IN PERSPECTIVE: Nickels add up

Mon, 06/30/2008 - 8:20pm
Brian Santo, Editor

There are a lot of things any company can do to alienate its customers, but one of the dumbest is to keep tacking on charges. Piling on fees is especially stupid because there has never been an instance of people being happy about being nickel-and-dimed.

Brian SantoI recently went to the box office of a theatre to buy tickets to a concert. The tickets were $18 plus an extra $2 handling fee.

A handling fee. At the ticket window – the whole purpose of which is to handle tickets. Just charge me $20, okay? I saw Blue Oyster Cult in 1978 for $6.50. By now I have a grasp of the idea that ticket prices periodically go up.

Tell me, do you have warm fuzzies for the airlines these days, now that they’re charging you for exceeding baggage weight allowances, for extra luggage, for window or aisle seats?

The airlines’ fuel bills went from $32 billion in 2006 to $41 billion in 2007, and they estimate they will be $61 billion in 2008. I can digest the concept that $29 billion is a big cost increase even for airlines, so tell you what: stop imposing idiotic fees and charge me what the ticket is worth. I fill my car’s gas tank. Higher costs; I get it.

I’ve got a fee on my cable bill I’ve never really received a good explanation for, but it’s for pennies – it’s below my pain threshold (though not necessarily my aggravation threshold).

But now MSOs want to charge for usage?

Explain how your fuel bills have gone up and be honest about it. Seriously, some of your customers are adults and they will get it.

If I were a customer of Rogers, Comcast, or Time Warner, at first blush, each of their plans to charge beyond a certain allotment of gigabytes seems acceptable.

The key is to provide a download allotment that is both fair and commensurate with what each customer is paying. Even if it that allotment starts out seeming fair, keep in mind that changing usage behaviors might make what’s fair a moving target. And just because you got away with this increase, make sure you don’t do anything that can be perceived as nickel-and-diming your customers.


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