If you feel like your dollar doesn’t get you as far as it used to, you’re not alone — or wrong. The world has become drastically more expensive with time, and even small luxuries that were traditionally free as a common courtesy are being added to consumers’ bills.
Americans have come to expect a certain level of convenience and service, and often for free. But times are changing, and those hidden fees that we usually associate with the travel or financial industry are starting to manifest themselves in other ways. For example, many people would probably feel that it would be ridiculous for a restaurant to charge them for a glass of water when they are about to spend a good amount of money on dinner, but some restaurants are adding that to the bill — and many people don’t even notice.
Also, remember when having a checking or savings account was free of charge? Banks were typically happy to have your business, and as a byproduct of the financial industry’s competitive nature, offer many services for free in order to have customers move their accounts. Well, now it’s hard to find that a bank that is willing to extend that level of generosity. Of course, many businesses — banks included — are facing increased costs, particularly after the recession. So by adding fees and increasing revenues, it may just be a way to offset losses in the long run.
Regardless of the reasoning, we are all paying more than we used to, many times for things that used to be free. We’ve mentioned a couple of examples, but what else is out there? What is free right now that may not be in a few years? Read on to see seven things that are or used to be free, but that we may be paying for in the near future.
As previously mentioned, banking was one industry that used to be fairly customer-friendly. People were able to transfer money between accounts, use ATMs, and do many other simple tasks free of charge, but that is changing. Banks are now adding fees and monetization to every possible step they can, and those charges are really adding up. Remember when Bank of America caught a lot of heat from consumers for charging customers a monthly fee for having an ATM or debit card? Well, that is now starting to become more and more common. Once all banks adopt fees such as that, consumers more or less need to learn to deal with it. After all, if all banks are charging fees, where can customers turn?
2. Bread With Your Meal
Bread is one of the most long-standing courtesies that restaurants usually offer diners. Typically, before your appetizers or entrées are brought out, many restaurants would bring a small plate or basket of bread to munch on. Well, much to the dismay of many restaurant-goers, that tradition may come to an end sooner rather than later. There are all kinds of interesting details to look at when asking whether or not customers should get bread for free, and for some restaurants, the decision is coming down to dollars and cents. For some, small things — like free bread, chips and salsa, etc. — can be the deciding factor between a number of different businesses. Again, if more and more restaurants start charging for bread, or stop bringing it to the table altogether, what can customers do?
In the same vein as free bread, water is also a common luxury that restaurants are happy to give away for free to diners, but that offering also looks like it may be endangered. MarketWatch put out an article detailing the economics behind free water, and it turns out that it can actually be a heavy financial burden for many establishments. Even at fast-food restaurants, which are known to give cups away for no charge so customers can get water, are starting to add a small fee. It also comes down to simple supply and demand; water is becoming more scarce and expensive, therefore the justification for giving it to customers free of charge is dwindling.
4. Using the Restroom
At some point or another, everybody’s gotta go. The issue is that in many cities and suburban areas, finding a place to go is becoming harder and harder. For those who have traveled around Europe, it’s not entirely uncommon to be asked to pay to use the restroom — even public restrooms. While that custom hasn’t really made it to American shores, you can see the idea starting to creep in. Many businesses only allow customers to use their facilities, which is understandable, but also puts up a pay barrier to the potty, in a sense. Don’t be shocked if at some point in the near future you see stories on the news regarding pay-to-go toilets in the U.S., as even the upkeep and water usage of those facilities have costs.
5. Food Delivery
Remember when almost everything included ‘free delivery?’ Well, those days are fading fast. Even the country’s most popular pizza chains typically tack on some sort of delivery fee now days, sometimes as much as $4. It’s understandable on a certain level, as it does take considerable resources and manpower to institute a delivery system. But as the country largely grew accustomed to free delivery, it may take a while for everyone to get used to it. There are even delivery companies like Eat24 or Postmates, dedicated to making a profit off of delivery. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but many consumers likely still feel that delivery ought to be free of charge — excluding a tip, of course.
6. Paying Bills
It used to be that simply paying your bill was enough. Now, people are often charged simply for the actual payment itself. You may have seen these kinds of fees yourself, oftentimes added on to your bill as a ‘convenience fee’ or ‘service charge,’ typically of a couple dollars, sometimes more. Whether you pay by phone or go online, many companies are adding these kinds of surcharges on, and justify it with a variety of excuses. How do you dodge these fees? Sometimes the only way is to go into a payment center with cash in hand. If paying online or by phone is the only way? Then it appears many companies have found a brand new revenue stream, doesn’t it?
7. Pretty Much Anything on an Airplane
Think about how much the airline industry has changed over the past two decades. Flying used to be a somewhat pleasurable experience. Now, it’s a nightmare. Not only you frisked and hassled by security just trying to get onboard, but once you’re on, the airlines attempt to charge for every last detail. Want to choose your seat? There’s likely a fee for that. Check a bag? Fee. Want some actual food during your five-hour flight? They take credit and debit cards. Some airlines are even looking at charging for using the restroom. This isn’t a trend that appears to be slowing down, either. Flying is expensive, and travelers probably shouldn’t expect any kind of relief in pricing in the near future.
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