Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Convenience: Fee vs Free

My daughter's school bill was due. Ordinarily, my wife would drive over to campus and drop a check off at the business office. "Can't we pay it online?" she asked. "Don't see a reason why not," I said. So I went to the college website and followed the steps for paying a bill online. Right up to the point when they said they were going to charge me $15.00 as a "convenience fee." That's not very convenient.

What a stupid idea: "convenience fee."

Digressing for a moment, it reminds me of the time I was replacing something in my wife's car, which was supposed to be located in what the manufacturer termed the "convenience center." I envisioned a nice friendly little compartment, easily accessible, where I would be able to locate and replace the gadget in question. I turned out to be buried deep in the dashboard, behind various wires, levers, and other junk, and I about dislocated my arms trying to reach around everything to get to it. "Convenience Center." Hardy-har. Good one. I bet the engineers had a great laugh coming up with that name.

Anyway, not long after this (the convenience fee episode) I saw an example of real convenience, for free. I had a handful of Starbucks giftcards of varying amounts, most of which I had received as gifts from the recent holidays. I don't go to Starbucks all that often, so cards can wind up riding around in my wallet for months at a time. However, I do ordinarily go and register the cards at their website. Recently I noticed the website allows you to transfer balances from one card to another, so you can "roll" all your cards into one. "That's convenient, I wonder how much they charge you?" the cynic in me thought. Turns out, it's free. No charge. Glad we could help.

What a great idea: Convenience. For Free.

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