Service Charges

A "drop in the bucket" to the payer, but "big bucks" for the merchant

service charges

We've all incurred service charges at one time or another - bills or payments get delayed or lost in the mail; we're away traveling on vacation or for work, etc.

Often the service charge is so small that we don't bother to contact the merchant to have it credited back even if we should not pay it. We rationalize that "our time is more valuable than the amount to be recovered."

Scam uncovered...

But here's a scam that I caught one of the large and supposedly reputable cell providers perpetrating.

My company required that we carry cell phones. The bills were in our individual names and we were therefore responsible for payment. However, the company ultimately bore the cost, since we submitted the bill we had paid on our Expense Reports and were reimbursed.

I used online electronic bill payment for the cell bill as well as for several other monthly bills. In 2 years, I had only 1 problem, except with the cell provider. The telephone company added a service charge on 1 bill. But when I called, they admitted that they had staff shortages over a holiday period and got behind in processing their payments, so they immediately removed the service charge.

However, the cell provider added service charges every month, always crediting my account with my payment precisely 4 days after the due date.

Didn't cost me very much...

It was only about $1.50 each month, but it annoyed me for two reasons. 1. The "late payment" was automatically reported by their system to the credit bureaus so it could potentially affect my credit score/rating. 2. This was a deliberate form of theft on their part, since the delayed processing was not a random or accidental event - it happened every month to me and nearly 50 of my colleagues at the one company that I knew about.

But the real irritation is that the carrier had about 1 million customers.

But it netted the carrier BIG BUCKS...!

1 million customers... @$1.50 theft per month... equals $1.5 million per month... OR $18 million stolen per year!

Yes, as an individual it was not cost effective for me to spend 5 minutes every month calling the carrier to have $1.50 service charges reversed. And it cost our company some possible lost time, since I know most of my colleagues also phoned to have their service charges reversed when they saw the perspective of how much this carrier was stealing.

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