimum of five bucks.

Want to pay a bill by the phone?  That is going to cost you because they are going to charge you for that privilege.  Check out the various service charges tacked on to your cell phone bill.  One guy in the AARP article said he got charged two dollars for a piece of tape in one of those package shipping stores.  Another guy got charged two bucks at one of those high-end department stores for a spritz of cologne.  Now, tell me, is that not ridiculous?

The solution offered by the author in the article is to take business elsewhere.  She also suggested complaining to the manager or the company president if possible.  She stated that after consumers railed against Bank of America's attempt to charge five dollars a month for using a debit card, the bank abandoned its plans.  Isn't that sweet until they can find somewhere else to tack on a fee? 

Now I don't quite understand all the "ins" and "outs" of the Occupy Wall Street protests--or at least their demands, but I can understand how it all sprang up.  In the movie Network the rallying cry became, "I'm made as hell and I'm nnot going to take it anymore!"  Exactly!  If nothing else the Occupy Wall Street or any other street in the United States has come from this sense of frustration of being run over by train by the financial world around us.  That I can understand. 

So, what's a frustrated old fart like me suppose to do?  I might take my business elsewhere, I might complain to the manager, and I might even write a letter to the company president.  Maybe things will changed, but I doubt it.  Instead I think I will fight fire with fire--or fees with fees.  From now on, whenever I am asked to do something by someone who works in business or financial institution--I'm going to charge them a fee for my time and services.  If I have a company come to my house to fix a broken appliance--of which they are going to charge me a service fee even before they begin the work (work which will be paid by the hour)--I'm going to charge them a fee to park in my driveway.  Shoot at this rate I think I see my profit for the next year rising quite nicely.  Maybe, with this new fee system instituted in my life I just might be able to rise up out of the 99% and join the one percent.  You never know . . . by the way, if you read this blog you should send your payment to me at my Swiss bank--I'M KIDDING!

Whatever the case, it feels good to rant and rave whether it ever makes a difference.  But it can make a difference if we could ever unite long enough so the financial world hears us--"We're mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore!"  It is a place to start.  I don't want to think of my homeland as the "Land of the Fee".

No comments: