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By the Way: Price increases driven by greed


“How much does it cost?” the innocent shopper asks. The cynic replies with his own question: “Are you buying or selling?” Caveat emptor, indeed.

I am beginning to think merchants who score our hard-earned dollars in exchange for products or services are taking advantage of the economic fallout over fuel prices. I think many are charging more merely because they can. They seem to be raising prices because all the chatter about price hikes makes the consumer expects to pay more, so why not ask for more. Right now, corporate greed is rife.

Yes, gas costs too much, even though it’s headed back down, so that means services cost too much, products cost too much. Now everything costs too much as a result and I truly believe many price increases, some of which I consider outrageous, are driven more by greed than by necessity.

A dear friend who works for a nonprofit agrees with me—100 percent. She told me her organization is planning a fundraising luncheon in the fall and the vendor that provides tablecloths for all those charity events has increased the charge from $10 per tablecloth to $18. “Tell me how a tablecloth can go up in price that much? How much more can it cost to transport it? How could that possibly be? How does that make any kind of sense?” she asked.

I don’t think it does make sense. I know some businesses were forced to raise prices but I also think many just decided to follow the leader with little real cause.

Another grudge I harbor is the need to scrutinize with great care every bill that appears on my doorstep.

Example! The other day I received an invoice from a big box company for about $650 for a purchase we made for supplies for my husband’s business. Plus a $29 late charge. Plus about $10 in interest.

Oh, gosh, I thought, “Did I miss the payment date?” I was about ready to mail a check for the fee and interest when, happily, I stopped myself and took a second look. I hauled out our business checkbook and saw that I had written a check for the purchase on June 17. I pulled up our online bank account only to discover that sum was withdrawn on June 21, well before the June 24 due date.

After half an hour of teeth-grinding as I tried unsuccessfully to navigate the store’s computerized menu, I found myself talking to a real person, who told me there was a late charge and interest because the money hadn’t been received until June 25.

I informed her that the money had been withdrawn from my bank account on June 21. “It’s not my fault that it took your company four days to put it where it belongs,” I told her. A pause while she went to investigate. When she returned five minutes later, she apologized and told me my balance was now zero.

Fine, I had saved myself about $40 but I had spent maybe an hour trying to correct a problem I had not caused.

But I can’t help wondering how often this happens and how many people pay unnecessary charges. And the only reason I write checks to that company is because its online payment site is so difficult to negotiate – a real bear.

And the common mantra out there from big companies? Customer loyalty – meaning keeping the customers loyal to the store. What about the old-fashioned idea of serving the customer? We need more than to be confronted by a maze of an online menu when we have a problem.

It’s hard to get answers, but it’s all too easy to see money flying from here to there if we are not very, very vigilant.

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