breezewood proving grounds

Being Aware of Extra Fees – Part Two

There are some businesses, and I am not pointing a finger at a specific one, that I truly believe try to find something “extra” to charge for each time you make a purchase.  There are some who want to sell you additional things like warranties and the like, but here I am taking about things you don’t want and didn’t approve.  They just add it on and hope you won’t notice and just pay it.  Sometimes they make a mistake with these charges, but it’s so blatantly wrong — I tend to believe it’s not a mistake.  Not enough people check over their receipts and invoices.  Not enough people refuse to pay the extra charges.  Even for some who do, it’s just impossible to fix and they get stuck with them anyway.

Just the other day, Christmas Eve, I got hit with a surprise $5.00 charge on my receipt, at a local sporting goods store. It was for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, but I didn’t approve it, or even know about it till I found it on the receipt and then the cashier had the nerve to ask my husband if he did it.  First,  there was no way he could have done that, and second we both knew it likely was some kind of a contest to see who could rack up the most dollars for St. Jude’s that day — Christmas Eve — long lines, busy customers, rushing, waiting in Get Your Extra Feesline… hurrying on – just put it on their bill and hope they won’t come back to the store to have it fixed.  It was after all a great time to hit people up for $5.00 to a charity, but because I didn’t approve it first, not a legitimate one.   By the way, on that same receipt, I found a second problem before I left the store that netted me an additional $7.35 off.  This one involved filling a sales table with a sign and price that didn’t apply to the items on the table.  I basically demanded they take the sign down immediately or honor the price.  They honored the price for me, but were having no problem charging everyone else $7.35 more for those items than what the sign indicated.  But enough of that, let’s get into our list.

Common Carriers – You know these companies as UPS, Federal Express, DHL, the United States Post Office and others that carry your goods from place to place simply because you can’t.  I think they provide a valuable service to all of us, but I still hate the extra fee’s they tack on.   Why?  Many times I find out about the additional costs after I have shipped my goods, billed my customer, or otherwise finished with the transaction.  Their software which should (in my opinion) figure out your entire cost in one fell swoop – doesn’t do it all the time correctly.   The carriers get around that by making you “agree” that their invoice is only an estimate of the costs and actual billed costs could be different.  Over the years there have been class action suits against these types of carriers for blatant errors in charging clients.  I have personally been billed for “oversized” packages that we measured,  entered with their actual measurements in their software, only to find they revised my measurements to add a few inches here and there – and lots of extra shipping dollars.  That part is bad enough, but when they “fight” you when you call them on their error, that is when it really gets annoying.

In years past, there were only a few of these extra charges to possibly hit your bill, and you could generally guess if they might apply and charge your customer accordingly.  Today they are adding new ones all the time.  There always was a residential surcharge, but now there is an additional extended residential surcharge and an additional fee ($10) if it’s outside their service area.  If you ship via air – do not make the mistake of thinking the package will ship based on weight –  it ships based on the higher of actual versus dimensional weight.  The price difference can send a shock through your entire system if you are not prepared for it.

Once upon a time, they returned the package to you for free if something went awry along the way, but not anymore.  Another one that I think is just plain wrong, is the excessive tracking, tracing or refund request fee now charged by UPS.  Do they really not understand that it’s their system (and their fault) making the client need that in the first place?   And if the client refuses the package, $11.00,  and any additional handling needed (who determines that?) for an extra $8.50, plus the return shipping charges.

You get the point.  Here’s the link to UPS additional charges; http://www.ups.com/content/us/en/shipping/cost/additional/retail.html and the Federal Express charges here:  http://www.fedex.com/us/2011rates/surcharges.html.

Banks – I am fortunate to have a wonderful bank and anytime I see a fee, I call and they “refund” it.  It doesn’t happen often, but I am thankful for the kind staff that takes care of these issues for me.  Sadly for the normal person, not all banks operate that way.  As the banks try to raise their revenues in these hard times, they are charging for things that used to be free.  People dislike paying for something that they assume is free, or had been receiving for free.  Bank of America learned that lesson recently with their attempt at debit card fees.   Just be prepared for additional fees, in addition to the ones you might expect like, overdraft fees, monthly fees, minimum balance fees and ATM fees.  The new fees seem to target anything you need an employee of theirs to do, like talking (to a teller), interim statements, bank drafts, money orders, certified checks, cashing your check, depositing a check from another bank, or even cashing traveler’s checks.  One bank, I read about online, in this day and age, even charges for “online viewing of your check”; cost $1.50 per item.

Some banks charge if you close your account before a certain amount of time has passed.  I am not saying you should open and close accounts, but what if you “had to” in an emergency and needed every cent, prepare for the average $20.00 fee for doing that.  Every bank will charge you a dormant account fee, so if you have an account you haven’t used in a while, you might want to make a transaction (in or out) to avoid that fee.   My bank charges $5.00 for this, but another bank I checked charged $20.00 and increased it for each year the account stays dormant.  Gone are the days when old bank account grows to a house downpayment, now you will find one with a zero balance from all the fees.  Always ask the bank to remove the fee(s), most times on the first request, just about any bank will comply or significantly reduce them.  Then make plans to find out about all the fees your bank charges and avoid them!

Moving Services – Yes, even these have fees you sometimes don’t expect when you contract for their services.   They have extra fees which include appliance service (that’s disconnecting and reconnecting them), Auxiliary Service (per hour charge, if for any reason your move is delayed), Custom clearance fees (only if you are crossing into another country), Elevator Carry (for using an elevator), Flight charge (if they have to carry your goods up and down stairs), Expedited service (if you want your things guaranteed to arrive on a certain date), Line Haul charges, Long Carry (added if the mover has to carry the items “longer” than is typical), Shuttle Service (if you goods have to be moved to a smaller truck), and more.  Just be prepared if anything changes from original contract to actual move date.  Moving an extra mile, or with extra items can result in extra fees being added to your invoice.  Remember to check your original quote for any of the above if you are going to need them, and also for packing & supplies, moving insurance,  and handling of any bulky items. Ask them directly if there is anything else you might expect to pay and don’t be shy about asking for a NTE (not to exceed) price in writing.

So always check your receipts, ask about everything you can in advance, and remember to  prepare for extra fees on some of these other things; Cruises (like for drinks, even water, land excursions, port fees), having an unlisted phone number, buying tickets & printing tickets to sports events, concerts, etc., Hotel Safe Fees (even the one in your room!), tax e-filing,  paying by credit card (these extra charges are common with government agencies), car rentals…… etc.  As consumers we’ve let businesses get away with them, and they are a easy and profitable revenue stream.