One of the things driving consumer and American anger about the current economy and corporate practices is that we have gone from a society where “the price on the sticker is the price” to adopting business practices which consistently and intentionally lie to the consumer about the price – incorporating numerous hidden charges.
Think about it. You walk into a store, pick up a bottle of dish soap – and the price on the sticker is $3.29. When you get to the register to pay, the price isn’t $3.29, or even $3.29 plus the local 5% sales tax – but the store has tacked on a $1.00 “shelf restocking fee” and a $0.50 “parking space fee”, and a $0.25 “cash register fee”…
Would you be a bit pissed off?
Yet that exactly is standard business practice at the big banks, in the cell phone and internet industry…and now the airlines.
The bait and switch really went mass scale in the telecom industry starting in the 90’s with the mass emergence of cell phones. Indeed, outside of banking fees levied on consumers, the telecom industry is probably the most dishonest business in America in terms of lying to the consumer, and covering up hidden charges. The only thing you can be certain of in dealing with a cell phone provider, is the advertised $99 a month subscription fee is a lie. You will always wind up paying, sometimes much, much, more.
The compact between the consumer and corporations in America isn’t broken just in terms of jobs – it’s a break down of basic honesty.
Flying anymore has become a hidden game of “gotcha”. This summer, when flights were shut down at Miami due to the fire at the fuel facility, I had a major go-round with the counter folks over paying a baggage fee. That airline did not charge baggage fees on international flights. It seems though, by having the misfortune of getting stuck in Miami Airport overnight, because flights couldn’t leave – the international portion of my flight was a day later than the domestic portion…
And thus I “owed” the Airline $150 in baggage fees to fly from my home airport in the US to Miami… And spend the night on the floor in my business suit.
This one is the horrifying story of a woman trapped in an airport for 8 days by hidden fees. Now – airports are specifically designed to be uncomfortable places to camp out in – to prevent the homeless from using them. The downside of that is if passengers are stranded, you are screwed in terms of finding any reasonable place to sleep or rest. Don’t even bother to ask the logical question of how the homeless could get through airport security with a shopping cart and no ticket…
It’s just one of those clues that haven’t occurred to airport managers and engineers yet.
No matter how many 10-minute massage parlors and Wolfgang Puck vending machines they install to entertain weary travelers, getting stranded in an airport for even a few hours is rarely a pleasant experience.
For Terri Weissinger, who was trapped in San Francisco International Airport for over a week, it was nothing short of a nightmare.
With only $30 to her name, the Sonoma native was virtually broke and looking to start afresh in Idaho. She booked a ticket from San Francisco to the Gem State on the travel website Orbitz but, because she purchased her ticket before a new federal law went into effect requiring ticket brokers to disclose all hidden fees, Wessinger was unaware of the extra $60 U.S. Airways would charge at the airport to check her two bags.
Weissinger offered to pay the fee once she got to her destination or leave one of her bags behind; however, U.S. Airways personnel refused, citing airline policy for denying her former request and airport security regulations for denying the latter.
While attempting to resolve her situation, Weissinger missed her plane—thereby racking up another $150 in fees.
Weissinger ended up spending eight stressful days living in the terminal and sleeping in an out-of-the-way stairwell. She was treated for anxiety at the airport medical clinic. When she attempted to plead with airport authorities for help, she was threatened with arrest on vagrancy charges.
“[It's] ridiculous,” said Wessinger to ABC 7. “I couldn’t believe it sometimes, you know, it’s just incredibly ridiculous situation to be in.”
Out of options, Weissinger saw a listing for the nearby Airport Church of Christ in a phone book and placed a call. Moved by her situation, the church quickly raised the necessary $210 to get Weissinger out of her predicament and on her way.
When ABC 7 asked U.S. Airways about Weiddinger’s situation, the airline responded: “We have apologized to Ms. Weissinger for her experience, but unfortunately are unable to offer a refund. When you purchase a non-refundable ticket, you accept the terms and conditions. If a passenger cannot travel with their bags, they need to make other arrangements.”
Airline fees have spiraled in recent years as sites like Orbitz and Travelocity have allowed customers to instantly compare ticket prices between competing airlines. The easy access to this information has pushed airlines to offer cheaper ticket prices up front, ensuring their results appear closer to the top of any given search. As a result, they are relying more heavily on additional fees popping up later in the ticketing process to make up a larger portion of their revenue.