Skip to main content

The simple things in life are no longer simple

Published May 26. 2012 09:02AM

love simplicity. When you want to buy something, the actual price should be disclosed. For several years now, businesses have been changing their pricing so that their goods and services appear less expensive than their competitors. For example, most passengers book airline travel based on the price of the ticket. To appear to be the low cost provider, the airline sells the ticket at very low price. When the passenger arrives at the airport, they are hit with a myriad of additional charges and fees.

Most airlines permit customers to carry a bag on the plane with them at no charge. United Airlines, US Airways and American airlines usually charge a $25 fee for the first checked bag and a $35 fee for the second bag. Bags on international flights can be charged at an even higher rate. Spirit Airlines has a different pricing strategy. They charge up to $100 for each carry-on bag. Imagine the surprise when a customer gets to the airport and finds out that they have to pay $100 to carry their bag on the plane. Since most people are running late, there is no time to go back to the terminal to check their bags. As a result, they pay the fee even though it angers them.

Most travelers check one bag and carry a small bag on the plane. One carrier that does not have excessive baggage fees is Southwest Airlines. Not only do they have low-cost airfares but they understand that customers have bags and usually do not charge for them. So when booking tickets, particularly for a family traveling on vacation, one must pay special attention to the total cost of flying on a particular airline. Don't just look at the airfare, check the cost of baggage, onboard food, ticket changes or cancellations and seat selection.

In a new twist (which I hope will be rescinded), US Airways and American Airlines do not charge if you would like the middle seat. If you want a window or aisle seat there is an additional charge of $25. (This fee is waived for their frequent flyers who meet certain criteria). If you are traveling with a companion and want to sit together, then there is an additional charge of $25 for each passenger. If you have children traveling with you, the same fee applies. If you want to be able to manage your children, it'll cost you $25 per child to have them sit next to you. (

Personally, I object to these charges. If I were traveling with small children, my solution would be not to pay the fee and put the children in a "free" seat elsewhere on the plane. That way, I would not be out of pocket. Since these airlines insist on charging these ridiculous fees, their flight attendants can look after the children and handle customer complaints when the children misbehave.

Recently, when I tried to start telephone and Internet service, price comparison was very difficult. The telephone company would give me a "bundled" price if I also selected a satellite television provider. I did not want satellite TV so I had to pay the "unbundled" price for service. Needless to say, this was much more expensive than their "bundled" plan.

After selecting a plan, the phone company held off until the end of the selection process to offer me a wireless modem for their Internet service. I explained that I had a wireless network device and did not need their equipment. This was not acceptable to them. I had to use their device even though it is the same as the device I have sitting on a shelf. (It cost me $40 at Best Buy). Their mandated modem would only cost an additional $6.99 a month, plus a one-time installation charge. I told the customer service agent that I would be more than willing to set the modem up myself as it's just a matter of plugging it into the phone line and the power outlet. I was informed that this would not be possible. The modem had to be set up by their service technician. After years of searching and writing many articles on the subject, I finally found a job that could not be outsourced to India!

After experiencing the frustrating process of setting up new phone service, I thought setting up the electric utility would be simple. Well, they were worse than the phone company. The residence is part of a condominium complex. I could provide them with an address, however they needed the meter number, as there were multiple meters at that location. I thought this would be an easy task. Surely the unit number would be written on or above the electric meter. This is how any logical person would address the situation where there are multiple meters installed at the same location. Well it wasn't that easy. We had to spend two and a half days tracking down the previous owner who'd already moved to another state. We asked him to give us his account number and the meter number from his last utility bill. As you can imagine, finding a utility bill for property he had not lived in for over a year was both difficult and time consuming.

When I called the electric company with the meter and previous owner's account information, the customer service agent blurted out "Yes, your right. That is the meter for that address. Obviously, they had the meter information in their system the entire time. Needless to say my patience was stretched to the limit. Now that I had established billing information, it was time to switch me to the connection department so that I could schedule an appointment to start my service. At this point I thought, "Thank goodness, I have nothing really important to do today".

I was quickly switched to the connection department and felt I was making progress. The customer service agent obviously was being paid to sell other products and services to their customers. He mentioned that he could give me a great deal on DirecTV, only $29.95 a month for 2 years. Since this was cheaper than my existing service, I went through the subscription process. After taking my information and running it through their system, I was told that the offer did not apply to me as I already have an existing account. I wasted almost 20 minutes only to be told that I must use a different satellite provider to get the lower price. If I went with DirecTV, it would now cost me $60 a month. After experiencing this nightmare, I yearned for the days when the electric company only provided electricity, the phone company only provided telephone service, the satellite company only provided television and the cable company stuck to cable and Internet services. Those days are long gone as each of these vendors competes to cross sell products to their customers.

Now that the set-up process is over, I realize that all of the customer service representatives I spoke with were based here in United States. I detest outsourcing of our jobs to India and other countries. After several disappointing experiences dealing with American-based staff at utilities, I discovered that my dealings with overseas call centers were far more pleasant. Staff in India know how to do their jobs efficiently and provide good customer service. No wonder Corporate America sends jobs overseas.

What I learned from these experiences is that Corporate America needs to simplify their pricing and improve the customer service. Prices for airline tickets and other goods and services should be simply stated with no surprise charges upon arrival at the airport. Setting up utility service should be a simple process, one where the customer is not hounded to buy additional services. In my youth, I was told to use the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Sir. I certainly wish that airlines and utility companies followed this principle in all of their customer dealings.

© 2012 Gordon Smith - All Rights Reserved

Classified Ads

Event Calendar


October 2017


Twitter Feed

Reader Photo Galleries