When customers push back on fees

Eve Troeh Dec 30, 2011

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.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.