here was once a frog who decided to take a swim. The water was cool and fun to swim around in. The frog never noticed the bead of sweat on his brow or that there was steam starting to rise around him. Soon, that frog went to go buy some ice on his favorite website Frogizon.com. He remembered the first time he bought ice. It was cheap and delivered quickly. But this time… it was different.
Over the last 20 months or so, we’ve gotten so used to buying things on the world wide web, that we stopped noticing it in favor of convenience. And that’s what they call it a lot of places – a “convenience fee.” But it is quickly becoming inconvenient.
They go by many names, “service charges,” “handling fee,” “processing charge.” But buy something online and what might cost ten dollars may cost much, much more when it’s all said and done.
I went to buy a t-shirt online to support a local high school club. The shirts were $15 each. However, I was assessed a fat tax of $3 because I needed a XXL shirt. I was then charged $7.99 for shipping, and then, on top of it all, a $4.95 “service fee.”
That $15 shirt cost me $30. But it’s not just one off stores, you’re charged a little extra nearly every time you do a transaction. Sure, we were used to this with sales tax, but add in handling and shipping and service and convenience and any other adjective you can come up with, and it really seems like folks are just goosing us because we’re dumb.
And, apparently, we are. I blame Ticketmaster, the inventor of the “service fee.” It started when we wanted to buy tickets to a concert or a sporting event. You’re already paying outrageous fees for the tickets, and in some cases, you need to buy a personal seat license, then mix in the credit card fee and the service charge and Ticketmaster suddenly owns your first born child so that you can see Lady Gaga. Maybe it’s a good trade off, I hear she’s quite good live.
We’ve simply adjusted to things costing a little more and people being more creating in ways to separate us from our money. Most of the time, you don’t even see those fees until you’ve already mentally prepared for you to get your throw pillow or your collectable light saber or your beaded seat cover. Oh, an extra $4 for “handling?” Well, I guess that’s what it’ll take then.
And just like that frog, we never notice the fees until it smacks you in the face that the water is boiling. A $15 item costs $30. Soon it’ll cost $45 or $50. This is where I think online retailing gets it wrong and might be the best way to get brick and mortar stores back in business. That is, only if they can avoid doing the same tricks to us that they do online. I could easily see Price Chopper charging us $2 per order when we don’t use the “self-checkout.” Or going to a restaurant and being charged $3 if you want ice in your water.
And here’s the rub. If you had just charged me $30 for the shirt, I probably would’ve bought it. But, instead, you try to sneak a few more bucks out of my digital wallet until I simply close the web page and go on with my day.
The frog didn’t need the ice, after all. He just needed to jump out of the pot of boiling water.
Thank you for reading. You will be charged a “noun plus verb” fee of $2.99. You can Venmo me.
(No handling fees from Chris Kamler on Twitter, where you will find him pontificating as @TheFakeNed)