8 Stupid Fees Consumers Hate to Pay (But Often Do Anyway)

In this tough economy, businesses of all types are trying to nickel and dime us to death with add-on charges.

Those charging the fees want you to believe that the fees are necessary to cover the additional costs of doing business, like pizza delivery fees.

In reality, all these fees do more often than not is mislead the consumer by adding a hidden mark-up to the advertised price. Sometimes the fees are small, but other times they can be quite severe.

The mortgage loan industry has been doing this forever, but now the practice of tacking on fees has spread like the plague to many other services.

Certainly I can’t be the only person who is outraged by this continuing practice. Or am I?

Here are eight classic fees that really gnaw at me. Some of them I do a pretty good job of avoiding. Others, not so much…

Unlisted Phone Number Fees

This is arguably the granddaddy fee of them all. I currently get charged $1.75 per month for my unlisted telephone number. That’s $21 per year for those of you keeping score at home. Tell me again why it costs the phone company more money to keep a phone number out of the phone book than in it? Even though that’s a rhetorical question, I’ll answer it anyway: it doesn’t.

Convenience Fees

I recently bought four tickets from Ticketmaster so I could take the Honeybee and the kids to see the Harlem Globetrotters and, boy, was it a great show! Anyway, the tickets came to $300 for the set. On top of that they included a “convenience charge” of $5 per ticket that added $20 to my bill. Now you know why I hate Ticketmaster. To tell you the truth I think the convenience charge is completely misplaced. Ticketmaster should be charging the convenience fee to the acts whose tickets are being sold, not us consumers who spent time on the Internet looking for the tickets in the first place. Think about it. If the Harlem Globetrotters had to sell their tickets on their own time, they’d never get to practice. Eventually their skills would suffer and then the Washington Generals might actually start beating them. I don’t mean to pick on the Globetrotters; Lady Gaga wouldn’t appreciate it if she had to sell her tickets door-to-door either. Right? I think I’ve made my point here. If I’ve got it wrong though, please tell me.

Fees for Printing Tickets

I’m not done with Ticketmaster. After gagging on the $20 “convenience” charge for my Globetrotter tickets, Ticketmaster wanted to charge me $2.50 so that I could print the tickets from my home printer. Keep in mind that I also had the option to get the tickets via the postal service — for no charge. Where is the logic in that? How much do you think it costs Ticketmaster to print the tickets on heavier stock paper, using their ticket machines, and then pay their staff to place the tickets in envelopes with the proper postage and mail it to my house? I don’t know either, but I made sure that’s exactly what Ticketmaster did.

Hotel Safe Fees

There are more than a few hotels out there that like to charge you a dollar per day just for the privilege of using their in-room safes — whether you use it or not. What a joke. Whenever I see this fee, I ask to have it waived.

Tax E-Filing Fees

Among the most egregious fees out there are the ones that charge money for essentially doing nothing more than making a mouse click or pushing a couple of keys on a computer keyboard. How much money does it cost to send some bits of information through the Internet anyway? Well, if you ask TurboTax it’s $36.95. That’s what they charge to e-file a state tax return. So rather than printing out the return and sending it through the mail, I clenched my teeth and reluctantly paid it. Hey, if you paid attention you’ll find a lesson on opportunity cost buried in there.

Tax Refund Fees

After spending four hours doing my taxes with the online edition of TurboTax the time finally came where I was asked how I intended to pay for their service – including the stupid e-filing fee. Fair enough. Lucky for me I was due a refund. “Perfect!” I thought, “I’ll have TurboTax simply deduct what I owe them directly from my refund.” Unfortunately, it turns out TurboTax charges an additional $29.95 if you choose to go that route. My only other option was to pay by credit card – at no charge. How does that make any sense? So I paid with plastic. I hope TurboTax had to pay the credit card company an interchange fee for me using it too. Dummies.

Mortgage Junk Fees

There are dozens of mortgage junk fees out there, some more dubious than others, that make you scratch your head and ask what the heck is that for? Reconveyance verification fees, commitment fees, and the infamous “warehouse fee” are just three classic examples. (I know, I already mentioned them above – but I wanted to make it official.)

And then there’s this…

It’s bad enough that airlines are almost universally charging fees to people who have the audacity to travel with luggage. But United and US Airways now take this a step further and charge their “valued” customers who choose to pay for their bags at the airport, rather than online, an additional fee of $3 per bag.

That’s right, folks. A fee for paying a fee.

 

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Solutions:

    1.Just use a cell-phone (oops – they still have stupid charges also)

    2. Do not use ticket master if you could (though that is unavoidable sometimes).

    3. Do not use hotels who charge for safe (as with internet connections).

    4. might as well use a CPA

    5&6. See what happens when everyone becomes cheap – which pf blogger does not “recommend” turbo tax (BTW – I don’t cos I use a CPA!) – BTW – have not read anything about these “fees” until you brought them up.

    7. Pay cash for your house.

    8. Sell your blog for $20mm (as some folks have done secretly) and fly private jet…at least you get shrimp cocktails and you can cuddle honeyB in the plane!

    BTW – you know I do not mean any of these? maybe some!

  2. 2

    says

    What I hate are the fees on utility bills that are disguised as taxes. I’m not sure how this is legal.

    Another thing I noticed is that some companies are still charging the fuel surcharge, from when gas was over $4 per gallon. Once companies get used to collecting a fee, they never get rid of it.

  3. 3

    says

    I have done pretty well avoiding the fees you list, but there are two fees that I can’t avoid and that annoy the living you-know-what out of me. The fuel surcharge on FedEx/DHL/etc. shipments and the fuel surcharge on plane tickets. I always thought that fuel expenses were part of the regular expenses of running a shipping company or an airline. I did not know that these expenses have to be separated out. Fuel must have been free before these charges were introduced. Maybe these companies will tag on a driver or pilot surcharge soon, too. – Oh, and don’t forget. These surcharges kept rising with the price of gas, but they never came down again as the price of gas did. Does that sound like one big scam?

  4. 5

    Kim says

    Funny thing is, you can do your Virginia (and many other states) taxes online through the tax authority’s website FOR FREE. And it is actually an easy process! Ridiculous.

  5. 7

    ashby corner says

    oh, how do I hate ticket master?

    I actually think back to when I was a ‘yout’ waiting outside the box office so I could get iron maiden tickets…sleeping in the cold. It was awesome.

    Now, as a grown up when I want to see maiden (or whoever…and yes, I still love metal), I have to join the fan club, get an access pass (not free), THEN go on line, THEN pay the “convenience fee” per ticket, etc.

    It’s not really that convenient for me to spend ~20/ticket extra per show.

    H8!

  6. 8

    Cathie says

    If I remember correctly, the last time I used Ticketmaster I was also charged a “Parking convenience fee” on top of the fee we were charged in the lot. And that fee is per ticket. We bought two tickets, so paid 2x for the parking convenience and once for actually parking our one car. Yeesh. And the unlisted phone number fee has irked me for ages.

    • 9

      says

      @ashby: The worst part is there really is no way around the stupid convenience fee sometimes. It would be less insulting if they just called it a “Screw You!” fee. At least you wouldn’t feel as if you were being taken for a fool. That way future conversations with friends would also make us look like the victims we are instead of morons: “So, Ashby? What did you pay for your Maiden ticket?” “$129 freaking dollars PLUS a $20 ‘Screw You!’ fee from Ticketmaster!”

      @Cathie: Outrageous! Like I said, they should lump their stupid “Parking Convenience” charge (HTF does that work – does Ticketmaster create new parking lots for every concert?) into the “Screw You!” fee as well!

  7. 11

    Jules McVernon says

    Hmmmmm. Seems to me if it wasn’t worth paying these fees for the goods and services you received, you wouldn’t be paying them. I hate to be simplistic here but if these fees were “outrageous” you would refuse to do business witht hese companies. I don’t like paying conveinance fees either, but what is more convinient for you, traveling to and waiting in line at a ticket office, or buying them from home? I agree the charge for printing tickets is stupid and would never pay it, but if it meant missing an event because I couldn’t wait for the mail, or were worried about someone stealing the tickets, I would pay it.

    • 12

      says

      Good point, Jules. But it’s more fun to complain! ;-)

      Still, there are fees that you simply can’t get away from. For example, Ticketmaster is often the exclusive vendor for tickets and that dastardly “convenience fee” is charged to you whether you pay by phone, online or travel to the ticket office in person.

  8. 13

    kelliinkc says

    How is it that Ticketmaster still exists? Can anyone say “MONOPOLY”?! You know you eventually reach a point in life where you weigh the real cost of a concert/game with the hassles involved in buying, parking, getting out of the venue with traffic, etc and just decide to stay home!! And as for efiling taxes– we still go the paper route. Took my husband 4 hours to do it and me 10 minutes to make copies, put them in the envelopes and mail them. IF I were to efile I would do the federal which I understand is free and then print out the state and send in. No way I would pay those charges!! I guess that I am just too cheap. Convenience or my pocketbook? Hmmmm. My pocketbook wins every time!!

  9. 15

    says

    Fees vary. If you pay with a debit card (think same name in the US? the ones that take money straight out of your current (/your ‘checking’) accounts that same day) then you pay nothing up to £1/2.

    Visa and Mastercard you can pay £1/2, too.

    American Express I’ve been charged £3.50 for.

    It’s annoying because I like the protection that comes with my Amex card, but if you’re buying a train ticket for £12 (/$18) it’s just not worth it. (Unless something goes wrong of course, but you can never know that in advance!)

  10. 18

    Jill says

    Ticketmaster is the worst! I always feel so abused after I’ve bought tickets through those guys, but what are you going to do?

    • 19

      says

      I know exactly how you feel, Girlfriend! Of all the fees I have to say Ticketmaster’s are the most, shall I say, distasteful to me too. They just seem like ripoffs – it’s all in the name of the fee. Like I said before, if they called it a “Screw You!” fee, I’d probably be able to take it a bit better. But the fact that they use the term “Convenience Fee” really eats at my inner core.

  11. 20

    says

    I really hate hidden costs… If someone is straight up with me I am much more likely to use them again and again and recommend them to everyone… It’s like these companies think we are the enemy sometimes!!

  12. 23

    Financial Bondage says

    how about fines for library books. this is a fee you can avoid people… return the library materials on time.

  13. 24

    Jenny says

    One way to partially get around the unlisted number fee is to have your number listed, but under a fake name. Then when you get a call for ‘Bob Smith’ you know that it is a telemarketer or something that just got your number out of the phone book, and can deal with it accordingly. It is not as good as having it unlisted, but it is free.

    I’m not positive you can do this in the US, but it works in Canada. My friend has his phone listed under his old dog’s name, and often gets calls for him.

  14. 27

    Kay Neff says

    Yesterday I booked a “free” reward mileage ticket on U.S. Airways that cost $105–$75 for booking inside 14 days and $25 just for booking. I completed the transaction online; the $25 would have been $35 had I called the airline and talked to a human. I forget what the extra $5 was for, but feel sure it was another “get the consumer” fee.

  15. 28

    Amy k says

    A friend of mine just uses a fake name for the phone listing, has the same effect as being unlisted, but without the fee… ;-)

  16. 29

    ALSnape says

    FYI,
    I read a number of books on tax preparation when I started my own business. At least one of the authors said to always send in a paper tax return, as it decreases your chance of audit. You see, if you send an electronic copy, the IRS has a full file on you, and can run all sorts of analysis to find numbers which may be “too high” or low. But if you send in a paper copy, then only a few numbers are keyed in to a database, (such as your income before adjustments, age, income after adjustments, etc.). Who knows how true, but for 39 cents I will certainly follow this advice!

    • 30

      says

      I’ve heard that too. But the electronic tax prep software is just so convenient now, I can’t go back to paper. I suspect in a few more years the IRS will stop accepting paper entries altogether.

  17. 31

    says

    Yikes! When you spell it all out in one place like this, I think more than a few folks will be fuming. I’m sure those alliterative F’s I just (over)used won’t be the only ones uttered when people really stop to think about this stuff.

    The trouble is, we’re all so busy trying to earn enough income to cover these ridiculous surcharges that we’re too tired to stop and think about it! Unfortunately, like taxes on taxes, fees on fees may become a way of life.

  18. 32

    says

    The scary part is that many of these services were free when they were being rolled out, but now that we’re addicted to the services, or the alternatives have been destroyed, the fees are creeping in. Tax refund fees? Fees for printing tickets?

    Technology was supposed to automate and lower fees–exactly what went wrong???

    It’s getting to the point where the only strategy to fight back is total avoidance.

  19. 33

    says

    I don’t get the hatred for the Turbo Tax stuff. I use a CPA for my own stuff, but I did my brother’s taxes using Turbo Tax. You are not paying for the transmitting to the IRS you are paying for the use of their software. It is just an upsell.

    As for that extra fee for them to take the fee out of the refund – I think it is 100% stupid, but they are taking a risk with whether you’ll get audited and then they have to chase you down for their 36.99 lol

    • 34

      says

      @2Cents: You know, at the micro-level the merchants also depend on us being tired and indifferent to these fees at the “checkout stand.” We need to protest the fees and refuse to pay them when we can get away with it. Our complacency only emboldens the merchants to keep adding them.
      @Kevin: I agree, although its getting harder and harder to avoid them. For example, airline baggage fees: you can still use Southwest Airlines in the States if you want to avoid fees, but they don’t fly everywhere.
      @Mr. CC: I’ll answer anyway… 1. Yes, but I still prefer to have a hard line; 2. As you said, sometimes unavoidable; 3. It’s easy to get them to waive fee; 4. My taxes are not complicated enough to justify a CPA so I’ll keep clenching my teeth; 5 & 6. You’re welcome. 7. Not realistic for me anyway; 8. I wish! I’m not sure this blog is worth $20. ;-)
      @Bret: You’re right! It ain’t too dissimilar to entitlements. Once they are established they are tough to get rid of.
      @Evan: I can run faster than the IRS! LOL Seriously though, I agree with you to a point, Evan. The e-file and refund fees aren’t mandatory. Although, couldn’t we also argue that the airline baggage fee is also just an upsell? Luggage isn’t necessary for travel. Same thing for unlisted phone numbers.

  20. 36

    says

    I’m glad it’s not just me who hates those fees for printing tickets out at home.

    I also hate the fact that buying travel tickets with certain credit cards — that give me greater protection as a consumer — I can be charged more as a booking fee.

    Coincidence? I think not!

  21. 37

    says

    I’ve never seen the hotel safe fee but as a Marriott loyalist, I get ticked at the internet fees at their full service properties when I am given free access at their discount locations? Like you said… WTF

    Another fee that twists me is the hazardous waste fees when you get new tires or an oil change!

    As for the airlines, carry your bags to the gate and then just before boarding offer to check it for your fellow travelers convenience.

    • 38

      says

      @Monevator: Sorry for slow reply, Investor! Been away on holiday, as they say in London town. Just curious, how much are the fees you get charged on your side of the pond? I wonder if they are similar to what we pay here in the States…

      @Coach: Good catch! The hazardous waste fee is a pain. That’s why I always dump my dirty oil down the storm drain. (Kidding, just kidding, folks.)

      I’ll have to try your luggage trick next time I go flying! Hope it works… :-)

  22. 39

    TT says

    Unreal. I thnk you could change a few of these. The unlisted phone number for example – just get a voip line.

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