Hidden Fees On Your Purchases In The United States

Hidden Fees at AT&T in the Westfield Montgomery Mall

Hidden fees in the United States?

I recently had an experience with AT&T that is very common in the United States. Here, sellers provide very little information about the price. It’s therefore up to you to ask them about any hidden fees.

Even after three years, I still discover information I should have known earlier, as it would have influenced my initial buying decision. My adventures with AT&T in the Westfield Montgomery Mall are a testimony to that.

A few days ago, I realized that I was paying a small fortune in prepaid cards for my cellphone and my teen daughter’s.
In January, Jasmine bought herself an iPhone 6, and asked me to switch her plan from AT&T to T-Mobile.

Me: “And why do you want to do that, dear?”
My daughter: “Because streaming Spotify is free with T-Mobile, Mom.”

For those who don’t know, Spotify is a music and video streaming service with millions of titles. And “streaming” means listening to music or watching a movie on Netflix through the Internet. Don’t worry, don’t feel stupid if you’re over 40 and you needed my brief explanation. I’m a fan of Netflix, but “streaming” isn’t part of my vernacular!

Getting back to my story, Jasmine went to T-Mobile, and I stayed with AT&T, and ended up paying more than before. So I checked to see if I was using more than my plan’s 6 GB of data (nope) and how many GB I had remaining (9). Jasmine’s usage was the same. I concluded that I was paying too much for a service we weren’t using. It was therefore time to find an alternative.

Friday, when I left AT&T, I had signed up for a “Family” plan with more GB, but for less money than before. So I shouldn’t have been unhappy, don’t you think?

Well…obviously if nothing had happened, I wouldn’t be here now to tell you in great detail about my adventures. So, why be unhappy with AT&T?

3 lessons learned from my purchase at AT&T  in the Westfield Montgomery Mall

Here are 3 lessons learned from my dealings with AT&T:

– Don’t forget that in the US, taxes are never included in the advertised price
– There are often hidden fees, always ask about the final price
– Also ask if you will be charged to change plans (this suggestion applies to all kinds of contracts, including gas, electricity, Netflix, etc.)

In the US, taxes are never included in the advertised price.  Tweet This!

Lesson #1

In the United States, the advertised prices NEVER include tax.

So I will not fault the AT&T agent for not telling me about this…however my good deal of $115 increased to $154, a whopping 34%.

Lesson #2

In the United States, you should always question the advertised price.  Tweet This!

First of all, the agent told me about a $100 plan. But each phone or tablet cost more. On my plan, a phone costs an additional $15 and a tablet an extra $10.

$115 (before tax) only covered the plan and my phone. If I had added my tablet and Jasmine’s phone to the deal, the price before tax would have jumped to $140, which is $187 after tax (or an increase of 62%).

At no time did I get a statement, a price summary or a final figure. I only discovered the differences after a doing a little digging. Maybe this would just happen in AT&T in the Westfield Montgomery Mall?

Lesson #3

Think again as there are also things you’re not told!

By signing for a family plan, I lost half of my prepaid plan. I naively believed that my unused portion of plan would be credited back to me. Once again, I didn’t ask any questions when I first visited the store.

So why stay with AT&T?

AT&T almost covers the entire continental United States. There are many competitors with better rates, but AT&T is the only one with whom I’ve had no problems with reception. I could compare directly with T-Mobile, which has always performed lower.

Anecdotal evidence or reality?

I’m not happy with my experience, but I’m also to blame. Since moving here, I’ve witnessed more aggressive sales techniques than in Germany or in France. I know, but oddly enough, I haven’t yet relayed this information to the part of my brain responsible for purchases.

Hidden fees on your purchases in the United States are a reality.

It is common practice, for example, to not disclose the prices in advertising emails. Look at these emails that offer me a coupon but don’t indicate what it really costs.

Neil Patel, an American digital marketing guru, recently cited in his newsletter:

“An A/B/C test” in which the opening rate of an email WITHOUT the price very, very often emerged as the winner.”

He recommends playing on the readers’ curiosity, also called the “curiosity gap”. Not disclosing prices is part of this tactic.

In the US, sellers don’t disclose any more information than absolutely necessary   Tweet This!

The American reality: Sellers don’t disclose any more information than absolutely necessary. It’s up to you to use caution and to me to use my brain more! In all cases, I should say that from now on I will always ask for the final price with taxes AND I will inquire about any hidden fees that haven’t been disclosed.

Do you have any other suggestions to help me with my shopping in the US?

Photo credit by Thomas Galvez

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