When customers push back on fees

Verizon's had its "B of A moment," reversing on its decision to add a new fee after customers retaliated.

Jeremy Hobson: OK, so that's the company's side of the story. But what about the consumer? What is it about a $2 fee that is so offensive right now?

Here's Marketplace's Eve Troeh.


Eve Troeh: Verizon just had its Bank of America moment. When the financial giant backed down from a $5 debit card fee this year, it sent a message well beyond the financial industry, says David Butler at Consumers Union.

David Butler: That these fees are going to attract more scrutiny from media, more attention from customers than they have in years. Customers are ready to speak out and look at their options and vote with their feet.

And ready to show up in your lobby singing angry Christmas songs.

Crowd: You behave as if you own us.

'You behave as if you own us,' they sang at a B of A Seattle branch.

Jeanne Bliss of Customer Bliss says consumers flipped the script this year, and they were right to. When big companies are in survival mode, like they are now, customers have more power.

Jeanne Bliss: They're putting the pieces together, so that they say: Look I have this value. I've been with you a long time. Don't take me for granted.

Bliss says the internet acts like a megaphone for those individual hurt feelings. Customers tweet about a new fee, or blog about tricky fine print, and soon the company's voice gets drowned in the outcry.

Bliss: Seventy to 75 percent of a customer's buying decision is based on talking to other people, talking to colleagues, and reading reviews and reports on the Internet.

And consulting with all those friends, real and virtual, will only give customers more courage to call up a phone company or bank or cable service and say: I'm just not that into you.

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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