Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day-and What You Can Do About It
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What is Gotcha Capitalism?
Coughing up $4 fees for ATM transactions. Iron-clad cell phone contracts you can’t get out of with a crowbar. Paying big bucks for insurance you don’t need on a rental car or forking over $20 a day for supposedly “free” wireless internet. Every day we use banks, cell phones, and credit cards. Every day we book hotels and airline tickets. And every day we get ripped off.
How? Here are just a few examples of how big business can get you:
• You didn’t fill up the rental car with gas?
Gotcha! Gas costs $7 a gallon here.
• Your bank balance fell to $999.99 for one day?
Gotcha! That’ll be $12.
• You miss one payment on that 18-month same-as-cash loan?
Gotcha! That’ll be $512 extra.
• You’re one day late on that electric bill?
Gotcha! All your credit cards now have a 29.99% interest rate.
But not for much longer. In Gotcha Capitalism, MSNBC.com’s “Red Tape Chronicles” columnist Bob Sullivan exposes the ways we’re all cheated by big business, and teaches us how to get our money back–proven strategies that can help you save more than $1,000 a year.
cancellation tactics at http:// consumerist.com/consumer/early-termination-fees/ “Only a few carriers require copies of death certificates”—See “Getting Out of a Two-Year Cellphone Contract Alive,” Damon Darlin, New York Times, March 10, 2007. “Courts had also ruled in favor of generic garage door”—Jennifer Granick, “Cell Phones Freed! Poor Suffer?” commentary on Wired.com, published December 6, 2006, http://www.wired.com/politics/law/ commentary/circuitcourt/2006/12/72241 “Jessica and her
or she says, “nothing,” whip out a copy of this chapter and gently offer your new knowledge. Then ask when was the last time your 401(k) plan was “put out to bid,” giving other administrators a chance to pony up lower-fee proposals. Competition is the best medicine for fat-cat fee plans. Then, be sure to analyze your own investments. Spend an hour digging through your available funds to find out what the expense ratio is for each one. You can simplify this task by figuring out what the
process was eliminated. AT&T was told by regulators to form normal contractual relationships with its customers by sending a contract home to every one. The company took the opportunity to stuff the contract with goodies, and took the concept of small print to new lows. As AT&T prepared to send notices to sixty million people, a special “detariffing” team was formed. It carefully prepared a mailing that no one would notice. Getting consumers to ignore the mailing was critical, because that
college (the cheap kind) rose 52 percent from 2001 to 2007, far more than the rate of inflation, and now sits at close to $13,000 per year. And with each annual increase, hovering near 7 percent, the financial noose around college graduates' necks—and their parents' necks—gets tighter and tighter. Outstanding student debt was close to $400 billion in 2007—putting it not so far from total credit-card debt, which was about $880 billion during that time. Yet who thinks of student debt as the
miss a payment, bring your account current as soon as possible, or else you'll face repeat penalty fees. Also, ask about penalty fees, origination fees, and prepayment fees when shopping. High fees can turn a good loan into a bad loan very quickly. America used to be the land of the free. Now it's the land of the fee. Emily Thorton, BusinessWeek No book could ever list all the hidden fees consumers encounter in their daily lives. But I've tried to collect the most common, frustrating fees and