In what almost seemed like a staged publicity stunt, Verizon Wireless quickly rescinded their plans for a new $2 fee for most bill payment options. An employee leaked an internal memo describing the new fee, and within twenty-four hours, the wireless company both confirmed and then rescinded the fee, citing their policy of listening to their customers. The timing was convenient; Verizon Wireless had been suffering from a number of mobile service outages that had customers complaining about the company.
It seemed to me there was more outrage about the service interruptions than the $2 fee. The fee was addressed within 24 hours while the service outages were never properly addressed. Would a company stoop to creating its own fake conflict in order to distract customers from other problems?
Real customer outrage is powerful, however. Bank of America’s $5 monthly debit card fee was in the works when massive consumer feedback was successful in convincing the company to reconsider its plans, and find revenue from consumers elsewhere.
There are issues more important than these small fees. While fees here and there can have a snowball effect, both over time and across other companies happy to charge the same fees once success is apparent, the bigger issues often don’t get as much attention. Wells Fargo’s change of policy to include mandatory binding arbitration is a much bigger problem for consumers than a fee, but since it isn’t immediately apparent how this could affect customers, people stay silent. Customers who have trouble with the bank will be prevented from availing themselves of a court process that includes discovery and appeals.
Most of the time, binding arbitration clauses won’t have any immediate effect on customers’ wallets unlike monthly fees, but the consequences could be worse. With enough outrage, Wells Fargo would likely change these plans, but the issue is not getting enough attention.
Here are some of this week’s most interesting articles in addition to a few articles I’ve published elsewhere.
Betterment is offering a series of articles surrounding new year’s resolutions. I kicked off the series earlier this week with a cross-posting of New Year’s Resolutions Help, Even If You Don’t Keep Them. The process of self-reflection is valuable, even if you don’t reach your goals or complete your resolutions by the end of the year. The original article is here.
I wrote about MyMoneyCircles, the upcoming personal finance boot camp hosted by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, for Forbes. It’s free to enroll in the boot camp, and anyone who registers before January 8 has a chance to win an early-bird prize.
Maggie from Square Pennies warns that thieves are watching your trash. If you received, for example, a new high definition television for the holidays, don’t leave the box out by your curb with the rest of the trash and recycling. You could be signaling to potential criminals that your house is a good target. In the article, Maggie offers suggestions for taking care of packaging without advertising your house as a potential crime scene.
Nunzio Bruno claims that financial literacy is overrated. In order to effect change in the level of financial responsibility, focusing on financial literacy is not the answer. We need to spend more time focusing on behavioral change. More education in its traditional context — money management classes in high school that teach balancing checkbooks, for example — will have no effect on creating young adults who avoid debt and make smart financial choices.
I contributed an article for the GoBankingRates blog, It’s Possible to Save Too Much Money. I focus on saving for the future, but for many people, but it’s easy to forget that lives are short and money isn’t just for achieving a big bank balance.
Updated June 23, 2014 and originally published December 31, 2011.