The fees on the bus go round and round

Marketplace Staff Sep 15, 2010

The fees on the bus go round and round

Marketplace Staff Sep 15, 2010


BILL RADKE: If you want to save money, travel by bus instead of airplane. But look out for hidden fees. Here’s your lookout man, L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus. Good morning, David.

DAVID LAZARUS: Good morning.

RADKE: I didn’t know this, Greyhound charges a gift ticket fee?

LAZARUS: You’re online, you’re buying your ticket — if you come across a thing that says is the credit-card holder doing the traveling? If you say yes, you’re good. If you say no — for instance if you’re buying the ticket for a son, a daughter, a friend — they will slap that $18 fee on.

RADKE: Why? How does it cost them more when I buy a ticket for someone else?

LAZARUS: That’s sure a good question, and I sure put that to Greyhound and here’s their defense. They say on the one hand, it’s an anti-fraud fee. It helps to cover expenses they face in not just protecting customers, but protecting the company from credit-card fraud. OK.

RADKE: All rigggght.

LAZARUS: And they also say it’s a handling fee because whoever is actually doing the traveling has to actually — ooh — show up at a bus depot and pick up the tickets. You would think that’s a service they’ve been providing since time immemorial, then when you look closer you see that this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

RADKE: Why is that?

LAZARUS: That’s because the anti-fraud measure is being proposed willy-nilly. For example, if you say you’re doing the traveling yourself, there is no fee attached. Well wait a minute, anyone using a credit card or buying online poses the same risk of fraud as anyone else, so why is it that some tickets face this anti-fraud charge and other don’t. And then the handling cost — $18? Are you kidding me?

RADKE: I’m always in the position of defending these fees to you, David. How about this: The fees don’t have to literally reflect a new cost to the retailer. The model is you charge extra for anything out of the ordinary, that keeps your basic product free or cheap for everybody else.

LAZARUS: Well you could say that, but their website all but encourages you to lie because you come across the part where it says, “Is the credit card holder doing the traveling?” Well if you truthfully say yes it’s me, then you avoid the fee. But if you want to avoid the fee, what Greyhound says you should do is say you’re doing the traveling, buy it, and then send the ticket somewhere else.

RADKE: Mail it to the person who’s traveling.

LAZARUS: Exactly. But wait a minute, so they’re telling you that you need to lie in order to avoid the fee. What kind of company does that?

RADKE: Uh, one that just got talked about on the radio?

LAZARUS: OK. We’ll give them that much.

RADKE: David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times consumer columnist, thank you.

LAZARUS: Leave the driving to me.

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