Fed Up With All Those Hidden Fees
If you know me well, you know I hate to fly. I don’t mind the craziness of the airport, or having to stay seated for several hours at a time with little legroom, or even the loud children who always seem to have a propensity for banging the back of my seat. There are, after all, some advantages of being short, liking to read, and having children of your own. And I can appreciate the undeniable science of flying and the beauty of soaring above the clouds. But oh when that plane hits some turbulence, when it starts bopping around like it’s doing Elaine’s dance moves from Seinfeld, I can’t help but get nervous. I grip on tight and don’t let go, worrying the entire time that the plane will plummet towards the ground at any moment, and I won’t even have time for one last celebratory beverage. Sure, I’ll get on a plane when I have to, but my anxiety hardly makes it pleasant. So excuse me if I always try to find a direct flight.
Sometimes that’s not exactly easy. For example, I was recently flying to Florida for my mom’s memorial service and had to get there on a particular day. I could have flown Delta through Atlanta, but opted instead for a red-eye flight on Frontier that flew directly to Fort Meyers where my dad could pick me up from the airport. I knew I would wind up being sleep-deprived for a few days, but it was worth it to be able to fly direct. Plus, the Frontier flight was unbelievably cheap. Or so I thought.
I was only going to go for a few days and usually travel fairly light, so all I had with me was a carry-on bag and my one personal item that held my computer and reading material. But when I went to check in online, these assholes wanted $45 for my carry-on bag, even if I wasn’t checking it. So just how am I supposed to travel across the country? With just a thong tucked into my pants pocket? Even worse, and this still absolutely blows me away, they listed a “seat fee” that was not negotiated or mentioned at the time I purchased the tickets. Apparently, they had to now charge me an additional $20 for the privilege of selecting a seat. Not a special seat, mind you, complete with extra legroom or a back massager. No, this was just one of the regular, old seats that made up the plane. So what exactly was my option here? Not pay for the seat? What would they have done then- had me try to balance myself in the aisle for the duration of the flight? You know that would have given the stewardess a conniption. Or perhaps I was supposed to lasso myself around the wing of the plane and just hold on for dear life.
Needless to say, this is complete b.s., and I have vowed to never fly Frontier again, regardless of how cheap or direct the flight may be, but they are not alone in instituting these types of policies with hidden fees. Online ticket retailers are famous for this. Go to pay for the $50 Def Leppard tickets your girlfriend made you buy, and suddenly you find out they’re eighty bucks. Why? Well, the quoted price didn’t including “handling fees” or “convenience fees”. What? Who are they kidding? This purchase was hardly convenient and given that I am printing them out at home, you aren’t even “handling” them.
A similar thing happened when I recently went to book a condo for a ski vacation on the rental website VRBO. The cost seemed perfectly acceptable until I went to finally checkout and saw that the stated price had doubled. Now I saw a litany of other fees that included such things as a “cleaning fee” and a “one-night stay fee”. I booked a hotel room instead, comforted by the fact that at least the only hidden fees that I would have there would be state and local taxes. And don’t even get me started on brokerage firms, credit card companies, and banks.
Am I so wrong to think that the price should just be the damn price? Listen- charge whatever you need to. You’ve done the math. Figure out what your costs are related to the commodity you are selling, add a reasonable profit margin that you think the market can bear, and then price it accordingly. We are all grown-ups in a capitalistic society. We know that you aren’t in business to make my life better and that you are going to get your cut of things in this exchange. But just have some darn integrity and be up front about it.
Instead these weasels use intentionally deceptive and manipulative business practices to cheat you out of money like a common riverboat gambler. It’s price baiting- pure and simple. Afraid that you will walk away from your purchase if they hit you with the sticker shock of the true price up front, they convince you to buy the item at a reasonable price and then pull the rug out from under you when you already feel committed. This is just the type of corrupt business practices that we need to eliminate from the marketplace if we want capitalism to thrive in a healthy way that works for all.
I’d suggest turning to Congress to enact legislation to get rid of hidden fees, but these are just the kinds of schemes those jerks are masters of themselves. No, the ultimate power to dictate the culprits’ behaviors is to hit them in the only place they care about: their bottom line profit. Ride a different airline. Find a different place to stay. Forgo the Def Leppard concert. Ok, you may not have any say on that one….
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com