A fee-fueled world gone mad21 Mar 11 08:00AM EST |
Fees are frustrating. Those little acknowledged, overly annoying additions to everyday purchases that, over time, add up. What’s even more irritating is the fact that they've become particularly prevalent in Australian society (yes, banks, I am looking directly at you – and while I’m in a staring mood, you too "budget" airlines).
The online-sales realm is particular cheeky when it comes to additional, often-hidden fees. A fact I experienced up close and personal during our summer just past. It started innocently enough but what began as a simple ticket purchasing exercise ended up a stress-level-rising experience.
It all started when I logged into the world wide web to book a ticket for a show - as part of a certain annual city festival, hosted in a certain Australian harbour city - and stumbled upon what can only be described as an unfair fee. The ticket, for a delightful Canadian instrumental, electronic four piece with a swear word in their name, was listed on the event website as $38. With a note below the price reading: "Booking fees from $2 apply".
As instructed, I diligently proceeded to the payment section of the website - credit card in hand ready to pay for the ticket; inclusive of a seemingly fair $2 booking fee - only to find myself redirected to a well known national specialised ticketing site. Post addition of the $2 booking fee, of course. Once redirected I was hit with an additional booking fee of $6.50 taking the ticket price up to the half century mark at $46.50. I'm no mathematician but even I can work out that $8.50 is a pretty substantial chunk of the sum total.
Two questions instantly sprang to mind:
- Why, if this external ticketing site is my only option for online purchase, was this 22% increase not calculated by the festival organisers and included in the original advertised price?
- How can the event organisers justify charging fans and festival attendees $2 for a service they are not providing?
I was frustrated, to say the least.
I have no issue with companies recouping running costs. In fact, I would go so far as to say companies covering costs via the application of a fair fee structure is not only palatable, it should be encouraged. Asking consumers to shell out a fair amount for products or services provided is a pivotal part of the Australian economy. And, I would go so far as to say, one of the cornerstones of this great island nation. Happy to award a big tick here.
On the other hand, companies who, as standard practice, have an absence of any form of disclosure for fees up until point of purchase are awarded an oversized, red-marker cross. As for those who charge a fee for a service they have solicited another company to employ? Well, in laymen’s terms, they’re simply failing. Us and themselves.
The slightly alarming fact is my case is not an isolated one. One of my fellow CHOICE staff members recently purchased two Gold tickets for another Canadian artist’s recent big band stadium show. The price for each individual ticket was just shy of $120. Strangely, the grand total for both tickets came to $347.75. Her inquiry regarding the reason behind this exorbitant mark up was met with an explanation that, paraphrased, reads something like this: Any ticket fees and charges above the face value printed on tickets reflects the cost of obtaining seating, and may include fees charged for securing premium or VIP seating, and/or pre-sale access.
I am not sure about you, but I was under the impression that the "cost of obtaining seating" was covered in the ticket price.
Undoubtedly the most frustrating thing about these fees is a company’s reluctance to include them in the face value pricing. There is no excuse for not disclosing a cost you are forcing a consumer to wear – a cost the company has full knowledge of at point of pricing. It’s not an optional extra or a donation. It’s a compulsory fee.
Consumers are not provided with a percentage breakdown displaying which part of what company their money is covering the costs of, nor the revenue gained from each sale. So, following this logical progression, why are companies not required to factor these additional fees into the initial sale price? And why-oh-why is a high-profile festival allowed to charge consumers a $2 fee for a service they do not provide? It’s a fee-fuelled world gone mad.