The Thriving Fee-based Economy – unless you’re a Bank
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3 March 2010Bob Meara
The recent Federal Reserve actions to limit bank overdraft fees have been widely reported. The US press seems all too eager to throw banks under the bus with assertions of all manner of unfairness (or worse) in describing the practice of levying fees upon allegedly unsuspecting account holders. Even written accounts of communications campaigns launched in compliance with the opt-in mandate for automatic overdraft protection assert nefarious intent among some banks. US banks have lots on their collective plates in today’s environment. The attack on overdraft fees is only making matters worse. And the story may not be over. A proposed Senate bill, The Fairness and Accountability in Receiving Overdraft Coverage Act would impose further restrictions on overdraft fees, effectively eliminating bank’s ability to offer free checking services to millions of account holders. In light of the moral high ground claimed by some supporters of the proposed legislation, one would think that banks stand alone in an otherwise ocean of fairness and serenity. But, this is hardly the case. I thought I would share an anecdote from my own experience while in Orlando for the BAI Payments Connect Conference at the Gaylord Palms Resort to ilustrate my point. While at the event, I concluded it would be wise to return one day earlier than originally planned. In weighing the cost of doing so, I concluded that the modest fee associated with changing flights (previously $50.00) would be more than offset by not having to pay another night’s stay at the Gaylord. After making the new flight arrangements, I discovered that the fees associated with doing so had tripled to $150.00 Upset, but undeterred, I continued. After all, the hotel rates were expensive, so the savings would still more than offset the (shall I dare say unreasonable) fees imposed by Delta. The Gaylord front desk staff were a delightful bunch who immediately took action on my request to check out. In less than a minute I had a detailed reconciliation of my two-night stay there, being politely reviewed by the highly trained hotel staff. The invoice revealed a “Resort Fee” of $11.30 per night. Interesting I mused. Charging a resort fee to experience a multitude of retail shops in close proximity to the hotel is like paying a cover charge to enter a shopping mall. At least I avoided the "Self Park" fee by taking a taxi to the hotel. I don't recall the resort fee being mentioned at check-in. Worse, was the additional levying of an “Early Departure Fee” of $56.50 – not including the additional Osceola County Tax which was assessed on top of the fee. Nearly $60.00 for leaving a day early? Heck, that could buy a good night’s sleep and continental breakfast at lesser properties. I asked the kind lady behind the front-desk if I somehow should have known about this so-called early departure fee, and sure enough – I had NOT opted in. Maybe banks should consider operating some of the properties being foreclosed upon. At least one can earn fee income in the hospitality industry – for the time being.