20 Jul 2011

Tricks of the trade

I am a capitalist, but I am not happy when companies (or people!) fool me into paying for things I do not want. (I recently read, but cannot find the link to, a story pointing out that consumers are not as "efficient" in calculating and comparing prices as economists sometimes assume.)

Case-in-point, I booked a flight on Cimber Sterling A/S, a Danish airline, from Amsterdam to Copenhagen.

On the website, I chose my flight and then chose my seats. I was surprised to see how many seats were available but didn't notice the 7€ fee for choosing a seat. After I was distracted by a different website (where I did notice the fee), I hit "buy tickets" without removing my seat reservations.

Too late. Money gone.

So I emailed customer service and asked for a refund ("please cancel my seat reservations. I chose them by accident and do not care for a reserved seat.")

I got this response: "Sorry not able to refund seating," which was just about as nice and helpful as a club into the back of my head.

This policy is ridiculous -- it's as if I walked into a store, bought three cans of coke, paid for them, walked out, and then decided I only wanted two cans. How many stores would refuse to take back an unopened can that was purchased two minutes earlier?

Maybe a few, but those stores wouldn't stay in business for very long.

Bottom Line: Watch out for cheap-shot theft by companies that take your money when you're not looking and then refuse to give it back.


Peabody Engineering said...

Couldn't agree more! While it is certainly nice to have the convenience of making a purchase online, I always have that split second of cold dreaded fear when I click the submit button of a purchase hoping that I have made no mistakes in my purchase cause I now it's tough trying to get help or a refund if I have made a mistake.

CRG said...

My philosophy is that if you have to trick me into purchasing your product (or your add-ons), then it is clearly not good enough to stand on its own. After all, if it was worthwhile, you could get me to buy it without the trickery.

So any business that tricks me into buying something (or tries to trick me into it) will never ever get my business again, and will get a rather scathing letter. (The letter rarely does any good, of course.)

I detest companies that do this, especially if they refuse to refund.

When I've worked in positions where I controlled the way companies operated in this realm (designing web sites and menus, among other things), I've always made sure that the terms and pricing are easy to find and easy to understand.

Anonymous said...

Agreeing with both commenters above, I can only confirm that this trick has become part of the business for many annoying companies, which include:
EasyJet - (not at all so easy as you think: they bother you all the time about small pieces of luggage, as it is the number, not the weight or size, that counts for them);
NS Internationaal (where you have to wait for over an hour to buy a ticket, and then are charged extra because you did not buy it online;
KLM, which charges you for buying a ticket online ('service fee', while you are doing all the work for them);
Water companies such as Vitens that charge their customers to send them invoices for the water they use (even if they do not use any water at all);
social housing corporations such as the most terrible Ymere that is beating the money out of the pockets of the poor people that are renting their houses, only to make them leave, so that Ymere can sell the houses that they obtained with governmental subsidies - they charge you if you pay them after receipt of an invoice;
Bad TV suppliers such as UPC that also charge extra for informing you how much you have to pay for their bad signal;
Bad health insurance such as SIZ, that just send you invoices for things they say they paid for you, but never send any proof for that, and then send their bailiffs is you still do not pay;
Aer Lingus, that tells you 50 minutes before your flight departs that they are not able to bring your hold luggage to the airplane in time, which means that you cannot fly either, and that you have to pay EUR 75 extra to be rebooked on the next flight, as they "always advise to arrive three hours before departure";
SIXT car rental at Dublin airport, that lets you pay a day extra for 30 minutes waiting in the cold wind, and that charges EUR 150 behind your back from your credit card for a scratch in the left mirror;
ING, because they care less about their private clients than companies that withdraw money from your credit-card;
NS (Dutch railways) as they crew up about everything they can by misinforming their clients;
OV-kaart, for the same reason and for taking money from your card behind your back, not telling you about it and by the time you find out they tell you are too late to claim;
NCi with their defunct massage chairs at Bordeaux airport that take your money but have been broken for ages, and never reply to anything.

In all cases it is big companies against the small man.
In all cases the companies suck big time and they deserve to be punished badly.

I could continue - it seems that the service is better in the US.

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