10 infuriating swindles!
These everyday rip-offs are legal, but they are also extremely annoying!
Before I joined lovemoney.com, I spent 15 years working in financial services, including a decade practising the dark arts of marketing. In one of my earliest training programmes, I was told that large multinational firms call the UK 'Treasure Island'. This is because we Brits seem happy to put up with far higher prices than our counterparts in Europe, the US and other developed nations.
However, I think that the tide has begun to turn, because Britons seems much more clued-up and, as a result, a consumer backlash is building. Nevertheless, perfectly legal rip-offs, cons and swindles still flourish, so here's my rant about the annoying ways that firms pick our pockets (in alphabetical order):
1. Booking fees for tickets
A while ago, some friends of mine went to a concert at Wembley Arena. Their tickets cost £65, but they had to pay a 'service charge' of £9.95 and a 'processing fee' of £2.75 on top, making a total of £77.70. This extra £12.70 increased the cost of their tickets by a fifth (20%), which is nothing short of scandalous. Some booking agencies and ticket firms charge even higher fees for bookings, credit-card processing, delivery, etc. Come on, David Cameron, let's see new laws to curb this confidence trick!
2. Bottled water
Earlier this week, I set off with my family to the cinema. I was running a bit late, so I didn't have time to prepare a bottle of filtered tap water to take with me. Thus, on the way, I popped into Waitrose to buy a drink. I was stunned by how much bottled water costs: £1.50 for a litre? I don't care if it's been cold-filtered through Madonna's dandruff, I'm not paying that much. Is it a coincidence that Evian is 'naïve' backwards? I think not!
3. Car servicing and parts
Until October 2003, car manufacturers and dealers were able to fleece drivers through anti-competitive behaviour. By forcing motorists to have their cars serviced at branded garages, they kept the cost of servicing, repairs and maintenance artificially high. However, thanks to the withdrawal of the block exemption agreement, motorists can have their cars serviced wherever they like.
For example, my wife's last car service at a local independent garage cost £143, instead of the £255 that Renault quoted, which is a saving of £112. Also, when a headlight bulb needed replacing, the local garage charged a fiver, instead of the £35 plus parts plus VAT that Renault wanted. So, please shop around for car parts, servicing, spares and repairs -- or you could pay twice as much!
A car is a significant purchase. Take your time and ensure that you get the best possible deal.Do this goal
4. Childcare costs
One of the best examples of a captive audience is British parents, whose wallets and purses seem to be there for the taking. According to the Daycare Trust, British parents pay the highest childcare costs in Europe, yet get far less State support than parents on the Continent do. And childcare costs continue to rise.
For example, the provider of my son's after-school club recently raised the cost of this service by -- wait for it -- 50%. In other words, the cost went up by half overnight. One teacher I know was shocked to learn that her childcare bill was to rise by £300 a month, from £600 to £900. What a swindle!
5. Cinema food prices
So, off my family went to the cinema. Naturally, I refuse to pay the ridiculous prices that cinemas charge for food and refreshments, so I always smuggle in my own snacks and drinks. However, my wife gave in to 'pester power' and paid £3.30 for a small tub of popcorn -- roughly enough to fill one of my shoes (I take a size eleven). I could have made more at home for about 20p!
6. Hospital car-parking charges
Thanks to an ongoing medical problem, I've been to hospital several times in the past few months. I'm appalled by the sky-high parking fees charged by my local NHS Trust, which are close to £2 an hour, so I take the bus to and from hospital. Some NHS Trusts make over £2 million a year from this wheeze. Charge some of the most vulnerable people in society ludicrous prices to park near their local hospital? Frankly, that's a disgraceful tax on the sick!
7. Motorway service stations
Here's yet another prime example of the 'convenience costs' rule. On the rare occasions when I visit motorway service stations, I'm always shocked at the hefty price mark-ups, especially for meals and snacks. Pay an extra £2 on the high-street price of a burger meal, or an additional 10p on a litre of fuel? No thanks, I prefer to fill up in advance (with food and fuel) and bring a packed lunch with me!
8. 'Premium' ranges in supermarkets
Asda has its Extra Special range; Sainsbury's has Taste the Difference; and Tesco has its Finest range. These super-premium product lines make billions for UK supermarkets, yet, in most cases, you're simply paying for extra adjectives and slicker packaging, not superior ingredients.
In fact, Bob Farrand of the Guild of Fine Food Retailers claims that these top-of-the-range foodstuffs are usually ordinary products, wrapped up in upmarket packaging. Did you know that the producers of this 'classy cuisine' normally make the supermarkets' economy-label goods, often on the same production line for ready meals? Here's another thing: these premium-label foods often contain more fat, salt and sugar than other branded and own-brand products do, making them the unhealthy option!
We compare some of the big food brands with supermarket own brands to see which tastes best!
9. School holidays mean peak prices
As a parent of two young children, one of whom is at primary school, I'm forced to take holidays during school vacations. The government works with local education authorities to minimise truancy by ensuring that parents don't take their children out of school for holidays during term time. Hence, demand for holidays during half-terms and school summer holidays soars.
In fact, parents planning to treat their kids to a family holiday over the school summer holidays face paying staggering premiums of as much as 85 per cent for some resorts, according to new research by Santander Cards. That's profiteering, if ever I've seen it.
10. The twelve-year-old 'adult'
Here's a simple question: how old must you be to be considered an adult? Most of us would agree that the answer is eighteen, which is the voting age here in the UK. However, theme parks and other family-entertainment resorts take a different view, with most forcing anyone over twelve to pay adult entry prices. What a scam -- shame on you!
So, there you have it: 10 ways that convenience costs and organisations take advantage of captive audiences. However, your 10 pet hates are probably very different to mine (especially if you're not a parent of young children), so please tell us what they are by commenting in the boxes below. That's the end of my rant: I'm off for a cup of tea and a lie down!