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Thursday 30 May 2024

Minor surcharge, major irritation!

Like many of you, I sometimes find myself disproportionately annoyed by the little things. They might seem small in the grand scheme of life, the universe, and everything, but they’re more than just a minor nuisance in our daily lives. You might chuckle at the buildup, but bear with me.

I’m referring to the seemingly trivial surcharges and charity requests that have become far too common in our financial transactions. Take the credit card surcharge, for example. It might appear fair for a business to recoup an additional expense. However, businesses already set their prices to cover such costs, so why isn’t the credit card fee included in the product price? We don’t see separate charges for employee overtime or weekend rates, nor for maternity leave or late tax filings. Businesses typically calculate their product prices by tallying up their costs and adding a profit margin. So, why tack on a surcharge?

Some might argue that the payment method incurs this cost, and customers could choose another method, like cash, to avoid the fee. But that’s not entirely accurate. Many businesses don’t offer a cash option, especially for online purchases. More importantly, credit card payments are often less costly for retailers than cash, which requires more handling, stringent shrinkage checks, frequent bank visits, and extensive reconciliations. The only real advantage of cash for a retailer is the potential for tax evasion by underreporting income. But offering a discount for tax avoidance isn’t something you can advertise without raising eyebrows. So, why impose a credit card surcharge? It’s not for the reasons you might think. The practice began with large government entities that could enforce it and has since spread everywhere.

Then there’s its younger sibling, soon to be encountered at a supermarket near you: the request to round up your total or make a donation. What a service! The retailer takes a bit extra from you and donates on your behalf—no receipt, no tax deduction, no trace. While I’m sure the donations do reach charities, they may not go to organizations you’d choose to support. Everyone has their own criteria for charitable giving. Personally, I decline to support charities where administrative costs exceed 20% of their donations, which is often the case. It’s always a ‘no’ from me, but being asked is irritating. We don’t want to be solicited for money as we walk down the street, as happens in many less affluent parts of the world, so why should we tolerate it while shopping? The request feels like a nagging reminder to do the right thing. So please, retailers, stop pestering your customers.

Maybe I’m overgeneralizing. Perhaps you love it, but I have my doubts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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