Be wise to avoid fees

By By James Sewell and By James Sewell

By James Sewell

I don’t have much time to attend concerts, shows, movies and other paid-admittance-required activities. Some of my friends, who have developed time-management strategies for which Franklin Covey would pay top dollar, somehow find ways to fit these events into their social calendars, and on occasion they report back to me so that I can vicariously experience the events.

I’m also a skier, and perhaps it’s for this reason I write this column. Every autumn, Teton Gravity Research, a non-scientific organization that produces ski films that garner significant audiences and revenue, releases its seasonal-anticipatory creation, which is shown at a variety of locations around the country, and whose ticket sales for those films are handled by third parties in addition to direct Web site sales.

Tickets for this year’s movie “Under the Influence” were available through the TGR Web site for $20, or $25 at the door, but the SmithsTix outlet in the Union sold them for $31, essentially adding a 55 percent service fee. Also, you could only pay with cash or check. Who the hell even writes checks anymore? Visa just spent a fortune on an ad campaign ridiculing consumers who pay with old fashioned money that comes in a green, papery form…and it had a point.

Another less outrageous example is the miscellaneous fee Wells Fargo charges to maintain a savings account with its firm, a hefty $3 a month if my balance is less than $300. The fee might not seem like much, but over the course of a year it adds up, plus it doesn’t take teraflops of computing power to manage the measly funds in my account. So from whence this fee?

Fees are nothing more than discretionary add-ons to the already substantial coffers of most corporations. It costs me $5 just to have my car insurance company not mail me policy information and e-mail it instead. It should, in reality, save me $5, as I’m saving them the costs of printing, stuffing and mailing this information to me via the post office.

An undergraduate resident student here at the U pays $342 in fees for a standard 12-credit-hour load, on top of tuition.

There’s even a fee to activate your cell phone service, and this money pays for the commission of the guy who sold you the phone. It serves no financial purpose other than to line the pockets of those whose pockets are probably already lined more than adequately.

Although your student fees no doubt subsidize a large portion of the services available to you on campus, lurking outside the academy (although possibly still within its borders e.g. the SmithsTix at the Union) are a multitude of vendors and corporations and businesses who cynically want you to sincerely believe they’re looking out for your interests.

This is a deception. They are here to do business, and adding fees (hidden or not) is nothing but an attempt to increase revenue.

Next time you’re thinking about opening an account at a bank, or buying a ticket to that rad ski flick, or even paying your tuition bill, take at look at the fees assessed on top of the retail price and ask yourself: why? Why are they charging this weird random miscellaneous fee? Where does this money go? Can I go elsewhere for the same product, available fee-free?

In these lean economic times, which are likely to grow leaner, every penny counts. Be diligent, be skeptical, be smart. Be wary of the fee fairy.

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James Sewell

Willus Branham