By Henry Passenger
I first noticed a potentially frightening trend at the gasoline stations in our southeastern corner of the state. Dual prices were posted for the same product, showing a discrepancy of nine or 10 cents per gallon. It turns out the higher price was for a credit card transaction; the other one was for cash. (From a psychological standpoint, which is preferable: a discount for cash or a penalty for credit cards?)
The difference was to cover the three percent or so that the card processing company charged for its role in the transaction.
It seems now there are fewer and fewer stations charging the same for gasoline with or without the card.
(The situation brings to mind the gas station owner I knew in my early days who didn’t include the sales tax in the posted price, but added it on after the sale. “You go to the store and they tack on the sales tax,” he explained to me. “Why can’t I do the same thing?” By excluding the tax, he was posting bargain fuel prices, but he was irritating his customers. It was a short-lived experiment.)
To my way of thinking, the credit/debit card fees are just part of the cost of doing business.
What’ll be next?
Will the gas stations tack on a utility fee to cover the cost of electricity for the lights, the cash register, the pumps? A phone fee to cover their telephone link to the outside world? A separate fee to underwrite their water bills? A restroom maintenance fee? A surcharge to ease their property tax burden? A salary assessment to cover the payroll? The possibilities are mind-boggling.
If the add-ons work for the gas stations will the rest of commerce and industry follow suit?
Order a dinner in a restaurant and discover that there is a surcharge to cover the gas used in the grill, the electricity consumed, insurance, property taxes, payroll (in addition to the tip).
Or at the supermarket there could be a similar arsenal of surcharges covering bagging or wear and tear on the shopping carts.
How about the department store?
How about the specialty shops, the boutiques?
Maybe the malls should start charging shoppers for parking spots. That could cover wear and tear on the parking lot, the patrolling security troops, repainting the stripes. An added benefit would be employment for attendants overseeing the collection of the parking fees.
Will hotels and motels start charging for use of their towels? How about housekeeping – making the beds, cleaning, straightening up the room or restocking the toiletries? Or how about the toiletries themselves? Many of them already are tacking on a charge for the in-room safes. How about cutting the room rates for those who don’t choose to avail themselves of the “free” breakfasts?
The magazine industry is already starting to move in the add-on direction. Publishers are now charging for subscriptions and then tacking on a few dollars for shipping and handling. Will the next step be a charge to cover assembling the magazines and transporting them to the post office?
Maybe if I had had the wisdom to adopt such tactics during my ill-fated career as a young Tastee-Freez owner, my store would have been successful and my career might have moved in a completely different direction.
Quips ‘n’ Quotes: I stumbled across an anonymous quote the other day: “Money isn’t everything. There’s credit cards, money orders and travelers’ checks.”
Henry Passenger’s column appears each Wednesday in the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at [email protected]
By Henry Passenger