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Little Fees That Can Leave You Broke

Little Fees That Can Leave You Broke

Allison Ford | Divine Caroline

February 10, 2011

When the CEO of low-cost airline RyanAir announced a plan to install coin-operated toilets in the company’s planes, he ignited a PR mess of gargantuan proportions. Travelers rose up in protest. They already charge us for drinks and snacks, but paying to pee? That’s just too much. Beleaguered consumers already feel like their money is being slowly and involuntarily drained by credit cards, cable companies, hotels, and countless other cash suckers. Sometimes, it seems that everybody’s lined up with their hand out, desperate to collect their measly $2 or $5.

Those tiny sums may not seem like much, but they can really add up. A 2006 study by the Ponemon Institute found that the average American adult paid $942 per year in hidden fees and upcharges—almost a grand a year being piddled away out of our control. Lots of those charges are ostensibly to make up for high fuel prices or the increasing cost of materials, although you don’t see many companies removing the fees once those prices go down. While we reluctantly acknowledge that some upcharges make sense, others will always make us cranky.

Airline Baggage Fees

If you’re traveling far enough that you have to fly, you’ll probably be taking luggage with you. That’s just common sense, and charging a fee for each and every bag is just a cheap way to wring cash out of customers. Airline travel is tough enough already, and the bag fees only result in crabby, broke passengers and less room in the overhead bins for legitimate carry-ons. These charges are a slippery slope, too. If airlines can charge a fee per bag, what’s to stop them from calculating fares based on a passenger’s weight? I don’t expect an airline to serve me a gourmet meal or rub my feet, but airplane tickets should also cover a modest amount of luggage. If they can afford to let babies fly for free, then I want to be able to bring along a suitcase with more than three ounces of shampoo. It’s only fair—and my suitcase doesn’t scream or smell like rancid milk.

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