Monday, October 26, 2009

Can't flee the fee

Ever since I stood in line to register for college courses, I've been a healthy skeptic of The Fee.

Laboratory fee. Athletic fee. Parking fee. Did I say that it was always in addition to tuition?

At least I learned a lifelong lesson at university. Fees remain a way for companies and service organizations to build their revenue beyond advertised base prices. They're usually with the asterisk or buried in fine print.

I never understood why these aggravating additions can't just be built in.

The latest one that got my attention was the "Technology Fee" of $10 for high-definition television service from AT&T. Sure it's hip and new, but will I now look forward to a $100 Technology Fee for the MRI machine at the local hospital? It strikes me as ludicrous as a $10 knife-and-fork fee at a restaurant. Some things are just part of the package.

Another aggravator: I bought two concert tickets that had a combined face value of $99. The bored clerk at the concert venue box office rang me up for $105. Why, I asked? Facility fees of $6. Couldn't we bill the tickets at $52.50 each and call it even?

And, of course, we have the disposal fee for the dirty oil at the gas station; shop fee for the paper towels at the garage; and the new king, checked-baggage fee, for air travelers. I guess they figure you don't need to change your shorts on a cross-country jaunt.

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