Two Businesses I Don’t Understand

All sandwiches cancelled?

Airlines. Is there any other business that can charge you drastically different rates depending on when you buy their product, be consistently late, and sometimes even cancel your service altogether, often without any refund? Imagine if, say, the deli down the street operated like an airline. If you buy a sandwich at 10:30 in the morning, it’s $5. But if you wait until the lunch crowd hits, it’s $12. You pay before you even enter the deli, and then you stand in line and wait (you pass through security, naturally) and wait, and finally when you reach the end of the line, you learn that your sandwich has been delayed by “about” 45 minutes. You’re allowed to watch a family-friendly version of CNN while you wait. And when you finally get your sandwich–which has resulted in a further delay of you iced coffee drink, which probably won’t arrive in time for you to drink it–you’re not allowed to use your cell phone until you’ve left the premises.

And yet we fly.

Credit Cards. Apparently I don’t use my credit card like most Americans do. When I get my monthly statement, I pay the full balance. I thought that’s what most people did until the economy crashed and I learned that most people actually pay for a ton of stuff that they can’t afford and then they’re surprised when they have to pay really high interest rates.

That said, my credit card company sends me a new card every 6-12 months. I don’t know why. I don’t want a new card. I want the same card that I got 5 years ago for which I received 5% cash back on gas and grocery purchases. That’s what I signed up for–that’s why I chose that credit card. And yet somehow in this business, my credit card company can decide whenever they want that they want to give me a new card with new rules. This is not only a hassle–I have to go through all the bills that I autopay through the card and change them over–but it’s a bewildering business decision. I played by the rules–I made every payment on time, in full–but you get to change the way my card works? Not to mention that when I call to activate my new card, you start trying to sell me new services that I don’t want, and if I accidentally say “yes” on the phone (as in, “yes, there is absolutely no way I want those services”), you get to log that in your system as a “yes” and charge me for the new service. Is there any business more deceptive than credit card companies?

And yet we buy.

What businesses do you not understand?


7 Responses to “Two Businesses I Don’t Understand”

  1. Georgia says:

    You kind of hit the nail on the head with those two and couldn’t have illustrated it better. The only other one I don’t understand is the whole student loan thing.

    I hate getting calls from where my student loan was through. Apparently they have two departments that don’t communicate with each other and therefore we get calls (and we can time them) once every 3 months. Then they waste my time trying to get answers when they could have just communicated with the other department to get the same result. This results in a 3 way call that wastes time for all 3 parties. Its a very inefficient way to run a business.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I had the good fortune of consolidating my loans at a very low rate, but I dated someone for a while that experienced the issues that you have. It was really frustrating for her.

  2. Colleen says:

    Georgia, I agree with you about the student loans. I came across a real problem with them about two years into paying mine off. (After the interest rate rose from 3 to 5 to 7 percent!) For two years straight, I had paid my bill every month, on time, and sometimes even paid more than the standard amount – so I had a really good record. Until one July, I decided to pay the July bill in early July (enclosing the July coupon), and then decided to pay the August bill in late July (enclosing the August coupon). So naturally, my next bill was due in September – which of course I ended up paying in September with the September coupon. Meanwhile, I received an additional bill from the student loan company, saying that I did not pay for August and that I was to pay that bill. I called them and explained that I paid this August bill early (in July). They tap danced around the issue during our entire phone call, telling me that I had never specified that I wanted to “pay early”; therefore, since they didn’t receive my August payment in the actual month of August, it was considered unpaid. I was so frustrated at this lack of communication and withholding of information on the part of the student loan company — there was never any mention of this before, and it seemed like a way for them to just trick students and get more money out of us. After about 2 hours on the phone, I finally got them to remove the additional bill, but from then on, was required to specify every time if I was “paying early” or not. It was ridiculous. So you’re definitely right in saying that they have bad communication and are inefficient!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Wow, that’s just terrible. You paid early and they didn’t even register it?! I’m sure it’s way more complicated (and probably unnecessarily so) than we think, but it just doesn’t seem that hard to get it right. I make all of my payments automatically online so I don’t have to worry about this stuff, but every once in a while one loan company sells out to another, and I worry a bit about the transition. That happened recently; it looks like it transferred over correctly.

      • Colleen says:

        Yes, I thought common sense would have told them that my August payment was taken care of. Basically, I was reprimanded for paying early – which should have been a good thing! (Better early than late.) They seemed to throw this surprise loophole at me at the last minute, when it would benefit them. I had nothing in writing or otherwise that stated I would get in trouble for paying early. I think it stinks that they can get away with this kind of thing.

        I hope your payment ended up transferring over with no problems!

        • Georgia says:

          First off…wow Colleen. That IS TERRIBLE! No one should every be reprimanded for doing the right thing, and not to mention being on time! Hopefully you were able to get some things around the house accomplished while on that two hour phone call with the crazy student loan people. Loan companies are sneaky which is why I group them with credit card/debit companies. They have, like you say, some stupid loophole that prevents you from getting on with your life. Just when you think you’re done with them, they suck you right back in.

          As for the paying the student loans online, I too do this, and despite doing everything correctly and being on time, they still call every three months to say they haven’t received the payment. Then begins the whole process again. They call the other department that actually handles the transactions and viola they realize they haven’t had communication between the two sides. You would think having gone through a small town bank there would be fewer steps, but apparently there is more to it. The bank my loan was through was bought out too. Optimistically, maybe this will solve the problem? Realistically it will probably just make it more difficult.

          Colleen, maybe they were upset that you were leaving and they would no longer be collecting interest off you? Hence the extra charge/reprimanding?

  3. Airplanes operate the same as most hotel chains do, demand drives the price in the end. It’s always going to cost more to travel on weekends and holidays and in the summer, where as your rates drop in the off season and during weekdays til fridays. Fridays and Sundays are their busiest days, and you’ll pay more on those days, every time.

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