The charges that dare not speak their name


Today the European Union 'cracked down' on what it calls unfair charges for credit and debit cards. Hooray cries a nation of holidaymakers, frequent flyers and concert goers. And many others no doubt. Well, it's a step in the right direction but rather inevitably not a big enough one.
Without the ability to en mass lobby our democratically elected representatives in a manner familiar to deep-pocketed multinational corporations and their trade bodies, the humble consumer frankly gets a bit of a rough deal when it comes to the definition of 'fair'.  Because the latest crack down only caps charges made for debit and credit cards, it doesn't really stop the practice. Those who currently charge excessively for credit and debit card transactions still have the option to call the costs 'booking fees' or 'administration fees.'  So the problem remains.
I am but a humble small businessman plying my trade across the world wide web. But I see the problem from both sides. I understand that commission-driven companies, like ticket agencies, need to recover their costs. And I understand that consumers expect to be treated fairly and honestly. They don't, for instance, expect to see one advertised price and pay a wholly different price at the end of the transaction. Which is really the issue - whether you call it a booking fee, admin fee or a credit card charge, it's still a charge on top of the advertised price.
The issue comes down to whether a company is service-driven or sales-driven.  Either is equally valid, but be honest about what you are.  So, for instance, most airlines and holiday companies advertise their warm, cuddly and friendly natures. Fly with us, we're great. We love you. We want to enrich your life. That is the fighting talk of a service-driven business. But when you come to book 9 times out of 10 you are smacked with hidden costs for administration, booking, using a card or any number of extras that you might consider were a fundamental part of whatever it is you want to buy. That reflects a sales-driven business.
To succeed a business cannot be both, except in an industry where all of its competitors are doing the same thing. Which you might argue smells rather of a monopoly. Any business that wants to grab a competitive advantage would align its entire operation to one culture or the other. If you don't think that is possible take a look at Ryan Air - love them or hate them you know exactly what you're getting, a sales driven business focused on low prices and, therefore low service. If you want a better service you can have it but you pay for it. An expectation that it clearly makes clear on its shop front. That clear, honest approach takes guts but has given Ryan Air an obvious competitive advantage.
Administration, booking fees, card fees and so on are what it takes to do and be in business. While the Ryan Air approach works in a highly commoditised business where price is key, it doesn't work in classic car hire. So we don't charge extra for using a card and we don't charge you to administer a booking you've made with us.  That applies whether you book online or by phone. We are being stung by the card processing companies who have continuously put their fees up, yet we haven't increased our prices since 2011. That's because we're in an economic downturn so it's up to us to work lean and keen.
The same applies to our hire packages. I believe a day means a day so our prices are based on a full 24 hrs use. We can do AM to PM hires but we'll reduce the price accordingly. Where possible we also provide unlimited mileage - or if that isn't possible due to the maintenance costs on our cars we offer a generous allowance and make that very clear on our site.  We provide a specialist, comprehensive insurance policy as part of the price.  And we provide a full UK breakdown service backed by local site support at no cost. It may seem like a small point but that means you won't be charged for calling the service out, even if it costs us several hundred pounds to do so. Some hirers only offer a free breakdown service within a limited radius of their sites - we don't because to me that's a hidden cost.
We also spend a fortune on maintaining the cars. I can't guarantee they won't break down but I know we've done our very best to prevent it. So when you see one of our shiny cars on the website and book it based solely on the photo and description, I am confident that we have been honest and transparent about the car. We even show you what work we've done on the car over the last 2 years.
I would prefer that companies avoided extra, unexpected costs but if they want to charge them, like Ryan Air, at least be honest and upfront about it.  People power is hard to mobilise but my advice is - check the small print before you click 'yes'.
For more details on what we do and how we work visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 7893733.











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