Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hidden Charges

I went to book some train tickets for this weekend on the There are a series of hidden costs; First you have to uncheck the boxes for optional travel insurance from Columbus at the riduculous cost of £1 per journey. This cost is ridiculous because you have to be delayed by four hours before you can claim anything, and you'll be covered by your household/travel insurance for most of it anyway.

Then you move on to the payment screen. There is a £1 charge for postage. Fair enough, that's a bit steep for an envelope and stamp, but cheaper than most ebay sellers. But what if I'm prepared to collect the tickets myself? Well then you pay a £1 ticket arrangement fee. WTF! This fee wasn't applicable when they were being posted, but now I'm doing all the leg work myself there's a different charge. Effectively this £1 is a tax. But their taxes to not stop there.

Next there is a £2.50 Credit Card fee. Why is this? There is no charge for debit cards, so why credit cards? Unusually I'm not being facetious, I am genuinely interested if there is a real reason for this. But I doubt there is an argument that can stand up in the face of the fact that you will not be charged a credit card fee if you buy the tickets in person from the counter.

I am fully aware that the trainline is not the only company to do this. Another pet peeve of mine is Odeon cinemas. They charge a 50 pence "card handling fee", again a totally nonsense charge that you do not pay if you turn up in person. However this charge is made all the more nonsensical when despite it's implication that it is for handling the payment, it is charged per ticket. 4 tickets, one payment, but four card handling fees. Hmmm.

I'm sure that the costs companies more to sell tickets in person that via automated call centres, or on the internet, so it would be understandable to pay a premium for the personal service, but to pay more for the cheaper service is a nonsense.

Anyway, I decided I was not going to pay a £3.50 tax to buy my tickets on line, so I decided I would get them in person at Bath Spa station on my way home. I arrived at 7.30 and there were two windows open at the ticket office. Both were devoid of customers. However I was told that I could only buy tickets for that day. Or tomorrow. But not Saturday. Why not? Apparently the advance ticket windows are only open until 7 pm. It used to be that then one of the windows would become "All Tickets", but now there is no room for flexibility. Even when there are two people serving, and just one person to serve.

I suppose they want people to go on-line and pay the outrageous tax.


Anonymous said...

If you book via the First Great Western website you will not be charged the fe for booking with a credit card.

As to the reason credit card companys charge a percentage of the transaction cost to the company when you use a credit card. For debit cards it is a flat fee of a few pence which they dont pass on.

Billyo said...

As I said, that arguement does not stand up when you consider that this charge is not made when you pay in person with a credit card.

Also, if it's a percentage that is passed on by the card company it is a percentage that should be passed on to the customer. The ticket I was booking were only £30, yet I was being charged £2.50.

Anonymous said...

It is up to the retailer IKEA charge extra for a credit card. As I said if you book via the FGW web site no charge is made

Davey Jones said...

Dude, just buy from any of the train companies websites - e.g. virgin trains. No crappy "ticket arrangement fee", no credit card fee either.

Screw thetrainline, bunch of losers.

Anonymous said...

This thing about the multiple 'card handling fees' for a single transaction is just taking the p**s.
If I purchase 4 tickets at one go, why should I get charged 4 handling fees. It's only a single transaction!!!
I think this is more to do with their booking provider trying to avoid VAT because I think if they called it a booking fee, then they would have to pay the VAT but a 'card handling' fee is exempt.